An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Guardian: More than 1,000 scientists and postgraduate students were barred from working in the UK last year on national security grounds, amid a major government crackdown on research collaborations with China. Figures obtained by the Guardian reveal that a record 1,104 scientists and postgraduate students were rejected by Foreign Office vetting in 2022, up from 128 in 2020 and just 13 in 2016.
The sharp increase follows a hardening of the government’s stance on scientific ties with China, with warnings from MI5 of a growing espionage threat, major research centers being quietly shut down and accusations by a government minister that China’s leading genomics company had regularly sought to hack into the NHS’s genetic database. Geopolitical tensions stepped up further this week, as the US, Australia and the UK announced a multi-decade, multibillion-dollar deal aimed at countering China’s military expansion in the Indo-Pacific. China said the Aukus plan to build a combined fleet of elite nuclear-powered submarines was “a path of error and danger.”
The Foreign Office declined to give a breakdown by nationality, but data supplied by leading universities including Oxford, Cambridge and Imperial College suggests that, at these institutions at least, Chinese academics account for a majority of those denied clearance. Some have welcomed the policy shift, with one security expert saying the number of academics being barred is “commensurate with the threat.” But leading scientists say the scheme is leaving universities struggling to recruit the best talent from abroad. “A majority of applicants are thought to be scientists seeking to move to the UK to take up offers of research degrees or fellowships,” adds the Guardian. “But the Guardian is also aware of researchers, including five Chinese scientists at Imperial college, who did not pass clearance despite having already held positions at UK universities for several years — and who may have had to leave the UK as a result.”