Institutions may use swipe cards to keep tabs on overseas cohort

Universities may be forced to use swipe cards that monitor student attendance to comply with tough new immigration rules, a vice-chancellor has warned.

April 26, 2012

Quintin McKellar, of the University of Hertfordshire, said he was considering introducing an electronic registration system that would allow his institution to prove that its overseas students were attending lectures.

Professor McKellar said his comments had been prompted by recent visits from the UK Border Agency to Hertfordshire's campus as part of the government's sector-wide crackdown on student visa abuse.

All higher education institutions must provide evidence that their non-European Union students are actively studying in order to gain the UKBA's "highly trusted" sponsor status, which allows them to sponsor overseas students. But without an electronic register to prove attendance, it is difficult to demonstrate compliance with student visa requirements, Professor McKellar said.

"It is becoming clear that we have to have a real-time register of where students are," he told an audience at the Higher Education Funding Council for England's annual conference in London on 18 April.

"Will they need swipe cards? And is that discriminatory and does it affect civil liberties? The way the UKBA is going, it is going to compel us to do this."

Many higher education institutions already use, or are considering, systems that can monitor student attendance. Last year, for example, De Montfort University's executive board discussed a scheme to track attendance on campus by linking its wi-fisystem to electronic chips in students' ID cards.

Speaking at the conference, Liam Burns, president of the National Union of Students, said: "When you have budget restraints, spending money on monitoring students is ridiculous."

David Sweeney, director of research, innovation and skills at Hefce, added that universities should not be asked to "act as a monitoring arm of the state". "I find it ridiculous and shocking," he said.

You've reached your article limit.

Register to continue

Registration is free and only takes a moment. Once registered you can read a total of 3 articles each month, plus:

  • Sign up for the editor's highlights
  • Receive World University Rankings news first
  • Get job alerts, shortlist jobs and save job searches
  • Participate in reader discussions and post comments

Have your say

Log in or register to post comments

Featured Jobs

Most Commented

Monster behind man at desk

Despite all that’s been done to improve doctoral study, horror stories keep coming. Here three students relate PhD nightmares while two academics advise on how to ensure a successful supervision

opinion illustration

Eliminating cheating services, even if it were possible, would do nothing to address students’ and universities’ lack of interest in learning, says Stuart Macdonald

Sir Christopher Snowden, former Universities UK president, attacks ratings in wake of Southampton’s bronze award

Female professor

New data show proportion of professors who are women has declined at some institutions

Reflection of man in cracked mirror

To defend the values of reason from political attack we need to be more discriminating about the claims made in its name, says John Hendry