Immigration hassles impair international partnerships

September 25, 2008

The bureaucracy, expense and "petty harassment and humiliation" of gaining entry to the UK is putting off overseas researchers from working here, a conference has heard.

The rallying cry at the symposium on the internationalisation of higher education was one of "collaboration, collaboration, collaboration", a theme identified by speakers including Ian Diamond, chief executive of the Economic and Social Research Council, as the key to future success.

However, in a question from the floor, Robert Dingwall, director of the Institute for Science and Society at the University of Nottingham, raised concerns that, while the ambition for an explosion in partnerships between UK universities and their overseas counterparts was laudable in principle, it might be difficult to achieve in practice.

"This vision for a world without borders where knowledge flows freely is not matched by the free movement of people. Immigration law is a serious constraint on that vision; I am running down my collaborations with the US because I just can't be bothered with the hassle of getting in and out of that country. I prefer to work with colleagues in Europe, where I can move across borders much more freely," he said. "My graduate students tell me that, back in their own country, the attractions of the UK are beginning to decline because of the cost of getting visas, the bureaucracy that is involved and the petty harassment and humiliation they feel when they actually encounter the British immigration service.

"If we are to develop our vision, then that is going to have to be addressed."

john.gill@tsleducation.com

- Times Higher Education's "Globalisation of Universities" conference takes place at the Commonwealth Club in London on 23 October. Speakers include Sir Drummond Bone, former vice-chancellor of the University of Liverpool, and Sir Graeme Davies, vice-chancellor of the University of London. See: www.timeshighereducation.co.uk/conferences

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