A government visa scheme for Nobel prize laureates and other award winners has failed to attract a single person since launching six months ago, a Freedom of Information request submitted by New Scientist has revealed.
The scheme has come under criticism from those in the science profession, who have described it as “a joke”.
When it was launched in May, Priti Patel said: “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 six months on, no one has opted to go down the fast-track route, and according to scientists, there’s a good reason why.
“The scheme is a joke”
“Chances that a single Nobel or Turing laureate would move to the UK to work are zero for the next decade or so,” Andre Geim at the University of Manchester, told the New Scientist.
Geim, who won a Nobel prize in 2010 for his work on graphene, said: “The scheme itself is a joke – it cannot be discussed seriously.
“The government thinks if you pump up UK science with a verbal diarrhea of optimism – it can somehow become a self-fulfilling prophecy.”
Meanwhile, shadow science minister Chi Onwurah added: “It’s clear this is just another gimmick from a government that over-spins and under delivers.
“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.”
Earlier this month, more than 1,000 universities and 50 scientific academies across Europe urged the EU to “immediately” finalise the UK’s membership of its £80 billion research programme and end a 10-month delay to the ratification process.
Writing to the European Commission president, Ursula von der Leyen, they said the long delay is “endangering current and future plans for collaboration” – and any further setback will “result in a major weakening of our collective research strength”.
The letter comes amid fear that the Horizon Europe programme will become collateral damage as the UK and Brussels feud over fishing and the Northern Ireland Brexit protocol.
Britain had been set to contribute about £2 billion a year to stay in the programme, with funds returned in the shape of research projects to British universities and research institutes – covering topics as wide-ranging as climate change and vaccines.