Tougher UK Visa Requirements Will Hit Postdocs, ERC Head Warns

The UK government’s plans to raise the salary required to obtain a skilled worker visa by almost 50 per cent will diminish the country’s appeal to international postdoctoral researchers, the president of the European Research Council has said.
Announcing the plans on Monday, James Cleverly, the home secretary, also said a review would be conducted into post-study work visas, which currently enable those who complete an undergraduate or postgraduate degree in the UK to stay in the country for at least two years.
Speaking at an event hosted by the Foundation for Science and Technology on Wednesday, the ERC president, Maria Leptin, called the UK government’s announcement “bitter news” that “will affect postdocs”, adding: “I hope there’ll be a rethink of that.”
“The attractiveness of the UK for researchers – we know what Brexit has done for that,” Professor Leptin said.
“This immigration policy does not sit well with people who want exchange, who depend on exchange, who are willing to explore, who are willing to uproot from their current place.
“I really think you will find a way of reassessing that,” she concluded.
The planned changes to the UK’s skilled worker visa would see the minimum salary requirement rise from £26,200 to £38,700. While the current rules allow science and higher education postdocs as well as STEM PhD graduates to earn up to 30 per cent less than the £26,200 threshold, the government has yet to confirm whether the new rules, which will come into effect next spring, will include a similar exception.
Sector leaders have reacted with concern to the government’s plans. Posting on the social media platform X, Ben Sheldon, professor of ornithology at the University of Oxford, noted that postdoc salaries at his institution started at just over £36,000, and thus fell below the planned £38,700 threshold.
Professor Sheldon also cited a 2021 Royal Society report indicating that just over 62 per cent of UK postdocs were international, noting that five out of six researchers in his lab were non-UK nationals. “UK science is screwed,” he wrote.
Alex Powell, senior lecturer and programme lead for law at Oxford Brookes University, wrote on X: “Changes to graduate visas and further immigration restrictions are an existential threat to UK [higher education].”


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