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A fast track – but to where?

A fast-track UK visa for scientists, mathematicians and researchers is to be launched next month, according to the prime minister, Boris Johnson.

The Global Talent visa looks to maximise the number of leading researchers given fast-tracked entry to Britain.

There will be no cap on the number of people who can use the visa and the system is to be managed by the UK Research and Innovation Agency (UKRI), which funds government research, rather than the Home Office.

The announcement is intended to enable UK-based research projects to recruit the best talent and is being seen as a big win for research organisations, who had been lobbying the government very hard for a fast-track visa system.

"We now need to make sure the scheme is fully used, which will require effective communication about the visa route to the science community in the UK and globally, to ensure that it makes its mark. Previous visa systems have lacked the profile to be fully utilised," said Dr Sarah Main, Executive Director of the Campaign for Science and Engineering (CaSE), the UK’s leading independent advocate for science and engineering.

Welcome as this news is though, it is not without its critics with many suggesting that it actually misses a critical point.

Innovation comes from the work of many people at all levels and is not solely reliant on ‘top talent’. Too much of what the government is looking to do, from imposing minimum salaries to ending the Erasmus scheme, affects those kinds of people.

This scheme could end up undermining the UK’s scientific base and the efforts being made to make the UK an attractive and vibrant home for science and research, post Brexit.

Neil Tyler

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