Universities using ‘extreme measures’ to meet visa requirements

House of Lords committee calls for ‘proportionate’ checks on students

April 11, 2014

Universities are resorting to “extreme measures” to make sure they do not fall foul of immigration compliance requirements, a House of Lords report has found, such as fingerprinting international students before lectures.

They should “adopt a proportionate response” as they try to maintain their licenses to sponsor international students, the Lords Science and Technology Select Committee report urges.

Released this morning, International Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) students recounts evidence from the National Union of Students of fingerprinting before lectures and cases of international PhD students being forced to “travel long distances to have their passport checked at a different campus”.

“The evidence we received suggested that universities may be fearful of being judged as non-compliant” with their immigration duties, it says.

The report also recommends the reintroduction of the post-study work visa – scrapped in 2012 – which gave international students the automatic right to work in the UK for two years after graduation.

International graduates in the UK are given four months of working rights, less than is the case in seven other competitor countries, the report finds.

“In conclusion, it is clear to us that the closure of the previous post study work route has had a deleterious effect on international students,” it says.

It also warns of a reduction in the “provision, sustainability and quality” of taught master’s courses in STEM subjects if recruitment of international students to these courses drops off, and urges the government to “immediately” set up a working group to assess this impact.

The report follows news in January that the number of non-EU students in UK higher education fell by 1 per cent in 2012-13, the first drop on record.

david.matthews@tsleducation.com

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