Top universities have urged ministers to lower the salary threshold for skilled workers set out in the Government’s immigration plans, warning that failing to do so would be an “own goal”.
The Russell Group said the £30,000 minimum would limit the ability to hire the migrant workers the UK needs, and warned it would discriminate against part-time employees.
Instead, the body – which represents 24 leading UK universities – called for the threshold to be dropped to £21,000.
It warned that a failure to lower the level would mean around a third of all roles – 59,000 positions – at Russell Group universities would not be open to migrant workers. Around 10% of the posts are currently filled by EU nationals, it said.
Research by EY suggested the £30,000 threshold would be problematic for technicians and scientific staff, as well as lecturers and language assistants.
The Russell Group said a threshold above £21,000 would restrict the recruitment of many skilled roles, and go against the Government’s objective of ensuring the UK is open to international talent after Brexit.
Tim Bradshaw, the association’s chief executive, said: “Russell Group universities stand among the best in the world and are a proud national asset, precisely because we are international in nature.
“To deliver for our students and communities we need to attract the best minds from around the globe.
“For certain posts, for example technicians, we also face real shortages in our domestic workforce.
“The Home Office has said it will listen to concerns about its immigration plans.
“We are not alone – ask businesses up and down the country along with big public sector employers: setting a £30,000 salary threshold for skilled visas would be a serious own goal, limiting our ability to hire the migrant workers the UK needs and discriminating against part-time employees, who are predominantly women.
“This idea of phasing in the new rules, while well-meaning, is likely to create administrative chaos. A system that piles more red tape on employers and gets off to a disruptive start will only damage public confidence in the reforms.
“We hope ministers will come back with realistic timings and a clear plan to deliver them.”