Tier 4 Visa Monitoring - Draft for discussion at 5 June 2018 Meeting

This is a draft document for discussion at the Tier 4 Visa Monitoring Meeting supported by UCL UCU Branch,
End discrimination against international students at UCL! 
Open meeting for Staff and Students
5th June, 16.00, Elvin Hall at UCL Institute of Education (20 Bedford Way)


Draft for Discussion on 5th June
Statement of Principles on Tier 4 visa monitoring
As staff and students at UCL, we recognise that international students lie at the heart of our institution. International students make an invaluable contribution to UCL’s dynamic intellectual climate and the important diversity of our university community. These are priorities which are consistent with UCL’s Global Engagement Strategy, including its commitment to cultivating global outlooks and sharing academic expertise for solving global problems through extending the global reach of our teaching, research, and academic partnerships.[1]
Since 2012, universities have been increasingly involved in monitoring the compliance of international students on Tier 4 visas. Staff across the university sector have raised concerns that such processes harm staff-student relationships and turns staff into proxy border guards for the Home Office.[2] While current legal duties are in place, UCL cannot but conform to Home Office requirements. We also, however, have a moral duty to ensure that in doing this we do not foster a climate of suspicion and discrimination against international students.
Unfortunately, recent changes to UCL regulations for staff monitoring and reporting of international students’ compliance with Tier 4 visa requirements are having precisely such pernicious effects. The ‘comprehensive’ monitoring and requirements for increasingly regular, on site, face to face checks put a clearly discriminatory burden on international students that is in conflict with stated principles in Home Office Tier 4 guidance. The Home Office document ‘Tier 4 Compliance: A Practical Guide’ states that it is inappropriate to put in place monitoring processes that are not directly linked to academic activities or that place additional burdens on either staff or students (p. 28). 
In addition, as colleagues noted in a May 24th letter to the Provost, the current UCL processes: put additional pressure on students at a time when we have increasing evidence about risks to student wellbeing and mental health; take up time of both professional and academic staff in bureaucracy that is irrelevant to and in conflict with the task of supporting learning and research; and build a culture of mistrust, putting at risk what should be a relationship of mutual respect between students and the university.
While UCL is required to carry out Tier 4 monitoring duties, it is crucial that does so in line with key principles that avoid any discriminatory effects, that respect academic integrity, that are consistent with current practices in digital education, and that maintain a stance of ethical and critical engagement.
Principle of non-discriminationAll students should be treated equally in relation to attendance and supervision requirements regardless of their immigration status. International students should not be subject to differential treatment or expectations than home students.
Principle of academic integrity: the requirement of UKVI is that universities should be able to demonstrate students are engaged with their programmes of study, as these have been designed based on academic principles; academic programmes should not have to be re-designed to fit non-academic, immigration policy requirements.
Principle of digital education: UCL has embraced the goal of being a world leader in digital education. Students and staff should be able to engage with one another, and with programmes of study, digitally: physical presence on campus and pen and ink documents should not be given preference over digital engagement and documentation, except where these are motivated by core academic goals and principles.
Principle of ethical and critical engagement: UCL must put the principles of ethical and critical engagement into practice in relation to requirements for HEI immigration monitoring and directly challenge the Home Office when guiding principles of equity, respect and academic values come into conflict with the minutiae of bureaucratic requirements.

We call on UCL to formally commit to the above and undertake a thorough review of new and existing guidance for monitoring of students on Tier 4 visas in light of these principles. We further urge UCL to take a more public and proactive stand with the Home Office, using its considerable influence to effect positive and non-discriminatory changes in the treatment of Tier 4 international students.


[1] https://www.ucl.ac.uk/global/global-engagement-strategy
[2] https://www.theguardian.com/education/2014/mar/02/checks-on-students-undermine-trust

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