UK universities being broken by border control measures

Students turning up, clocking in, getting tagged


Updated The law of unintended consequences has arrived in full force on British campuses, as government policies designed to control immigration turn academic staff into state informers and impose draconian surveillance on UK students and academics.

That is the conclusion of a report out this week from the Manifesto Club entitled Fortress Academy (pdf). It details the operation of the new points-based immigration system, and the effect it is having on UK Colleges and other academic institutions.

The points-based visa system was introduced across UK universities on 31 March 2009, and imposed a series of burdensome requirements for non-EU students and academics coming to study or teach in the UK. These included an increase in visa application fees, demands for biometric details, to be used for issuing an ID card once the students are in the UK, a licensing system for all educational institutions that wish to accept international students, and a range of monitoring duties imposed on all higher education institutions, including monitoring foreign student and staff attendance.

According to the report, the way in which these restrictions have been imposed by the UK Borders Agency (UKBA) is having a disastrous and distorting effect on British institutions.

It claims an increase in late arrivals and no-shows of international students for the academic year 2009-10, a 100 per cent increase in visa refusals for international students, between April-May 2009, and 14,000 would-be students still stuck in Pakistan when term started in October 2009.

The report cites cases of international academics unable to attend the UK to teach their regular courses or seminars; UK universities, including the Glasgow School of Art and Nottingham Trent University, reporting difficulties putting together international lecture series; and some international academics now choosing not to visit the UK.

Sam Ainsley, senior lecturer in fine art at Glasgow School of Art, stated: "We are currently engaged in organising radio interviews with visiting artists, a symposium with visiting artists and a major retrospective exhibition of art from Glasgow involving artists who now live abroad. All of this is put at risk by this astonishingly short sighted and ill-conceived piece of unnecessary bureaucracy."

The monitoring requirements that go hand in hand with this new set of rules are placing added burdens on universities. For instance, staff must check international student attendance whilst if a student fails to attend 10 "expected interactions" (seminars, lectures, tutor meetings, etc), the professor is obliged to report them to the UKBA.

This is just one of a number of circumstances where academics and university staff are now being required by law to act as government informants.

However, it is in respect of the effect on home-grown students that these new regulations are having a serious unintended impact. In order not to breach the race relations act by imposing checking systems that are discriminatory, universities are putting in place surveillance mechanisms, such as central registers and systems to log the activities of students and academics, that are applied to all students irrespective of their country of origin.

Sheffield and Queen Mary have set up electronic registers for all students, to monitor attendance. Over at the University of Wales at Lampeter, this checking process has extended to staff, with the university requiring all staff to submit legal documents to establish whether they have the right to work in the UK. The University of Glamorgan is even alleged to have devised a tag – called "uni-nanny" - to be worn by students on campus.

Academics are scathing of this policy. According to Michael Farthing, vice chancellor, Sussex University: "Shut the door to this potential, and all the opportunities that the 21st-century global village has to offer will be denied to our students, the education sector and the wider economy."

As policy goes, this is a double whammy. According to Matthew Fuller, a reader at Goldsmiths, University of London, the checks will be reasonably easy to evade by would-be terrorists.

However, as many academics write: the system being put in place is insensitive to the needs of UK universities, and could do real long-term damage to the UK economy and its international reputation as a centre for learning excellence.

According to a spokeswoman for UKBA Home Secretary Alan Johnson has said: "The Points Based System was introduced to provide a rigorous system to manage legitimate access to the UK to work and study, with the ability to respond to changing circumstances.

"We want foreign students to come here to study, not to work illegally, and today we have set out necessary steps which will maintain the robustness of the system we introduced last year. I make no apologies for that.” ®


Other stories you might like

  • NASA's InSight doomed as Mars dust coats solar panels
    The little lander that couldn't (any longer)

    The Martian InSight lander will no longer be able to function within months as dust continues to pile up on its solar panels, starving it of energy, NASA reported on Tuesday.

    Launched from Earth in 2018, the six-metre-wide machine's mission was sent to study the Red Planet below its surface. InSight is armed with a range of instruments, including a robotic arm, seismometer, and a soil temperature sensor. Astronomers figured the data would help them understand how the rocky cores of planets in the Solar System formed and evolved over time.

    "InSight has transformed our understanding of the interiors of rocky planets and set the stage for future missions," Lori Glaze, director of NASA's Planetary Science Division, said in a statement. "We can apply what we've learned about Mars' inner structure to Earth, the Moon, Venus, and even rocky planets in other solar systems."

    Continue reading
  • The ‘substantial contributions’ Intel has promised to boost RISC-V adoption
    With the benefit of maybe revitalizing the x86 giant’s foundry business

    Analysis Here's something that would have seemed outlandish only a few years ago: to help fuel Intel's future growth, the x86 giant has vowed to do what it can to make the open-source RISC-V ISA worthy of widespread adoption.

    In a presentation, an Intel representative shared some details of how the chipmaker plans to contribute to RISC-V as part of its bet that the instruction set architecture will fuel growth for its revitalized contract chip manufacturing business.

    While Intel invested in RISC-V chip designer SiFive in 2018, the semiconductor titan's intentions with RISC-V evolved last year when it revealed that the contract manufacturing business key to its comeback, Intel Foundry Services, would be willing to make chips compatible with x86, Arm, and RISC-V ISAs. The chipmaker then announced in February it joined RISC-V International, the ISA's governing body, and launched a $1 billion innovation fund that will support chip designers, including those making RISC-V components.

    Continue reading
  • FBI warns of North Korean cyberspies posing as foreign IT workers
    Looking for tech talent? Kim Jong-un's friendly freelancers, at your service

    Pay close attention to that resume before offering that work contract.

    The FBI, in a joint advisory with the US government Departments of State and Treasury, has warned that North Korea's cyberspies are posing as non-North-Korean IT workers to bag Western jobs to advance Kim Jong-un's nefarious pursuits.

    In guidance [PDF] issued this week, the Feds warned that these techies often use fake IDs and other documents to pose as non-North-Korean nationals to gain freelance employment in North America, Europe, and east Asia. Additionally, North Korean IT workers may accept foreign contracts and then outsource those projects to non-North-Korean folks.

    Continue reading
  • Google opens the pod doors on Bay View campus
    A futuristic design won't make people want to come back – just ask Apple

    After nearly a decade of planning and five years of construction, Google is cutting the ribbon on its Bay View campus, the first that Google itself designed.

    The Bay View campus in Mountain View – slated to open this week – consists of two office buildings (one of which, Charleston East, is still under construction), 20 acres of open space, a 1,000-person event center and 240 short-term accommodations for Google employees. The search giant said the buildings at Bay View total 1.1 million square feet. For reference, that's less than half the size of Apple's spaceship. 

    The roofs on the two main buildings, which look like pavilions roofed in sails, were designed that way for a purpose: They're a network of 90,000 scale-like solar panels nicknamed "dragonscales" for their layout and shimmer. By scaling the tiles, Google said the design minimises damage from wind, rain and snow, and the sloped pavilion-like roof improves solar capture by adding additional curves in the roof. 

    Continue reading
  • Pentester pops open Tesla Model 3 using low-cost Bluetooth module
    Anything that uses proximity-based BLE is vulnerable, claim researchers

    Tesla Model 3 and Y owners, beware: the passive entry feature on your vehicle could potentially be hoodwinked by a relay attack, leading to the theft of the flash motor.

    Discovered and demonstrated by researchers at NCC Group, the technique involves relaying the Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) signals from a smartphone that has been paired with a Tesla back to the vehicle. Far from simply unlocking the door, this hack lets a miscreant start the car and drive away, too.

    Essentially, what happens is this: the paired smartphone should be physically close by the Tesla to unlock it. NCC's technique involves one gadget near the paired phone, and another gadget near the car. The phone-side gadget relays signals from the phone to the car-side gadget, which forwards them to the vehicle to unlock and start it. This shouldn't normally happen because the phone and car are so far apart. The car has a defense mechanism – based on measuring transmission latency to detect that a paired device is too far away – that ideally prevents relayed signals from working, though this can be defeated by simply cutting the latency of the relay process.

    Continue reading
  • Google assuring open-source code to secure software supply chains
    Java and Python packages are the first on the list

    Google has a plan — and a new product plus a partnership with developer-focused security shop Snyk — that attempts to make it easier for enterprises to secure their open source software dependencies.

    The new service, announced today at the Google Cloud Security Summit, is called Assured Open Source Software. We're told it will initially focus on some Java and Python packages that Google's own developers prioritize in their workflows. 

    These two programming languages have "particularly high-risk profiles," Google Cloud Cloud VP and GM Sunil Potti said in response to The Register's questions. "Remember Log4j?" Yes, quite vividly.

    Continue reading
  • Rocket Lab is taking NASA's CAPSTONE to the Moon
    Mission to lunar orbit is further than any Photon satellite bus has gone before

    Rocket Lab has taken delivery of NASA's CAPSTONE spacecraft at its New Zealand launch pad ahead of a mission to the Moon.

    It's been quite a journey for CAPSTONE [Cislunar Autonomous Positioning System Technology Operations and Navigation Experiment], which was originally supposed to launch from Rocket Lab's US launchpad at Wallops Island in Virginia.

    The pad, Launch Complex 2, has been completed for a while now. However, delays in certifying Rocket Lab's Autonomous Flight Termination System (AFTS) pushed the move to Launch Complex 1 in Mahia, New Zealand.

    Continue reading
  • Alibaba Cloud adds third datacenter in Germany
    More Euro-presence than any other Chinese company, but still nowhere near Google or AWS

    Alibaba has pulled ahead of its Chinese rivals in Europe with the opening of a third datacenter in Germany.

    The company said the Frankfurt datacenter serves cloud computing products to Europe and "adheres to the highest security standards and the strict compliance regulations set out in the Cloud Computing Compliance Controls Catalog (C5) in Germany."

    The addition brings Alibaba Cloud to a network of 84 availability zones in 27 regions worldwide. The company's first European cloud center arrived in Frankfurt in 2016.

    Continue reading

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2022