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York Academic Leads Debate on British "Brain Drain"

University of York

11:30am 21st February 2014

With almost 3,000 British citizens moving abroad every week, academics and policy-makers are meeting in London to discuss whether Britain is facing a ‘brain drain’ of skilled workers.

Organised by a collaboration involving the Universities of York, Sheffield and Leeds, the groundbreaking seminar will focus on whether Britain needs an emigration policy.

Panelists include former British Ambassador and co-founder of New Europeans, Michael Roberts, Conservative MP Nick de Bois, Howard Catton from the Royal College of Nursing,  and Tim Finch from the Institute for Public Policy Research.

The seminar on Wednesday, 26 February is part of a White Rose consortium funded research collaboration – Migration and Economic Crisis: Responses of Brits at Home and Abroad.  Dr Neil Lunt, from the University of York’s Department of Social Policy and Social Work, is one of the project leaders.

Dr Lunt said: “Every year more British citizens leave the country than return – a net loss of around 75,000 – with countries such as Australia, New Zealand and Canada attracting a steady flow of British migrants. We’ll be asking if these figures should concern us, and if so, what policymakers should be doing to tackle the exodus.”

Statistics show that nine out of 10 British migrants are of working age, with the largest group being 25 to 44 year olds. In total, around 5m British people now live outside the UK.

Dr Majella Kilkey, from the University of Sheffield’s Department of Sociological Studies, is also one of the project leaders. She said: “Despite these numbers, British emigration has typically been invisible in policy debates. There is, however, increasing attention focused on what - if anything - can be done to stem a ‘brain drain’, how to reconnect with the overseas British emigrant population; and ensuring a smoother return for those who re-emigrate back to the UK.”

The seminar will examine how to reconnect with those who have settled abroad and whether there are opportunities for a wider ‘brain exchange’, for example, through skills exchange and trade links.

“Some people argue that it is unfair that the taxpayer is subsidising the education and training of professionals, such as doctors, nurses, engineers and scientists, who immediately depart, taking their expensive skills with them,” said Dr Lunt. “However, others view graduate migration in a more positive light, arguing that it provides an ideal opportunity for ongoing brain circulation and exchange.”

The seminar will also feature a lunchtime viewing of the Brits Abroad photography project by portrait photographer Charlie Clift. Charlie Clift travelled to Spain to photograph British expatriates living near the Mediterranean coast and hopes his images will make people think differently about immigrants.

The seminar for policy and practice, Does Britain Need an Emigration Policy? will be held at William Penn 1, Friends House, 173-177 Euston Road, London, on Wednesday, 26 February, from 11am to 3.15pm.  For further information and to book a place, please contact Roxana Barbulescu on R.Barbulescu@sheffield.ac.uk.

For further information on the Migration and Economic Crisis: Responses of Brits at Home and Abroad project visit http://british-migration-research.group.shef.ac.uk/

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