More than 160 academics have signed a letter to a national newspaper today to protest at being forced to spy on their students as part of an immigration crackdown.
The academics have accused the Home Office of “undermining the autonomy and academic freedom of UK universities and trust between academics and their students,” after being asked to do more to check the immigration status of each student.
In a letter to the Guardian newspaper, they say that they are being asked to monitor attendance and sometimes even share emails with UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI).
Mette Berg of Oxford University’s Institute of Social and Cultural Anthropology told the Guardian: “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.”
The letter calls on Universities UK, an advocacy group for British 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.”
Universities UK chief executive Nicola Dandridge said: “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.”
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.”