Over 1,400 academics from leading British universities and more from across the globe have appealed to British authorities to reconsider its decision to reject Asiya Islam, an award-winning Indian sociologist at Cambridge, permission to stay in the country.
Refusal of granting international academics permission to stay in the country by the Home Office reinforces the perception that despite claims that Britain welcomes talent from across the globe, the reality is different.
Islam, who won the Zakir Hussain Medal for Academic Excellence at the Aligarh Muslim University, spent some time in New Delhi as part of her PhD research. This time period was more than the permissible number of days allowed abroad to secure ‘indefinite leave to remain’ status.
An open letter to the Home Office by the protesters said: “Her individual case is distressing, but it also sends a foreboding signal…The UK academic community’s global competitiveness suffers from the loss of the valuable fieldwork data and expertise, grant funding, and international research profiles brought in by non-EU postgraduates transitioning to staff positions at UK universities”.
Islam, who studied at the London School of Economics and later in Cambridge as a Cambridge Gates Scholar, told The Guardian that she is shocked and horrified at the Home Office decision. She intends to appeal against its refusal to allow her stay.
Islam said the growing number of signatories to the open letter shows that “the issue is much larger. When will the UK Home Office take notice?”
She said: “By rejecting my and other academics’ applications for leave to remain on the basis of their days out of the country conducting crucial fieldwork, the Home Office is signalling that global researchers are not welcome in the country”.
“This puts a dent in the reputation of the UK as a global academic leader, making it a less attractive destination for those seeking world-class excellence in education.”
A spokesperson for Newnham College, Cambridge, said: “Without talented academics like Islam, the University of Cambridge would not be a global leader in research. Dr Asiya Islam is a highly valued member of the research community at Newnham College and the University of Cambridge”.
Alison Rose, principal of the College, added: “Early career research fellows at Newnham College and at the University of Cambridge are the academic leaders of tomorrow. We received applications for this post from researchers across the world, and Dr Islam was an outstanding candidate.”