This is our response to the Migration Advisory Committee's call for evidence on a potential salary threshold and points-based system (PBS).
Introduction and context
The Francis Crick Institute is a multidisciplinary biomedical research institute located in London. Our ambition is to discover the biology underlying human health, improving the treatment, diagnosis and prevention of human disease, and generating opportunities for the UK. Our founding partners are Cancer Research UK, Medical Research Council, Wellcome, University College London, Imperial College London and Kings College London.
We bring together outstanding scientists from all disciplines, carrying out research that will help improve the health and quality of people's lives, and keep the UK at the forefront of medical innovation. Our 1250 researchers are from more than 70 countries and we have strong international links including with the European Union. We are and must remain open and welcoming to scientists and students from around the world.
A salary cap of £30,000 won’t work for science – the starting salary for many skilled technical roles at the Crick is £27,000, and salaries for those who work outside of London can be significantly lower. Approximately 27% of the Crick’s skilled (equivalent to RQF3+) technical staff are from the EU.
To attract the talent to keep the UK at the forefront of scientific discovery, the immigration system must support the research workforce at all career stages, from technician to PhD student to professor, and include provisions for families and research teams.
Tier 2 visa route
The predominant visa route that is currently used for recruitment for skilled workers outside of the UK/EEA is the Tier 2 visa route.
We have approximately 1500 employees in the following groups:
- 600 group leaders, postdocs and PhD students
- 600 scientific and technical specialists across labs and platforms
- 330 operational and administrative support staff
Of staff directly employed by the Crick in 2018/19:
- 464 are EEA/Swiss nationals
- 802 are UK nationals
- 180 are non-UK/non-EEA/non-Swiss
The Crick currently covers visa costs for our international scientists and their dependents. This includes the immigration health surcharge which facilitates access to the NHS and the immigration skills charge, for roles above PhD level.
The future immigration system needs to be fit-for-purpose, particularly if it includes EEA nationals. The system must be simple, fast and cheap for both individuals and employers.
If the current system is expanded to include individuals from the European Union, this would put increased pressure on the Crick, as we currently offer an enhanced package to ensure individuals are not put off from applying by costs associated with the immigration system. If EEA nationals were treated in the same way as immigrants to the UK from the rest of the world, our modelling shows that the Crick could incur extra annual costs of between £369,226 and £457,226 per year. It would not be possible for the Crick’s budget to support this additional cost. The administrative burden and time involved with securing the right for newly appointed candidates to work in the UK would also be damaging to the Crick.