Last week saw the long-awaited unveiling of the Coalition’s immigration policy. It has been hailed a victory for the business lobby, but there are still clear losers. The government has tried to find a compromise between the Conservatives’ and the Liberal Democrats’ manifestos, and in the process have simply created a complex regulatory response to the unworkable target created by the Home Secretary.
One area that seems set to suffer as a result of this policy is scientific research. The UK has long been a hub of ideas and innovations, often fuelled by foreign scientists. However, the new "one size fits all" policy threatens the future of UK research. The academic salaries and the qualifications of these individuals are expected to earn fewer visa points than, say, someone in business.
Despite provisions put in place for the “exceptionally talented” there are still limited visas available to these individuals, creating more issues than they solve. As there are fewer available places in the UK for these exceptional scientists, it is impossible for institutions to predict how intense the competition will be. Some fear that the new regulations will discourage talented individuals from choosing the UK as a base for their research. It is not only the limited number of visas available, there is also the problem of how long these visa last. An average post-doctorate that these scientists undertake will last four-to-five years, yet visas awarded to scientists are only valid for three years. This means that one scientist often requires two consecutive visas, or faces the problem of not being able to complete their research.
All of these problems clearly indicate that this immigration policy does not consider the knock-on effect on services and institutions that operate outside the influential business lobby that helped shape this latest policy. The fairest and most sensible approach to immigration, which would ensure that talented individuals regardless of profession are attracted to Britain, is to simply allow the free movement of labour. This new complicated policy is one that simply cannot be achieved without huge sacrifices from some area of the economy, whether it is scientific institutions, the business world or universities.