London: Eight Nobel prize-winning British
scientists have warned the David Cameron Government's
decision to impose an annual limit on professionals from India
and other non-EU nations will deprive Britain of science and
industry of talent.
Two Manchester-based Russian-born scientists Professor
Andre Geim and Professor Konstantin Novoselov, today joined
six other Nobel prize winning British scientists to criticise
the restrictive immigration measure that imposes a limit on
universities and companies.
Besides Geim and Novoselov, another foreign-born
scientist based in Britain to win the Nobel Prize was Tamil
Nadu-born Venkatraman Ramakrishnan, who won the prize for
Chemistry in 2009.
He is based at the Laboratory of Molecular Biology,
Cambridge. In a letter to The Times, the eight scientists said
the new immigration restrictions imposed by the Cameron
government would deprive science and industry of talent.
They said it was a "sad reflection" that scientists
and engineers could not be afforded the same exception to the
rules as Premier League footballers.
Several universities are struggling to recruit
academics from outside the European Union because under the
new restrictions, they have been given a small number of
Chris Marlin, pro vice-chancellor at the University of
Sussex, said: "We have had more than 20 years of research
assessment with the aim of building up the performance of the
UK and making it internationally competitive, which then
attracts the best people from overseas.
Now we have immigration rules putting universities in
a situation that may choke this off."
Professor Marlin said that if the low limits continued
under the permanent cap, it would "change the way UK
Imposing an annual limit on non-EU migrants was one
of the key items on the coalition government's agenda.
The government introduced the controversial cap of
24,100 non-EU migrants until April 2011, by when a permanent
limit will be imposed.
?In the letter, the academics wrote: "The government
has seen fit to introduce an exception to the rules for
Premier League footballers. It is a sad reflection of our priorities as a nation if we cannot afford the same recognition for elite scientists
They added: "International collaborations underlie 40
per cent of the UK's scientific output, but would become far
more difficult if we were to constrict our borders.
The UK produces nearly 10 per cent of the world's
scientific output with only 1 per cent of its population; we
punch above our weight because we can engage with excellence
wherever it occurs.
The UK must not isolate itself from the increasingly
globalised world of research - British science depends on it."
Besides Geim and Novoselov, other signatories to the
letter are Sir Paul Nurse, Sir Tim Hunt, Sir Martin Evans, Sir
Harry Kroto, Sir John Walker and Sir John Sulston.
The annual cap has come under considerable criticism
from inside and outside the government, including by key
ministers such as Vince Cable (Business) and Chris Huhne
The Confederation of British Industry and university
vice-chancellors are among many who have urged the government
to reconsider the restrictive measure.
Downing Street said the limit would be implemented
in a way that still allowed the brightest and best to come to
First Published: Thursday, October 07, 2010, 18:33