Universities UK has responded to the report from the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) looking at the impact of migration from the European Economic Area (EEA). The MAC took evidence from a range of employers, government departments and industry bodies, including Universities UK.

Alistair Jarvis100x100Responding to the report, Alistair Jarvis, Chief Executive of Universities UK, said:

“It is good to see the MAC acknowledging many of the positive impacts that skilled European workers have on life in the UK. There are nearly 50,000 EU nationals working in UK universities and they make a vitally important contribution to our campuses and communities. There has been a lot of uncertainty for international staff following the Brexit vote and it’s important now that this is addressed as a final Brexit deal is reached.

“In particular, we welcome the recommendations which extend and increase the flexibility of the Tier 2 visa which would help with the recruitment of a broader range of workers and skills than the current system allows. The ability to recruit international staff at a broad range of skill levels, and with minimal barriers, is vital to the continued, global success of our universities.

“We hope the UK government now develops promptly a reshaped immigration system that encourages talented international university staff to choose the UK. If not, we risk losing them to other countries. This does not relate only to international academics and researchers, but also to highly trained international technical and support staff who play such an important role in our universities as well.”

However, according to the Federation of Master Builders (FMB), The report would cripple the construction industry.

Commenting on the MAC report, published this morning, Brian Berry, Chief Executive of the FMB, said:

“Today’s report makes very worrying reading for the tens of thousands of small construction firms across the UK who are already deeply concerned about the skills shortage. Its recommendations ignore the pleas of construction employers who have called on the Government to introduce a visa system based on key occupations rather than arbitrary skill levels. Instead, the proposal is to apply the Tier 2 immigration system to EU workers, which would be disastrous for small and micro construction firms. Even if tweaked and improved slightly, the Tier 2 system would not make provision for ample numbers of low skilled workers to enter the UK and these are people the construction industry relies upon. For the Government to make good on its construction and house building targets, it will need sufficient numbers of labourers as well as civil engineers and quantity surveyors.”

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Berry continued: “It’s not at all clear that EU workers with important skills already in short supply, like bricklaying and carpentry, will not fall foul of a crude and limited definition of ‘high skilled’ worker. In addition, the report explicitly recommends that there should be no migration route for lower skilled workers with a possible exception for seasonal agricultural workers. There is also a vague suggestion that if there was a route for lower skilled workers, it should be aimed at younger people and not be open to workers of all ages. This is far too restrictive and simply won’t meet the needs of the construction industry.”

Berry concluded: “EU workers are vitally important to the UK construction sector. Nine per cent of our construction workers are from the EU and in London, this increases to one third. These workers have played a very significant role in mitigating the severe skills shortages we have experienced in recent years. The construction industry knows it needs to do much more to recruit and train many more domestic workers. However, given the important role migrant workers have played, and the already high levels of employment in the UK workforce, it is crucial that the post-Brexit immigration system allows us to continue to hire workers of varying skill levels, regardless of where they are from.”

According to the latest data, there are nearly 50,000 (49,530) EU staff working in UK higher education institutions (latest HESA data – 2016/17). This represents 12% of the total staff population of 419,710. This is broken down to: 17% of total academic staff at UK universities, or 35,920, are from other EU countries. Among professional services / support staff at UK universities, 6% or 13,610 are from other EU countries. This compares to a total of 33,820 non-EU staff, who make up 8% of total staff. Of total academic staff, 13% (25,660) had a non-EU nationality. Among all professional services / support staff, 4% (8,160) had a non-EU nationality.

In December 2017, Universities UK highlighted the vital contribution EU staff make to the UK's universities with our #BrightestMinds campaign. It included a collection of case studies highlighting the research and stories of leading EU academics working in UK universities. It illustrated the world-class research carried out by European staff in the UK and how this could be hindered by any further Brexit uncertainty.

In March 2018, Universities UK published a Brexit statement paper – How can government ensure universities are best-placed to maximise their contribution to a successful, global UK post-EU exit? It is available to download.

About the Federation of Master BuildersThe Federation of Master Builders (FMB) is the largest trade association in the UK construction industry representing thousands of firms in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Established in 1941 to protect the interests of small and medium-sized (SME) construction firms, the FMB is independent and non-profit making, lobbying for members’ interests at both the national and local level. The FMB is a source of knowledge, professional advice and support for its members, providing a range of modern and relevant business building services to help them succeed. The FMB is committed to raising quality in the construction industry and offers a free service to consumers called ‘Find a Builder’. 

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