The British War on Academics

We've just found out that a respected American academic who'd recently received his PhD from Birmingham and was working on grant applications, conferences, and running journals had his request for a visa extension declined, wasn't notified, then was arrested.  Here are two articles:
The second article is slightly better written, but both contain important information so it's probably worth reading them both.

I'm posting this as a blog to remind you that this is just the most recent atrocity against foreigners in British higher education.
  • Nottingham Professor Miwa Hirono was deported for travelling to do her research.  Her research has been used in UK government policy, but the number of days a foreigner was allowed to travel was changed, and she was retroactively found to have been travelling too much.  She had quit a job and moved her young family from Australia to take a prestigious position at Nottingham, now she's had to move them again, this time to Japan.  Even the Daily Mail thought this was insane.
  • Canadian Dr. Adam Barker, who would have been an assistant professor, was refused a visa despite having a job offer and being married to a British wife.  Apparently this was a "mistake", but there is no process of appeal, and he and his wife had to live on different continents until she finishes her own PhD.  There are a number of other horror stories on that link after Barker's.
Historically, the UK has been tied with the US for the best university system in the world, if you look at the number of publications or leading universities per capita.  One of the reasons is probably our historic lack of parochialism – great ideas and innovation come from mixing backgrounds and experiences.  But now the UK is forcing some universities to stop recruiting students from countries like Pakistan and Nigeria.  The government is tearing apart one of its leading sectors.

Our official wedding photo, courtesy Royal Mile Sepia
I got permanent residency in the UK in 1998, and I got citizenship and a passport in 2007.  Both of these cost me less than £100 each, in stark contrast to a lot of the stories linked above.  To be fair, I got both of these the "easy" way, through legally marrying the man I eventually really (socially) married in 1999, and by applying at the last possible round of citizenship before testing was added following the 7/7 bombings (done by native-born British citizens, not immigrants).  But the stories of the hoops and costs that contemporary foreign academics are jumping through only to in some circumstances lose their jobs, relationships, and liberty to incompetence is incredible.

Is being an academic that great of a job, that it's worth all of these risks?  To be honest, I'm not sure; it seems more likely that people just can't believe that such insane risks and costs are real, and get mired down in processes they've already half-executed, incredulous of what they are experiencing.  But academics are smart, and we are going to start documenting and remembering these events.  If the government wants to keep this sector world-leading, they need to immediately and conspicuously correct their current course.

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