Backlash over UCL’s own ‘hostile environment’

UCL has come under criticism from unions and campaigning groups after a internal message, warning lecturers of a large fine if they failed to monitor international students, was leaked.

On 9 July, ‘Unis Resist Border Controls’, a campaigning group, circulated a screenshot of the message on social media. It warned lecturers that they may face up to a £20,000 personal fine if they fail to comply with Tier 4 reporting duties or if they provide incorrect information.

The message leaked by the ‘Unis Resist Border Controls’ group

Tier 4 visas are issued to international students (outside of the EU and Switzerland) to allow study at UK universities. UCL’s current policy involves the university reporting Tier 4 students, who break the terms and conditions of their visa, to the Home Office’s UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) department.

This is in compliance with what is known as the UK Government’s ‘hostile environment’, a set of policies designed to deter illegal immigrants.

However, campaigners and activists at UCL argue that UCL’s monitoring of international students is going beyond what the Home Office requires.

For example, UCL are requiring international students to have to physically sign-ins at least once a month. Previously, university staff also carried out spot checks on international students whereby staff were told to keep randomly check students’ IDs. The latter policy has since been withdrawn.

A spokesperson for UCL told LS that they ‘are required by the Home Office to comply with Tier 4 visa immigration rules’ but that they ‘try, where possible, to minimise the burden of such requirements, both for students and staff.’

These measures go further than the requirements as the Home Office specifically states that ‘you should not need to introduce separate contact points outside of timetabled lectures, seminars, tutorials etc. to be able to monitor student attendance effectively’. 

UCL also told LS that it was for the benefit of the Tier 4 students as  ‘effective engagement monitoring is an important early warning sign for welfare and wellbeing concerns.’

The university’s monitoring policies could affect up to 31.4% of students who are classed as ‘Overseas (non-EU)’ students.

‘UCL: Stop Policing International Students’, a student-staff campaign group which started in June, have released a joint statement, with Students’ Union UCL, urging the university to ‘not foster a climate of suspicion and discrimination against international students.’

UCL’s branch of University and College Union (UCU) passed a motion which noted that UCL’s adoption of the monitoring requirements is ‘directly extending this hostile environment onto the university campus and into our classrooms’.

A survey conducted found that of the 400 international students asked, 83% reported to have felt discriminated against as a UCL international student.

Unis Resist Border Controls told LS that UCL are trying to force lecturers to participate in a ‘racist and xenophobic hostile environment policy’. They said that UCL ‘can’t be a university that endeavours to foster learning and academic growth while forcing lecturers to be border guards on campus.’

Featured image: UCL: Stop Policing International Students

Environment, Politics and Globalisation MA student at King's College London. Reporter and writer. Twitter: AkanshyaG

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