Academics criticise demands to monitor students

03 Mar 2014 | Posted by Carl Thomas

A group of academics have publicly criticised UK Visas and Immigration's (UKVI) requests to monitor students' attendance to track those abusing the student visa system.

Formerly part of the UK Border Agency, UKVI has been accused of undermining trust between academics and their students through its actions.

In a letter published in The Guardian, the group of more than 160 academics stated that they would like to see an end to universities and academics monitoring students. The letter said: "We call on Universities UK [an advocacy organisation for students], 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."

They claimed that things took a turn for the worse back in summer 2012 when London Metropolitan University saw its trusted sponsor status temporarily revoked. Since then, the signatories claim, "universities have been preoccupied with managing accountability demanded by UKVI, 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," they added.

A spokesperson for the Home Office has said that the reforms to the student system were designed to avoid abuses of the application process, in which some people were claiming to be studying when they were actually working.

However, the academics argue that monitoring this issue should not be their responsibility, adding that the changes to the system have been brought in at a time when British universities are increasingly reliant of the fees of non-EU students.