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More must be done to support international 'brain circulation', says UCU

18 July 2007 | last updated: 14 December 2015

UCU today responded to the release of a Universities UK report today, 'Talent wars: the international market for academic staff'.

UCU general secretary, Sally Hunt, said: 'UK higher education has always had among the most international of labour forces - both in terms of actual employment and also in outlook as shown by the widespread collaboration with academics based in other countries. Our range of students too reflects the cosmopolitan nature of our universities.

'In order to retain this diversity, which is a key part of a flourishing learning environment, universities need to ensure they are recruiting the best people - not the cheapest - whatever their background and this requires more attractive salaries, pensions and working environments than many academics currently have.

'The majority of the overseas appointments are in research posts, often on fixed-term contracts. To really support foreign academics coming to the UK we need to give them the security of full contracts. Employers must also provide more practical support. Unlike for international students, universities do tend not have specific staff recruitment, retention and development policies for their international staff.  

'The concept of "brain circulation" is interesting and one we should cultivate. However, there is often a lag time involved in the circulation of migrant academics. For example if the UK benefits from an inflow of academics other countries are likely to catch the return flow much later. With any net inflow there are bound to be countries who lose skills in the immediate term and it could be those countries who currently need them most.'