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Universities UK calls for salary cap to be set at £21k to protect key higher education workers

Vivienne Stern, Director of Universities UK International, has today (Tuesday 12 February) called on the government to lower the proposed salary requirement for EEA workers to gain a high-skilled work visa; to £21,000.

Giving evidence at the Public Bill Committee on the Immigration Bill, this lays out for the first time the university sector's specific feedback on the Migration Advisory Committee's proposals. These were for a salary threshold of £30,000 and this is currently under consultation by the government. 

Universities UK on behalf of its members has been vocal in highlighting that high skill occupations are not always those with the highest salaries, pointing out that the median salary thresholds for all science, engineering and production technician, and language assistant roles are well below the £30,000 mark. 

This means there is a significant risk of lost skills in these areas if the £30,000 threshold is enforced. For example in 2016, 54% of EEA technicians in the UK higher education sector worked in bioscience or clinicals medicine departments. Within these departments these EEA nationals accounted for just over a quarter of the technical workforce.

Vivienne Stern, Director of UUKi, said: "Assessing skills through the measure of salary alone is a blunt tool. Technicians are critical and skilful roles in supporting both high quality teaching and innovative research at our universities.

"While we recognise that migration checks and controls are necessary, they must not be at the cost of losing talent and leaving ourselves with a skills shortage at a time when focusing on productivity and growth is more important than ever.

"The Home Secretary himself has given our sector as an example of one where the higher threshold could be harmful. If the government works towards a threshold of £21,000, we feel this would allow recruitment for most technician and language assistant roles in the HE sector."

In the evidence session, Vivienne Stern will also recommend there be no salary threshold for jobs on the Shortage Occupation List, as recognition of the importance of being able to recruit widely for those roles which are most at risk.

Universities UK will continue to work with key stakeholders and share evidence with relevant Cabinet Ministers to strengthen the case for a lower threshold.


Notes to editors

UCEA analysis of salary range of technician and assistant-level roles

Job Role

Lower Quartile

Median

Upper Quartile

Science, engineering and product technicians

£20,555

£26,280

£32,172

Information technology technicians

£25,446

£31,056

£38,158

Language Assistants

£21,000

£26,000

£31,000

Source: UCEA analysis of ONS and HESA data

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