UK launches new visa to lure top scientists

Boris Johnson announces new fast-tracked visa that will encourage leading academics to work in the UK.

UK launches new visa to lure top scientists.
A new 'Global Talent' visa is to be introduced by the British government next month in a bid to attract leading scientists, researchers and mathematicians to the UK.Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced on Monday that the new visa, which will replace the existing Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent) visa, will offer fast-tracked entry to the UK from 20 February and will not be subject to any cap on numbers.

UK aims to keep and attract talented academics

The move came just a month after Home Secretary Priti Patel announced the immediate increase in the number of accelerated fellowship Tier 1 visas in science research from the current cap of 62 to more than 120.She made the announcement after an analysis by the Russell Group of 24 leading universities found that Brexit uncertainty had prompted talented EU academics to leave science departments in the UK, sparking warnings from universities of a looming scientific skills shortage.Now Mr Johnson has gone a step further by announcing the scrapping of the exceptional talent route. "The UK has a proud history of scientific discovery, but to lead the field and face the challenges of the future we need to continue to invest in talent and cutting-edge research," he says."That is why, as we leave the EU, I want to send a message that the UK is open to the most talented minds in the world and stands ready to support them to turn their ideas into reality."

Creating a stronger research and innovation environment

The scheme, which is to be managed by the UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) organisation, will enable UK-based research projects that have received recognised funding to recruit global talent. Applicants will not need a job offer before arriving and will be offered an accelerated route to permanent settlement.Prof Sir Mark Walport, chief executive of UKRI, says, "Today's announcements further underline the importance of research and innovation to the future success of the UK and the government's continued commitment and investment. Working with the government, UKRI is ensuring that the UK remains a globally leading environment for research and innovation."Our ambition is clear, to create a stronger research and innovation environment that is focused on supporting talented people and realising the full potential of their work."

Fast-tracked entry into the UK: gimmick or solution?

Although the announcement was welcomed by the Royal Society and Universities UK, Liberal Democrat home affairs spokeswoman Christine Jardine described it as "nothing more than a marketing gimmick".She says, "Boris Johnson is showing that he fundamentally doesn't understand what makes our science sector so successful. Changing the name of a visa and removing a cap that's never been hit is not a serious plan."
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However, Ms Patel says "The UK is a world leader in science, with research and innovation that changes lives being undertaken every day in this country."To keep the UK at the forefront of innovation, we are taking decisive action to maximise the number of individuals using the Global Talent route including world-class scientists and top researchers who can benefit from fast-tracked entry into the UK."The government has also announced a £300 million investment to fund experimental and imaginative mathematical sciences research over the next five years. It will double funding for new PhDs and boost the number of maths fellowships and research projects.

Read more news and views from David Sapsted

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