A new UK visa system, designed to attract the “brightest and best” graduates from around the world, does not include any African universities in its list of institutions from which degree holders can come.
Some have complained about the exclusion of African talent, although Africans who have attended universities on the list can apply.
The UK program will be available to alumni from leading non-UK universities who graduated within the last five years.
Graduates will be eligible regardless of place of birth and will not need a job offer to apply.
But the way the list of the best universities in the world has been compiled means that no African higher education institutions are included.
To be eligible, a person must have attended a university in the top 50 of at least two of the Times Higher Education World University Rankings, Quacquarelli Symonds World University Rankings or The Academic Ranking of World Universities in the year they graduated.
Thirty-seven universities are on the list – most are in the United States, but there are also a few in Europe and Asia.
“These rankings are based on criteria that favor universities that have been around for hundreds of years and have access to a lot of funding,” Amina Ahmed El-Imam of the University of Ilorin in Nigeria told New Scientist magazine.
“As someone from Nigeria who did his PhD in Britain, it is heartbreaking to see that there are still processes in place that inadvertently exclude Africans,” he added.
“Does this visa mean that there are no individual graduates from African universities with high potential?”
Some academics expressed disappointment that no South Asian, Latin American or African universities were on the list.
Christopher Trisos, director and senior researcher at the University of Cape Town, told the BBC this was a deeply unfair approach.
For the UK to play a role in tackling the great challenges of this century such as energy access, climate change and pandemics, he said, it “must recognize and include the diverse skills and deep knowledge of many university graduates in developing countries”.
An Interior Ministry spokesperson said the combination of used university lists “provides independent validation for institutions and opens up the possibility for new international universities to move up the ladder and join this list in the future”.
They added that each of the eligible universities attracts students from around the world to study and that there are “several other eligible paths for graduates from other universities, including the Graduate, Skilled Worker and Global Talent paths.”
UK Chancellor Rishi Sunak said: “These paths mean that the UK will develop into a leading international hub for innovation, creativity and entrepreneurship.
“We want the businesses of tomorrow to be built here today, which is why I urge students to take advantage of this incredible opportunity to forge their careers here.”