UK Nobel prize winners flay immigration cap
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Last Updated: Thursday, October 07, 2010, 18:33
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 quota.

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 universities operate".

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 and engineers."

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 (Environment).

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 Britain.


First Published: Thursday, October 07, 2010, 18:33

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