Edition 91 - November 2008

Overseas students under surveillance in the UK

The fingerprinting of overseas students (i.e. students coming from outside the European Economic Area and Switzerland) for biometric identity cards begins this month in the UK, as a result of tougher Home Office anti-immigration rules. The first students to be fingerprinted are those applying for a visa extension from 25 November. This concerns around 50 000 of the over 200 000 overseas students annually coming into the UK, who represent a significant source of income for British universities.

The measure is designed to stop the misuse of student visas, and to tackle bogus colleges that have facilitated individuals to falsely enter the UK by allowing them to apply for student visas without any intention of studying. As many as 300 bogus colleges have been identified in the past three years.

In addition to the measure addressing the students, under the new rules, UK colleges will need a licence from the UK Border Agency, which should be notified if overseas students fail to attend the courses. This measure assigning monitoring tasks to university professors was not left without an answer in the academia. University lecturers argue against what they perceive to be an attempt to transform them into immigration and surveillance officers. However, the Home Office seems firm on its position, even at the risk of turning British lecturers into modern copies of Sherlock Holmes.

UK Home Office

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