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Checks on Students Undermine Trust | Universities Being Used as Proxy Border Police, Say Academics

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British universities have been positioned as central culprits for failing to regulate their intake of foreign students, while rendered dependent on “overseas” student fees because of government funding cuts. A pernicious new turn took place in summer 2012 when London Metropolitan University lost its “highly trusted sponsor” status, to catastrophic effect for students in the middle of their courses. Since then, universities have been preoccupied with managing accountability demanded by UK Visas and Immigration (formerly the UK Border Agency), and, in effect, have become its proxy. Academics at a number of universities in the UK and beyond have now become concerned at this state of affairs, and at the methods used to establish bona fide student status.

We, the undersigned, oppose the acquiescence of Universities UK members in acting as an extension of UKVI, thereby undermining the autonomy and academic freedom of UK universities and trust between academics and their students. We object to the actions of universities which:

• Use mechanisms of pastoral care, such as monitoring of student attendance and meetings with tutors, as mechanisms for monitoring non-EU students, or so-called Tier 4 visa holders, on behalf of UKVI.

• Treat UK/EU and non-EU students differently with regard to determining their ongoing academic standing.

• Construct and deploy systems of monitoring and surveillance such as biometric scanning systems and electronic signing-in mechanisms to single out non-EU students.

• Agree to monitor behaviours that may be unrelated to academic endeavour, and allow this data to be used by UKVI in determining the supposed legitimacy of non-EU students.

We note that UUK released a briefing document on 10 February regarding the House of Lords’ second reading of the immigration bill, in which UUK registers concern that landlords are required to check the immigration status of tenants. We urge UUK to go further and declare its rejection of the practices described above. We call on Universities UK, on behalf of member university vice-chancellors and principals, to oppose the discriminatory treatment of non-EU students in all forms and publicly affirm:

• That the quality of academic work should be the primary criterion for determining academic standing.

• That all students be treated equally regarding their attendance at classes, and that their right to privacy be respected, irrespective of their nationality.

• The right of universities to autonomy in making decisions on progression and retention of non-EU students.

Dr Maha Abdelrahman University of Cambridge
Dr Reem Abou-El-Fadl Durham University
Prof Gilbert Achcar SOAS, University of London
Dr Christine Achinger University of Warwick
Dr Sam Adelman University of Warwick
Prof Nadje Al-Ali SOAS, University of London
Dr Anne Alexander University of Cambridge 
Dr Miranda Alison University of Warwick
Prof Louise Amoore Durham University
Dr Dibyesh Anand University of Westminster
Dr Rainer-Elk Anders Staffordshire University
Dr Walter Armbrust University of Oxford 
Dr Andrew Asibong Birkbeck, University of London
Dr Sara Jane Bailes University of Sussex
Dr Oliver Bakewell University of Oxford
Dr Bahar Baser University of Warwick
Prof Les Back Goldsmiths, University of London
Dr Victoria Basham University of Exeter
Dr Alex Benchimol University of Glasgow
Dr Mette Louise Berg University of Oxford
Prof Gurminder Bhambra University of Warwick
Dr Claire Blencowe University of Warwick
Prof Elleke Boehmer University of Oxford
Dr Maud Bracke University of Glasgow 
Dr Chris Browning University of Warwick 
Dr Lorna Burns University of St Andrews
Prof Ray Bush University of Leeds
Dr Rosie Campbell Birbeck, University of London
Prof Bob S Carter University of Leicester
Prof Nickie Charles University of Warwick
Dr Chris Clarke University of Warwick
Dr Rachel Cohen City University of London
Prof Robin Cohen University of Oxford
Cole Collins University of Glasgow
Prof Christine Cooper University of Strathclyde 
Prof Gordon Crawford University of Leeds
Dr Jonathan Davies University of Warwick 
Dr Ipek Demir University of Leicester 
Prof Thomas Docherty University of Warwick
Prof Toby Dodge LSE
Dr Renske Doorenspleet University of Warwick
Prof Costas Douzinas Birkbeck, University of London
Prof Elizabeth Dowler University of Warwick
Dr Franck Duvell University of Oxford
Jakub Eberle University of Kent
Dr Juanita Elias University of Warwick
Hannah El-Sisi University of Oxford
Safinaz El-Tarouty University of East Anglia
Prof David Epstein FRS University of Warwick
Dr Elizabeth Ewart University of Oxford
Ali Fathollah-Nejad SOAS, University of London
Dr Sara R Farris Goldsmiths, University of London
Prof Robert Fine University of Warwick
Tina Freyburg University of Warwick
Prof Bridget Fowler University of Glasgow
Prof Des Freedman Goldsmiths, University of London
Prof Matthew Fuller Goldsmiths, University of London
Dr Manuela Galetto University of Warwick
Paul Gilroy
Dr Jane Goldman University of Glasgow 
Dr Priyamvada Gopal University of Cambridge 
Dr Toni Haastrup University of Kent
Juliette Harkin University of East Anglia
Dr Sophie Harman Queen Mary, University of London
Dr Oz Hassan University of Warwick
Dr Charlotte Heath-Kelly University of Warwick
Prof John Holloway Benemérita Universidad Autónoma de Puebla, Mexico 
Prof John Holmwood University of Nottingham
Dr Michael Hrebeniak University of Cambridge 
Dr Aggie Hurst City University of London
Marta Iñiguez de Heredia University of Cambridge 
Prof Engin F Isin The Open University
Matt Jenkins University of Newcastle
Rev Dr Stuart B Jennings University of Warwick
Dr Hannah Jones University of Warwick
Dr Lee Jones Queen Mary, University of London 
Salman Karim University of East Anglia
Prof Rebecca Kay University of Glasgow
Dženeta Karabegovic University of Warwick
Salman Karim University of East Anglia
Dr Sossie Kasbarian University of Lancaster
Dr Nitasha Kaul University of Westminster, London
Prof Rebecca Kay University of Glasgow
Dr Alexander Kazamias University of Coventry
Dr. John Keefe London Metropolitan University
Dr Dominic Kelly University of Warwick
Prof Laleh Khalili SOAS, University of London
Dr Paul Kirby University of Sussex
Dr Nicholas Kitchen LSE 
Dr Maria Koinova University of Warwick 
Dr Alexandra Kokoli Middlesex University
Dr Vassiliki Kolocotroni University of Glasgow
Dr Dennis Leech University of Warwick 
Dr Samantha Lyle University of Oxford
Mr Paddy Lyons University of Glasgow 
Dr William McEvoy University of Sussex
Dr Robert McLaughlan University of Newcastle
Prof Martin McQuillan Kingston University London
Dr Graeme MacDonald University of Warwick
Dr Alice Mah University of Warwick
Dr Maria do Mar Pereira University of Warwick
Prof Philip Marfleet University of East London
Dr Vicky Margree University of Brighton
Dr Robert Maslen University of Glasgow
Dr Lucy Mayblin University of Sheffield 
Dr John Miller University of Sheffield
Dr David Mills University of Oxford
Dr Drew Milne University of Cambridge
Latoya Mistral Ferns University of Warwick and Durham University alumna
Sian Mitchell University of Warwick 
Prof David Mond University of Warwick
Dr Liz Morrish Nottingham Trent University 
Dr Pablo Mukherjee University of Warwick
Roberta Mulas University of Warwick 
Dr Simon Murray University of Glasgow
Ghandy Najla University of East Anglia
Dr Michael Niblett University of Warwick 
Dr Marijn Nieuwenhuis University of Warwick
Dr Patrick O’Connor Nottingham Trent University
Prof Martin O’Shaughnessy Nottingham Trent University
Dr Goldie Osuri University of Warwick
Dr Ian Patterson Queens’ College, Cambridge 
Prof Adam Piette University of Sheffield
Prof Alison Phipps University of Glasgow
Dr Loredana Polezzi University of Warwick 
Dr Nicola Pratt University of Warwick
Dr Rupert Read University of East Anglia
Dr John Regan University of Cambridge
Dr James Riley Corpus Christi College, Cambridge
Dr Stephen Ross University of Victoria, Canada
Dr Chris Rossdale City University of London
Prof Paul Routledge University of Leeds
Andrew Rubens University of Glasgow
Ali Saqer University of Warwick
Prof Derek Sayer Lancaster University
Prof Jan Aart Scholte University of Warwick
Dr Jason Scott-Warren University of Cambridge
Dr Robbie Shilliam Queen Mary University of London
Dr Nando Sigona University of Birmingham
Prof Melanie Simms University of Leicester
Dr Andrew Smith University of Glasgow
Dr Vicki Squire University of Warwick
Dr Samuel Solomon University of Sussex
Dr Nick Srnicek University College London
Maurice Stierl University of Warwick
Dr Mariz Tadros Institute of Development Studies, University of Sussex
Dr Jacqueline Sanchez Taylor University of Leicester
Nick Taylor University of Warwick
Prof Olga Taxidou University of Edinburgh
Dr Andrea Teti University of Aberdeen
Lisa Tilley University of Warwick
Lauren Tooker University of Warwick 
Prof Charles Tripp SOAS, University of London
Dr Mandy Turner University of Bradford/Kenyon Institute, Jerusalem
Dr Maria Villares Varela University of Oxford
Dr Vron Ware The Open University
Dr Dave Webber University of Warwick
Dr Polly Wilder University of Leeds
Dr Aaron Winter Abertay University
Dr Nicholas Wright University of East Anglia
Prof Patrick Wright King’s College London
Dr Yoke-Sum Wong Lancaster University

SOURCE

Checks on Students Undermine Trust“, The Guardian, 3 March 2014, p. 29.

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Universities being used as proxy border police, say academics

Academics accuse UK Visas and Immigration of undermining trust between universities and students in crackdown

The Guardian | 3 March 2014 | p. 29

More than 160 academics have written to the Guardian to protest at being used as an extension of the UK border police, after universities have come under more pressure to check the immigration details of students.

The academics, from universities including Oxford, Warwick, Durham and Sheffield, accuse the Home Office immigration agency of “undermining the autonomy and academic freedom of UK universities and trust between academics and their students”.

Unrest has been growing for months as universities have come under more pressure to prove that their students are legitimate, according to the signatories, who say matters took a “pernicious new turn” in summer 2012 when London Metropolitan University briefly lost its trusted sponsor status – a requirement for all institutions wishing to recruit overseas students.

“Since then, universities have been preoccupied with managing accountability demanded by UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI – formerly the UK Border Agency), and in effect have become its proxy,” says the letter. “Academics at a number of universities in the UK and beyond have now become concerned at this state of affairs, and at the methods used to establish bona fide student status.”

Academics are being asked to monitor attendance and in some cases potentially to share emails with UKVI, said Mette Berg, of the Institute of Social and Cultural Anthropology at Oxford University. “We have a duty of care towards our students, and there is an issue about this undermining the trust between tutor and student. We are not there to be proxy border police.”

A Home Office spokesman defended the reforms to the student visa system, saying they had made the application process more rigorous and less open to abuse.

The academics say the changes come at a time when universities are becoming more reliant on the fees of non-EU students. The letter says: “British universities have been positioned as central culprits for failing to regulate their intake of foreign students, while rendered dependent on overseas student fees because of government funding cuts.”

Nicola Pratt of Warwick University said some vice-chancellors were so concerned about losing their ability to take foreign students there was a danger of checks becoming heavy-handed.

“We are a community of scholars and students, and those students should be judged on the basis of academic merit, not on the basis of their visa status,” she said. “It is a major concern that the government is targeting overseas students as a way of meeting immigration targets, especially as these students are investing a huge amount in thehigher education system.”

The letter calls for an end to the monitoring of students via sessions designed for pastoral care, and for UK, EU and non-EU students to be treated and valued equally. It also asks for Universities UK, an advocacy organisation for universities, to speak out against monitoring students.

“We call on Universities UK, on behalf of member university vice-chancellors and principals, to oppose the discriminatory treatment of non-EU students in all forms and publicly affirm that the quality of academic work should be the primary criterion for determining academic standing,” the letter says.

Nicola Dandridge, chief executive of Universities UK, said it was not acquiescing to the demands of the Home Office but had worked with it to make immigration compliance measures reasonable.

“We have been clear with the Home Office that attendance monitoring should not impact on students’ experience at university nor detract from the UK as a welcoming destination for international students,” she said.

“It is reasonable to expect universities to take responsibility for ensuring that students are engaged with their studies. This applies to all students, and not just international students.”

The Home Office said: “We continue to welcome the brightest and the best students and the latest statistics show that visa applications from university students has risen by 7% in the year ending December 2013. It is only right that universities adhere to the guidance and immigration rules of sponsorship by taking reasonable steps to ensure that every student has permission to be in the UK.”

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PLEASE SIGN

Petition to be delivered to Universities UK (UUK): http://petitions.moveon.org/sign/to-universitiesuk-re?source=s.fwd&r_by=10132489