More than 150 academics have claimed in a joint letter than universities are acting as an “extension” of government immigration authorities, and eroding the trust of their students in the process.
In a letter published today in The Guardian, the group says it opposes the “acquiescence” of universities in “acting as an extension of the UKVI [UK Visas and Immigration], thereby undermining the autonomy and academic freedom of UK universities and trust between academics and their students”.
They say that since London Metropolitan University had its license to sponsor international students removed in 2012 (it was reinstated the following year) universities have become “preoccupied” with UK Visas and Immigration requirements.
The group objects to the use of pastoral care as a “mechanism” for monitoring international students.
They also oppose the use of biometric scanning systems and signing-in mechanisms which “single out” non-European Union students, and universities that monitor the behaviour of students that is “unrelated to academic endeavour”.
It urges Universities UK, the vice-chancellors’ body, to “oppose the discriminatory treatment of non-EU students in all forms”.
All students should be “treated equally regarding their attendance at classes”, the letter says, and their “right to privacy be respected, irrespective of their nationality”.
It also calls on UUK to affirm “the right of universities to autonomy in making decisions on progression and retention of non-EU students”.