Lecturers and staff have raised concerns over
student absence or activities on more than 35,000
occasions in the last two years, a report reveals
It raises fresh concerns that the student visa
system is still open to widespread abuse by those
looking to stay in the UK illegally.
But civil liberties group Manifesto Club, which
obtained the figures, warned they are more a
reflection of over-reporting of minor incidents by
universities because they are paranoid about losing
their right to sponsor foreign students.
Colleges have a duty to report suspicious or bogus
students or risk being stripped of their licence to
bring in lucrative overseas students.
The Manifesto Club report, Students Under Watch,
concludes the regime has resulted in a “humiliating”
surveillance state with the country’s universities
with staff and students effectively spying on each
Study is the most
common reason for migrants coming to the UK, with
three in four of the 228,000 who came to the UK for
study last year coming from outside the EU.
Under the visa system colleges must report prolonged
absences by foreign students or other suspicious
Between March 2009 and March this year, the UKBA
received 35,289 notifications from education
providers, the equivalent of almost 1,500 a month,
the figures showed.
The report said it was “difficult to imagine” that
meant so many students were absconding each month
and anecdotally they mostly involved concerns such
as a student not turning up for a lecture or failing
to respond to an email.
“It therefore seems that universities are acting
nervously, in part because of the vagueness of their
duties,” it said.
The report found some universities, including
Bedfordshire, Derbyshire and Plymouth, are now
monitoring student attendance through swipe cards,
to keep tabs on their movements.