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U.K. visa scheme to attract Nobel prize winners fails to bring in a single applicant

'Frankly, having precisely zero people apply for this elitist scheme doesn’t surprise me at all'

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A U.K. scheme to lure the world’s most prestigious academics, including Nobel prize winners, to the country by offering a fast tracked global talent visa has failed to bring in a single applicant in the six months since it opened.

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The scheme, announced in May, had been hailed by Priti Patel, U.K. home secretary as a way of letting the “best and brightest” come to the U.K.

“These important changes will give them the freedom to come and work in our world-leading arts, sciences, music, and film industries as we build back better,” she said, as quoted by the Guardian. “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.”

As part of the scheme, those applying for a global talent visa would simply have to cite their award as evidence of their achievements, rather than applying to one of six endorsing bodies along with their visa application.

More than 70 prizes could make an application eligible for this route, including the Nobel prizes in physics, chemistry or medicine, the Turing award, Fields Medal for mathematics and the Fyssen International prize.

For those in the arts, anyone who has won one of the many awards including an Oscar, Grammy, BAFTA, Golden Globe or others in music, fashion or theatre could apply via this route.

However, according to the New Scientist, not one person working in science, engineering, humanities or medicine has applied, citing a government response to a freedom of information request, with many scientists calling the scheme a ‘joke’.

“Frankly, having precisely zero people apply for this elitist scheme doesn’t surprise me at all,” Jessica Wade, a leading scientist at Imperial College London, told the New Scientist.

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“U.K. scientists’ access to European funding is uncertain, we’re not very attractive to European students as they have to pay international fees, our pensions are being cut and scientific positions in the U.K. are both rare and precarious.”

Andre Geim, who was awarded the Nobel prize for physics in 2010, called the scheme a joke.

“It cannot be discussed seriously,” he told New Scientist. “The government thinks if you pump up U.K. science with a verbal diarrhoea of optimism – it can somehow become a self-fulfilling prophecy.”

“Chances that a single Nobel or Turing laureate would move to the U.K. to work are zero for the next decade or so,” he added.

U.K. shadow science minister Chi Onwurah bashed the scheme, calling it a government “gimmick.”

“It’s clear this is just another gimmick from a government that over-spins and under-delivers,” she said in the Guardian. “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.”

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