Tightened immigration policies post-Brexit could make it difficult for international academics to obtain visas and attend conferences in the UK

Written by Guest Author
Images by Steve Cadman

At least 14 African academics were denied entry to the UK to attend a renowned conference on African Studies due to visa problems. Tightened immigration policies are making it difficult for academics to obtain visas for situations like this, and it is potentially threatening international academic contributions which are especially important in this field. Various reasons were given to the academics, such as having no proof they would return home despite evidence to the contrary.

The recently released Home Office document on post-Brexit immigration already reveals an increased toughness on entry to the UK including visa applications. The document says the transformation of Britain’s immigration policy will take place in phases, with one being the initial phase before Brexit. It’s likely, therefore, that immigration and visa systems changes are already underway.

With Brexit resulting in a tightening of visa rules as the UK takes control over its own immigration policies, it is increasingly likely that foreign academics will find it difficult to enter the UK, even for conferences like the one above. Visa applications at present are often a long and arduous process. Academics must pay for flights and other expenses before getting a visa. Those from countries such as Iran find that their representative embassy cannot process these visa applications effectively and must travel to a country like Dubai to wait.

These all add up to mounting costs. Given that post-Brexit Britain is likely to be even more tough on visa applications – especially to those from certain countries – it is reasonable to expect costs to increase further. These aspects can all deter academics from attending such international conferences and as a result, halt the academic engagement and collaboration that make the UK a top academic hub.

International academic conferences are a vital component in academic research. They encourage the exchange of ideas and research within a discipline and allow for networking, which improves the breadth of knowledge in a field. Conferences also play a side role in developing further curriculums for higher education students by enhancing the current knowledge of a discipline by academics.

Free exchange of ideas is necessary in academia, but potential Brexit rules are likely to complicate this as it becomes increasingly difficult for academics to obtain visas. EU academics may also face difficulty despite reassurance that they will not need visas to enter the UK. Disciplines may indeed be threatened as it becomes more difficult for face-to-face exchange and thus more difficult for academic research to develop.