Government’s Proposals for a ‘Points based’ Immigration System – The Academy of Social Sciences’ initial response

19 February 2020

19 February 2020, London:  The Academy of Social Sciences notes the Government’s proposals for a ‘points based’ immigration system, released today.

For university jobs paying over £25,600, the required number of points will be gained, and a streamlined application process promised, as long as universities are all placed on an approved sponsor list – as we proposed in our paper An Immigration System Fit For The Science System.  We welcome this if universities are indeed granted approved sponsor status and processes are streamlined, as promised.

We object both in principle, and for practical reasons, to the differentiation of STEM and non-STEM disciplines, in the decision to give 10 points (tradeable against salary) for PhDs in non-STEM subjects, compared to 20 points for STEM PhDs.  We believe that social science skills are as essential to the UK’s economy and society as STEM: in an economy dominated by services, social science knowledge and skills are central to almost all areas of work.  The Academy will soon be producing a report on the ways in which social science knowledge, methodologies, data and skills are essential to business and industry across a wide range of business sectors.  And increasingly it is recognised that meeting the ‘grand challenges’ also needs these skills and expertise.  Indeed, on the issue of climate change, there is good evidence that we are not investing enough in social science; this is also the case in public health, regional development and ‘levelling up’, and ageing, among many.

Pragmatically, we also point to the possible implications for the social science research system.  Of particular concern is the position of skilled research assistants in the social sciences, affecting such national infrastructures as the longitudinal studies (where Britain is a world leader), and where skilled social science research assistants are needed.  If these jobs earn over £25,600 they too will reach the requisite number of points.

But if the salary is lower, non-UK applicants will only be able to reach the requisite number of points if both the salary is £23,040 or above and the applicant has a PhD.  We know of many examples where RA salaries are lower, and suitable applicants need to have skills (often at Master’s level) but not a PhD.  We believe this may affect particularly quantitative social sciences, where number and data skills are in short supply in the UK.   Estimates  of average research assistant salaries vary, but on any estimate a proportion, especially those working outside London, will not meet the salary caps set in the Government’s proposals.

So unless university pay scales are raised, or universities argue for these jobs to be put on the national list of shortage occupations, filling these skilled research assistant posts will be at risk.  We believe this will also apply to many lab technician posts in the STEM subjects, where salary thresholds are also unlikely to be met and the skills needed do not require a PhD.  We urge action to ensure these posts can still be filled by the best and brightest to ensure that the UK’s science base, including its world leading social science, is not weakened.

About the Academy of Social Sciences

The Academy of Social Sciences is the national academy of academics, learned societies and practitioners in the social sciences. Its mission is to promote social science in the United Kingdom for the public benefit. The Academy is composed of over 1300 individual Fellows, 44 Member Learned Societies, and a number of affiliates. Together, this body of organisations includes some 90,000 social scientists. Fellows are distinguished scholars and professional practitioners from academia and the public and private sectors. Most learned societies in the social sciences in the UK are represented within the Academy. The Campaign for Social Science is an integral part of the Academy.

For further information contact:

Marta Kask
Campaign Manager
Academy of Social Sciences/Campaign for Social Sciences
+44 (0) 20 7682 4667
E: [email protected]