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Thursday, February 01, 2007


London, 1 Feb. (AKI/DAWN) - Pakistani postgraduates studying nuclear physics and biochemistry in Britain will face tough new security checks to prevent them from gaining knowledge that could be used in the proliferation of nuclear arms. This would be an 'overhaul' of the present voluntary vetting scheme, where some universities agree to report students who arouse suspicion or those from such countries as Pakistan and Israel.

The government plans to make it compulsory now for every postgraduate from outside the European Union to undergo the tough new screening system, regardless of what country they are from.

“We do not want students who come to the UK to gain knowledge going home and using it as part of a nuclear weapons programme,” said a foreign office official.

“Overseas students from outside the EU who are pursuing courses will have to go through proper security vetting to check their credentials,” he added.

The system would scrutinise why they were coming here and what they studied before.

If they were thought to be risky, their visa applications would be blocked, the official said.

The new Academic Technology Approval Scheme will also be used to ensure students do not overstay their visas.

The foreign office said the subjects to be targeted include physics, metallurgy, microbiology, biophysics and electrical, chemical and mechanical engineering.

David Allen, chair of the Association of Heads of University Administration, told the Research Fortnight newspaper that he broadly welcomed the change.

He said: “We do not want students to go to the US and Australia while they are waiting to hear from the UK.”
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