Help for universities to attract the brightest overseas academics will be outlined by the Home Secretary today, as she sets out plans to cut immigration to Britain.
Theresa May will announce a cap of about 40,000 on the visas that will be issued next year to non-European workers. She is expected to stipulate that most foreign staff transferred to jobs in Britain will have to earn a salary of at least £40,000. The final details will be approved today by the Cabinet.
The Independent has learned that ministers have agreed significant concessions to academia and business, which had warned that too rigid a limit would undermine university standards and the competitiveness of British industry.
Ms May will confirm that migrants accepting research posts in universities would not have to meet stringent requirements on their earning power.
University vice-chancellors, the Royal Society and a group of Nobel prize-winning scientists had warned that the planned migration cap threatened to undermine standards of research in Britain. They were privately backed by David Willetts, the Universities and Science minister.
Ms May will signal that many foreign workers transferred to jobs in Britain will be exempt from the cap on skilled workers. They will, however, have to be earning £40,000 – or about £25,000 in the case of IT specialists.
The annual limit of about 40,000 visas is higher than many Tories originally wanted and only 10,000 less than the number of equivalent visas issued last year.
Liberal Democrat sources said the final package was more flexible than the Tory ministers had initially intended. One said: "We have ended up with a very different policy to the one we started with."
The relatively modest moves raise a question-mark over how the Government can achieve reducing net annual immigration from 200,000 to "tens of thousands".