Around 80% of British adults say the UK’s immigration system should allow scientists, academics and their support staff from overseas to work in the country at “any stage of their career”, according to a poll by Savanta ComRes for Universities UK.
“Immigrants should be welcomed into the country on the strength of their skills and potential”
The results indicate that the wider UK population does not see the “Australian-style” immigration system flaunted by the UK government as viable in terms of employing international scholars at UK higher education institutions.
The Migration Advisory Committee is currently exploring a points-based immigration system and a salary threshold for international staff. The poll places a high value on the contribution of international staff at UK universities, according to UUK.
Interviewing 4,042 British adults in November 2019, surveyors also found that almost nine in 10 (87%) think it is more important for the UK’s immigration system to attract university staff who are highly skilled.
Almost seven in 10 (69%) believe that a UK points-based immigration system should be designed so that scientists, academics and their support staff score highly.
These figures are contrasted with the 3% who said that it was more important the immigration system attracts university staff who are highly paid.
“This polling shows… that immigrants should be welcomed into the country on the strength of their skills and potential rather than facing a system that judges them on their income,” Alistair Jarvis, chief executive of Universities UK, said.
“This is vital for the UK to continue to lead the way in research and education.”
The survey, polling a demographic representative of Britain by age, gender, region and social grade, also found that 82% felt the UK should be competing with other major economies to attract such staff.
“If a new immigration system were to have a salary threshold, Universities UK has called for a threshold of £21,000 which would allow recruitment for most technician and language assistant roles in the higher education sector,” Jarvis added.
Almost nine in 10 (85%) said it is important for the UK to be a world leader in science and research, which Jarvis said was “more vital than ever” as the country prepares to leave the EU.
“Technicians, researchers, and language assistants are all vital in supporting both high-quality teaching and innovative research at our universities.”
Of those surveyed, 89% said scientists, academics and their support staff are valuable to the UK.
“These skilled roles are critical to the ongoing success of our universities,” Jarvis added.