UCL row over email stating immigration check fine of £20,000

A row has broken out over University College London’s enforcement of immigration controls for international students, with staff and students accusing the senior management of pursuing draconian and discriminatory policies. The Guardian reports.

The dispute comes after UCL advised lecturers to carry out random spot checks on students’ identity documents, and one of the university’s leading faculties warned that staff who fail to report those in breach of the terms of their visa and immigration requirements “may be liable to a £20,000 personal fine per case”.

In May the university’s student immigration compliance team issued guidance to lecturers that stated they should monitor international students’ attendance through “spot checks based on face-to-face verification, as well as checking registers for signs of abuse and challenging suspicious signatures”. It added that “acceptable spot checking methods [include] checking the IDs of a sample of students”.

Separately, an email sent earlier this month to academics and administrative staff at the Bartlett, UCL’s faculty of the built environment, warned that a £20,000 fine for failing to report immigration breaches by international students would be deducted from a lecturer’s “discretionary account”, which provides financial support to research staff and also covers expenses for conferences, travel and training, purchasing equipment and computers.

The threat came amid concerns that 63 students at the Bartlett School of Environment, Energy and Resources had failed to provide sufficient evidence of their attendance, according to the UCL branch of the University and College Union. A member of staff warned in an email that “this could have significant consequences for [the students]. If UK Visas and Immigration takes action against any of them we may also suffer reputational damage.”

Under the “hostile environment policy”, pursued by the government since 2010 to make living in the UK as uncomfortable as possible for illegal migrants, universities are required to inform the Home Office of any breaches in an international student’s visa or immigration status.

A survey published on Wednesday by UCL’s student union found 83% of 400 international students who responded felt the university’s visa compliance regulations were discriminatory. The union said students have been threatened with being reported to the Home Office if they fail to follow the procedures.

Mark Crawford, an officer at the students’ union, added: “These new visa compliance procedures are absurd, unnecessary and academically illiterate. They’re turning our lecturers into border guards, and we’re calling on them to be reviewed urgently.”

Read the full article UCL row over email stating immigration check fine of £20,000

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