UK visa scheme for prize-winning scient ... plications
I'm not overly interested in the fast-track scheme itself, which seems like a stupid idea designed to appeal to the Tory press rather than actual scientists.“This is exactly what our new point-based immigration system was designed for – attracting the best and brightest based on the skills and talent they have, not where they’ve come from.”
But a freedom of information request by New Scientist has revealed that in the six months since the scheme was launched, no one working in science, engineering, the humanities or medicine has actually applied for a visa through this route.
“Chances that a single Nobel or Turing laureate would move to the UK to work are zero for the next decade or so,” says Andre Geim at the University of Manchester, UK. Geim won a Nobel prize in 2010 for his work on graphene. “The scheme itself is a joke – it cannot be discussed seriously,” he says. “The government thinks if you pump up UK science with a verbal diarrhea of optimism – it can somehow become a self-fulfilling prophecy.”
“Frankly, having precisely zero people apply for this elitist scheme doesn’t surprise me at all,” says Jessica Wade, a material scientist at Imperial College London and a diversity in science campaigner. “UK scientists’ access to European funding is uncertain, we’re not very attractive to European students as they have to pay international fees, our pensions are being cut and scientific positions in the UK are both rare and precarious.”
“It’s clear this is just another gimmick from a government that over-spins and under delivers,” says shadow science minister Chi Onwurah. “It is not surprising that the government has failed so comprehensively to attract scientists from abroad, given their lack of consistent support for scientists here.”
But with relatively low wages, precarious positions, poor conditions (eg workloads and pensions), uncertain funding opportunities, dysfunctionally overcrowded campuses etc etc it's quite low down the list even for someone like me who wouldn't need a visa.
Most of my friends from undergrad who stayed in academia have left the country already - including to places like Australia and the US, so I don't think visas are a big deal. I got them easily as a student and wouldn't anticipate any great problem as a highly qualified worker.
Obviously brexit is terrible optics and has added some extra sh.t into the mix, but it's also a done deal that'll just have to be worked around. The bigger problems seem to be related to domestic problems, stemming back to the 2010 coalition's fee changes and austerity.
Austerity seems to be largely out of favour, with scattershot populism in its place. Perhaps there's a way out of this mess?