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International students face the prospect of losing scholarships and PhD funding because UK government security checks for courses in “sensitive subjects” are taking as long as six months to process.

Under the Academic Technology Approval Scheme (Atas), anyone seeking to study or research at postgraduate level in certain science and technology subjects, or those with a research job offer, must obtain clearance before applying for a visa. Vetting does not apply to those from the European Union, Switzerland, the US, Australia, Canada, Japan, Singapore and South Korea, but thousands of postgraduates, PhD candidates and postdoctoral researchers – most of them from China and India – must have their study or research plans signed off.

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