At the start of the new visa program on Monday, the British government said the aim was to bring the “smartest and best” into the country. If the application is successful, bachelor’s and master’s graduates should be allowed to stay in the country for two years, and those with a doctorate should initially be allowed to stay in the country for three years.
The list of 50 universities includes 20 US universities – including the elite universities Harvard and Yale – as well as some from Singapore, Hong Kong and China. From Switzerland, the Swiss Federal Institutes of Technology (ETH) in Lausanne (EPFL) and in Zurich are involved. The visas cost several hundred pounds, plus compulsory health insurance.
The selection also drew criticism. For example, the climate researcher Christopher Trisos from the University of Cape Town criticized the procedure as “deeply unfair” in the magazine “New Scientist”. The exclusion of African universities means that many highly qualified graduates with knowledge in promising fields such as climate or food security are left out.
The country selection reflects the UK government’s shift away from the EU and towards Asian countries and the US.
The conservative government in London has had a rigid immigration policy since Brexit and only wants to let selected people into the country. A visa option for winners of Oscars, Nobel Prizes and similar awards was introduced last year, but no applications were received for the first few months.
“Due to the exclusivity of the prizes that qualify for this route, we did not expect a large number of applications compared to other routes,” said the British Home Office on Monday. The government did not want to give concrete current numbers of applicants.