Almost 1,100 Chinese scientists and postgraduate students were denied permission to operate in the United Kingdom last year as part of a massive government crackdown on research ties with China.

According to The Guardian, the number of scientists and postgraduate students who had their visa applications denied by the Foreign Office reached a record 1,104 in 2022. This number was up from 128 in 2020 and only 13 in 2016.

The Foreign Office did not want to provide a breakdown by nationality, thus they declined to do so.

“In 2020 and again the following year, we increased the scope of the Academic Technology Approval System. According to The Guardian, a representative for the government stated that as a result, a bigger proportion of academics from other countries need to be authorized before they can work in the United Kingdom.

“As a result of this, we have received a much greater number of applications, which has led to an increase in the number of applications that we have to decline. The percentage of applications that are denied is still rather low, hovering around 2%. The majority of applications are handled within thirty calendar days, which is the time frame that the spokeswoman said further adding that “we make every effort to minimize delays to applicants’ education.”

Yet, the data provided by top universities such as Oxford, Cambridge, and Imperial College reveals that the majority of persons denied clearance at these institutions are Chinese professors. These universities include Oxford, Cambridge, and Imperial College.

Some people have expressed their approval of the new policy, however, prominent scientists have stated that the program is making it difficult for colleges to hire the most qualified individuals from other countries.

The principal and vice-chancellor of Edinburgh University, Professor Sir Peter Mathieson, stated that institutions are “extremely mindful of the need to identify and reduce risk.”

“But, research initiatives are being delayed, as an attempt to attract people, and we do not believe that it is in anyone’s best interest for this to remain the case. He continued by saying, “It’s a serious concern.”

After warnings from MI5 of a growing espionage threat, major research centers being shut down, and accusations from a government minister that China’s leading genomics company had regularly sought to hack into the NHS’s genetic database, the UK government hardened the country’s stance on scientific ties with Beijing, which resulted in the increase in scientists and postgraduate students being barred from entering the country.

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