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Universities being used as proxy border police, say academics

3 MAR 2014

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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.

 

Read full article: The Guardian