Almost a year after the publication of his Universities and Scotland report, the Scottish Affairs Committee has received the UK Government’s response – with complaints about relevant questions left unanswered and solutions to improve the Scottish sector dismissed.
Specifically, Westminster rejected the committee’s recommendation that Scottish institutions should have greater representation on UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), including a seat on the UKRI board.
The committee believes this would have been a “quick win” to make the voice of Scottish academia heard in the UK’s main research and development agency.
Although the government accepted the committee’s recommendation that funding for the Turing program should continue for years to come, it did not take part in recommendations to facilitate placements for international students and university staff.
The UK and Scotland previously benefited from the EU’s Erasmus+ program in these areas.
A committee statement noted that attracting international talent is further discouraged by the high costs of the Global Talent Visa.
Failure to reduce the cost could cause Scottish institutions to lose their competitive edge as an attractive place to work, he argued, adding that the government had rejected the opportunity to align the cost of the visa with that of other countries, such as France.
The committee drafted a follow-up letter asking for clarification on points regarding the exchange of students and academic staff through the Turing scheme, Scottish representation in UKRI and the UK’s participation in Horizon Europe.
Committee chairman Pete Wishart said: “Scottish universities regularly feature in rankings of the top UK universities, attracting talent from around the world.
“However, as our committee identified last year, the loss of academic and research partnerships as a result of Brexit and exorbitant visa fees significantly impairs our ability to continue to attract the best and brightest. – if Scottish universities are to continue to punch above their weight, they need the proper support from government.
He added: ‘The UK Government’s response to our report is very wordy but says very little – there is no good reason why Scottish representation is lacking in decision-making at UKRI and makes the UK a more competitive place for international students and scholars. coming is surely only a positive gesture.
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