'Exceptional talent' scheme could protect recruitment of foreign scientists but more detail needed

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The government has announced an annual limit on the number of skilled workers from outside the EU that can come and work in the UK, but claims a new "exceptional talent" scheme could ensure that scientific research is not compromised. However more detail on the plan is needed.

Home secretary Theresa May explained that the government is taking a "clear, rational approach" to migrant workers.

"We have set out an approach which will not only get immigration down to sustainable levels, but at the same time protects those businesses and institutions which are vital to our economy," she added.

Ms May insisted that ministers are still determined to attract "the brightest and the best" to the UK.

From April 2011, the number of workers entering the UK under the skilled and highly skilled routes will be limited to 21,700 per year, but 1,000 of these will be let in under the new "exceptional talent" route, which aims to ensure scientists, academics and artists are still able to work in the UK.

Aisling Burnand, executive director of policy and public affairs at Cancer Research UK, said: "We are pleased that the government has recognised the importance of highly skilled scientists but we need to see the detail to know if this will work in practice. It will also be important to allow early career researchers with the potential to be leaders in their field to enter the UK.

"Drawing on experts from around the globe is the only way that we can make the most of our home-grown scientists and maintain the UK's position as a world leader in cancer research."