Minister to meet Huppert after academics refused visas

July 9, 2010 1:11 PM

Julian HuppertA government minister has offered to meet Cambridge MP Julian Huppert to discuss his concerns that visa regulations could damage the country's reputation for education.

Julian raised the issue in the House of Commons yesterday (Thursday, July 9) because he claimed a number of academic visitors coming to the UK for just a few days had been denied entry.

He called on David Willetts, Minister for Universities and Science to work out a new protocol with the Home Secretary to solve the problem.

Mr Willetts agreed to meet Julian to discuss "operational problems" and assured him that he was aware of the "importance of these academic exchanges and visits".

Julian also asked Mr Willetts to make a 10-year prediction of how much money would be available to fund research when the budget deficit is met.

He said: "Decisions that individuals take to come to this country, leave this country and to stay and research in this country depend on how welcome they are made to feel and how much funding is available over a long time scale."

Mr Willetts said: "It is quite a challenge to make a 10-year prediction when we have just embarked on the comprehensive spending review for the next three years. I can say that we are committed to supporting research in this country.

"The challenge we face is that we inherited from the previous Government a commitment o reductions of '£600 million from higher education and science and research budgets'."

After the debate, Julian said: "It is crucial for education and research in this country that overseas visitors feel they are welcome here and that the future is bright.

"But it is clear that visa regulations are turning away the very people that we need. This is a totally unacceptable situation and could damage the country's reputation if it continues unchecked.

"I am encouraged that the minister has agreed to meet me to discuss these problems. I will be impressing upon him how vital it is that we address these issues as a matter of urgency."

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