Student Visas - Home Affairs Committee Contents

Written evidence submitted by Cancer Research UK (SV43)


  • Cancer Research UK recruits post-graduate students from an international pool to ensure that we are working with the very best researchers, to produce the highest quality research.
  • Cuts to Tier 4 could significantly restrict recruitment of non-EU PhD students.
  • While our students are actively encouraged to move institutions following completion of their PhD, we believe the UK would benefit from the opportunity to retain promising students in British science.
  • Science has an important role to play in UK growth. Restrictions to the recruitment of scientists and researchers from across the globe could damage the future of UK science.
  • The impact of changes to the system of immigration needs to be considered in its entirety, rather than focusing on changes to individual Tiers in isolation.


1.  Cancer Research UK[64] is leading the world in finding new ways to prevent, diagnose and treat cancer. We are the largest independent funder dedicated to cancer research in the world. Over half of all cancer research in the UK is carried out by our doctors and scientists.

2.  Cancer Research UK's work is entirely funded by the public. We spend 80p in every pound we receive, from over 9 million supporters across the UK, on our work to beat cancer. In 2009-10 we spent £334 million on research, supporting the work of more than 4,000 scientists, doctors and nurses.

3.  Cancer Research UK funds research into all aspects of cancer from exploratory biology to clinical trials of novel and existing drugs as well as epidemiological studies and prevention research. As such we support research in a variety of different environments, including university research groups, core funded Institutes, and Cancer Research UK Centres.


4.  International mobility in research is vital to maintain high quality research, to share skills and training and to drive science forward.

5.  Cancer Research UK is internationally renowned for conducting world-leading research. We recruit students from an international pool to ensure that we are working with the very best, to continue to produce the highest quality research.

6.  Cancer Research UK has five core funded research institutes all of which host international scientists dedicated to cancer research. These include PhD students, early career post-doctoral research fellows and established group leaders. We firmly believe that this injection of international talent makes a vital contribution to our research.

7.  International researchers also promote the success of UK-grown talent, who benefit both from the pressure of competition, and from the broader sharing of skills and training made available by working in UK laboratories with non-UK researchers.

8.  The table below outlines the extent to which our institutes recruit PhD students from outside the EU. Sudden restriction of this sort of recruitment could be destabilising to UK science.
Institute (year) UK/EUNon-EU % non-EU
Cambridge Research Institute, CRI (2010) 10638%
Beatson Institute, Glasgow (2009)7 330%
Paterson Institute, Manchester (2010)5 337%
Gray Institute for Radiation Oncology and Biology, Oxford (2010) 12320%
London Research Institute, LRI (2010)25 311%

9.  In responding to the Committee inquiry, we have addressed the points that we feel are most relevant to our experience.

The impact different levels of cuts might have on the various sectors, and the impact, if any, that reductions in student visas might have on the UK's standing in the world.

10.  Cuts to Tier 4 could significantly restrict recruitment of non-EU PhD students. This could prevent us from recruiting the best, most capable students, whatever their background, which in turn would have significant bearing on our research. The potential impact of this is that the quality of research will be lowered, and the UK standing as an international competitor in cancer research could be jeopardised.

11.  An immediate impact of changes to Tier 4 migration, coupled with the concomitant changes being made to Tiers 1 and 2, is that potential non-EU applicants will be deterred from applying to the UK, as the UK is perceived as a difficult country to enter. If the UK is an unattractive destination to international researchers it will greatly inhibit our research capabilities, and damage our position as a global player.

12.  Any loss of skills that results from a limit to non-EU migration will have a significant effect on the future of the research base, and ultimately on the strength of the economy.

Whether the post study route should be continued

13.  The UK benefits from high quality researchers. If we attract some of the best researchers from overseas, it would be beneficial to give them the opportunity to stay in the UK, and continue contributing to the UK research base. Therefore it might be appropriate to retain post-study work for those that have achieved a higher degree qualification.

14.  The system needs to allow for flexibility to encourage highly qualified people, who will go in to highly skilled jobs, to remain in the UK. We need to avoid making hasty decisions that appear to provide benefit in the short term, but that might limit opportunities in the future.

15.  Our institutes actively encourage PhD students to go elsewhere after they've finished their course because experience of working in several different establishments is beneficial to their training. However, we would still like these people to have the opportunity to remain in the UK, to share their experience, to the benefit of both the researcher and UK science.


16.  We recognise that the intention to reduce net migration to the UK was a central component of the coalition agreement. We are keen however, that during the process of reducing immigration, areas that have been identified as important by other departments within Government are given due consideration. Science has been recognised as having an important role to play in UK growth. Restrictions to the recruitment of the best scientists and researchers from across the globe could damage the future of UK science.

17.  We would also like to highlight the value of considering the system of immigration in its entirety, rather than making changes to individual Tiers in isolation.

18.  Recruitment of non-EU scientists and researchers relies on several different Tiers within the immigration system. Changes at one level could have significant consequences for the remaining Tiers, and might therefore provoke unintended consequences that prove to be even more restrictive.

19.  Cancer Research UK is committed to conducting the highest quality research. Our PhD Programmes are formal programmes in conjunction with leading universities. They are highly competitive, with large numbers of applications. Overseas students are in direct competition with UK and EU students, all of whom undergo an extensive selection process, which usually includes a face-to-face interview and collection of references.

January 2011

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