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One step closer to reversing the ‘big brother’ effect

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The attendance monitoring policy that has sparked a wave of extended checks on students, issued by UKBA (United Kingdom Border Agency), has caused enormous issues across the UK.

It has impacted on the educational experience of students and their civil liberties, making this a core institutional issue that should be tackled by all types of officer and staff-member. And, it has been an issue we have been lobbying to resolve at a national level.

Today, we welcomed firm clarification from UKBA that universities do not need to have more onerous monitoring procedures in place for international students than for domestic students.

The clarification comes in a letter sent to major sector bodies following confusion over the necessary levels of monitoring which led to some universities introducing checkpoints and biometric monitoring for international students.

London Metropolitan University lost its licence to recruit international students in 2012 and other universities have been worried about ambiguity in UKBAs rules on attendance monitoring.

Additionally UKBA have confirmed that they “no longer require [institutions] to report…when a student has missed 10 expected contacts.” A students’ sponsorship should only be withdrawn if the student stops being a student, i.e. course of study is terminated or they graduate.

UKBA have committed to produce detailed case studies of institutions that meet requirements to share with the sector to help develop policy at an institutional level. They are setting up a dedicated Higher Education team in order to improve consistency in guidance and communication with the sector.

Although this is a huge step forward there is more plenty more work to be done. However, now that we have these concessions and some clarity at a national level students’ unions should feel able to challenge their institutions on attendance monitoring.

In most cases, it will no longer be credible for an institution to say that decisions on attendance monitoring policies are out of their hands.

The announcement coincides with David Cameron’s trip to India where he has sought to allay fears there that the UK is no longer welcoming to international students.

Daniel Stevens, NUS International Students Officer, said:

“Hopefully this will end intrusive attendance monitoring procedures at universities and existing policies can be based on pedagogical reasons. International students are independent adults and should be treated as such not potential criminals.”

In the coming weeks NUS will put out further guidance for students’ unions to campaign and win on this issue.

As ever, it is important to note that NUS does not support attendance monitoring policy, but whilst it does exist it is vital we seize every opportunity to improve the situation for students.

We continue to campaign on this issue at a national level but hopefully this progress will help you win for international students in your institutions.

If you have any questions or comments get in touch with Nick Entwistle, Research and Policy Officer (HE) nick.entwistle@nus.org.uk.

A copy of the 15 February UKBA letter to the UK higher education sector can be found here.

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