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Cantab Founder says UK migration crackdown threatens economy

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The Founder of quantitative hedge fund Cantab Capital Partners, Ewan Kirk, has said that recent steps by the UK government to curtail migration will damage universities and Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s own ambitions to make Britain a hub for high-growth industries such as biotech and AI, according to a report by Bloomberg.

The report quotes Kirk in an interview as saying: “For all the guff and bloviation about making the UK a scientific superpower, you’ve actually got to do something that’s going to make that happen.

“The corollary of being a scientific superpower is presumably that you need a lot of scientists.

“We’re not going to grow them all internally, so would it not be good to get some from outside?”

Kirk argues that the government is now “making the student offer as unattractive and unwelcoming as they possibly can,” adding that this is to the UK’s disadvantage as this will decrease the pool of educated immigrants “when they’re mobile, bright,” in turn leading to a university funding shortfall and a reduced pool of talent for British employers.

He pointed to reports that universities have lowered grade requirements for overseas students saying: “You’re not attracting the best people, but you’ve got to keep attracting people because you can’t afford to run your university without them.”

Kirk is also a Non-Executive Director at defence firm BAE Systems. He was previously an Entrepreneur-in-Residence at the University of Cambridge and Head of European quantitative technologies at Goldman Sachs.

Sunak has pursued measures to cut both legal and illegal immigration after total net migration to the UK hit a record 745,000 in 2022. Last year, the UK government introduced a bar on most overseas students bringing their dependents with them.

Since the end of Covid restrictions, businesses have struggled to hire staff in skilled roles from welding to software engineering, increasing salaries and driving inflation in the UK.

Kirk also highlighted the need for lower-skilled migration, particularly in the UK’s National Health Service, adding: “You’re not going to get a great NHS without people sweeping the floors and pushing around trolleys.

“You’re not going to get that without having migration.”

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