Universities act on fear of nuclear proliferation

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UNIVERSITIES are to act over fears that foreign students may take home expertise learnt in Britain to make weapons of mass destruction.

They are to receive government advice on which students ought not to be admitted for high-level scientific research.

The higher education minister, Tim Boswell, told MPs agreement had been reached with university authorities 'about the need for careful consideration of applications from certain visiting researchers from overseas . . . in certain fields of scientific research'.

The Government first raised fears two years ago that students from potentially hostile countries might gain access in Britain to technologies enabling their governments to build weapons of mass destruction. But universities felt original proposals interfered with academic freedom.

A spokesman for the Committee of Vice-Chancellors and Principals said: 'The Government originally wanted us to deny places to all postgraduate students from a list of countries in a list of subjects.'

Universities did not want unwittingly to become involved in research leading to weapons proliferation, but such a blanket ban would deny them perfectly legitimate academic talent.