Academic researchers and the UK

If you are an academic researcher and contemplating a trip to the UK for work purposes or have been offered a position here or are exploring such possibilities, there are a few things you really should know.

You may have been asked to give a keynote speech or may be participating in a workshop in your field. You may be a full professor with an established career. You may even have a Nobel Prize. Doesn’t matter.

We have something called “the hostile environment” here. It is a set of policies that was created by Theresa May when she ran the UK Home Office. She coined the term.

  • Visas for the UK are expensive and the visa process has been described as degrading. I know of one distinguished researcher who had been invited to yet another conference but declines because he didn’t want to put himself through the process yet again.
  • Researchers are increasingly often stopped at the border or refused visas because the UK’s Home Office believes that you are only using your lecture or the workshop or conference as an excuse to become an illegal migrant in the UK. This has to do with the fact that there is still a lot of colonial thinking in the UK. This is particularly directed toward countries in Africa and Asia, but many Brits also believe that the 27 EU countries are low wage countries where most people live in poverty, are uneducated and have a low skills level. They see the UK as a paradise where everyone would want to live. This is partly because most of these Brits have never been abroad.
  • If you have been offered any kind of position that involves fieldwork abroad, make sure you obtain a signed letter with a correspondence reference number as well as your full name and any other identifying characteristics in it from the Home Office that states that this fieldwork will not affect your legal status in the UK before you accept the position.
  • If you have been offered a position at a university in the UK, you may not be allowed to bring your children and/or spouse into the UK.
  • If you have been offered any kind of position, don’t be surprised when you are asked to submit your passport if you want to assess a PhD student’s work or want to give an unpaid lecture.

Sounds pretty crazy, right? Welcome to the UK.

The reason? Her research involved fieldwork abroad. Read the article in The Guardian:

Before she could conduct a PhD viva exam at another university she had to submit her passport for Home Office checks. Read the article in The Guardian:

Read the article in The Guardian:

Ian Donald, professor of psychological sciences at Liverpool University:

“It is a bit like having a coercive partner. Everything has to be monitored. There always has to be this control because you’re not trusted and if they aren’t looking, you’ll get up to something.”

Chris Chambers, an Australian and professor of cognitive neuroscience at Cardiff University:

“Every time an academic says yes to an inappropriate request like this, they are feeding the beast”

“And where does it all end up? In academics being deported.”

Resist these developments as much as you can because it is too similar to what happened in Germany in the 1930s.

Thinking that this won’t happen to you because you’re American? Think again.

Read the article in The Guardian:

14 January 2020

In view of the fact that many wages in the UK are not that high, you may also want to look into this:
https://www.change.org/p/priti-patel-stop-tearing-families-apart-based-on-earnings-scrap-minimum-income-requirement

And then there is this. Passport silently rendered invalid, allowed to leave the country without a word, not allowed to return:

https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/british-man-blocked-uk-home-office-passport-brussels-a9332311.html (with video)

You can also be deported for dangerous driving. (I am not kidding.)

“I was five months away from qualifying as a GP and had studied medicine at Manchester University, starting as a doctor in the NHS in 2012.”

Or because you made a silly mistake when you apply:
https://www.theguardian.com/healthcare-network/2018/apr/13/ive-been-an-nhs-doctor-for-five-years-the-home-office-wants-to-deport-me

Oh, and should you have any kids, instruct them to talk only about Teletubbies at school and not about animals, or cycling or climate because before you know it, the UK’s counter-terrorism police will be on to them.