There are many things wrong with the new ‘points-based’ immigration system, but one of its most pernicious effects is the transfer of responsibility for immigration control of overseas students and staff to educational institutions. They now require a sponsorship licence to enrol overseas students – and obtaining and keeping one requires compliance with what are called ‘duties of surveillance’.
Institutions are required to notify the UK Border Agency (UKBA) if a student fails to enrol within the enrolment period, if they discontinue their studies, if they miss ten ‘contacts’ (lectures or tutorials) without permission, if the institution stops sponsoring them, if there is a significant change in the student’s circumstances, or if the student is suspected of breaching the conditions of their leave (for example, by working more than the permitted 20 hours per week).
An electronic ‘sponsorship management system’, compulsory from February, will ensure that all relevant sponsorship information is stored online for UKBA to access. The system includes online forms in which sponsors have to report on their students. Failure to comply will jeopardise the institution’s sponsorship licence.
The University and College Union
(UCU) has reported that members at a number of institutions have been told they must put attendance registers online, to be sent on to UKBA.
According to UKBA, the new system was introduced to crack down on ‘bogus students’ who enter on a student visa and instead go into full-time employment. Individual applicants are required to attend to have a biometric (fingerprints) taken before being granted a visa, and must carry identity cards when in the country.
UKBA claims that the points-based system helps keep alleged terrorists such as Umar Abdulmutallab out of the country. But the alleged Detroit bomber gave his tutors at UCL no cause for concern during his
three-year course there. He attended all his lectures and would not have been reported under such a system, while his subsequent application to attend a bogus college would have been refused under any system. Certainly, there is no evidence that a 47-page application form – including eight questions about applicants’ involvement in terrorist activity – keeps terrorists away.
Taking evidence of acceptance by an educational institution as proof of a student’s ability to follow the course, which the new system does, is an improvement on the old system where visa officers assessed students’ ability – a feature open to abuse by over-zealous or racist officers.
However, a recent study by the UK Council for International Student Affairs (UKCISA), found applicants refused visas for trivial or erroneous reasons (one was refused for listing her nationality as ‘Nigeria’ instead of ‘Nigerian’) and having to reapply – meaning another fee of up to £550. One student commented, ‘It was really horrible and painful experience because I was denied a visa due to the inadequacies of the British [officials]. Due to this, my parents vowed not to allow my siblings come to England for studies.’
Immigration minister Phil Woolas confirmed that between July and September 2009 around 20,000 overseas students were refused visas that were subsequently granted, often too late for the beginning of term. The obstructive behaviour of immigration officials means that tens of thousands of overseas students are being put off coming to the UK.
The government is currently doing a further review, this time to consider whether to give student visas only to students on degree and postgraduate courses. What would become of the hundreds of English language colleges, colleges of accountancy and business studies and so on if this proposal was carried through?
As well as the shortfall in student numbers enrolling in UK educational institutions against those expected to come in 2009-10, 96 per cent of universities and colleges reported to UKCISA that the recruitment and admission of international students had required additional financial resources. 85 per cent had needed additional staff. The combination of fewer numbers and heavier administrative burdens are likely to have serious repercussions for universities and colleges particularly reliant on overseas students.
The government is sacrificing the futures of thousands of would-be students and educational institutions – and the relationship between students and their educators, who should not be required to act as an unpaid arm of the immigration police.
Hilary Wainwright argues against reclaiming populism for the left and for a leadership that supports people’s capacity for self-government
It may seem as though these apps are working for us, but we are also working for the apps, writes Kurt Iveson
It's over 100 years ago that domestic workers began to organise to demand the same rights as other workers. Yet with LSE cleaners on strike this week, historian Laura Schwartz asks: how much has really changed?
Omar Barghouti asks whether Donald Trump, in his recent break with America’s long-standing support for the two-state solution, has unwittingly revived the debate about the plausibility, indeed the necessity, of a single, democratic state in historic Palestine?
Glenn Greenwald was interviewed by Amandla Thomas-Johnson over the phone from Brazil. Here is what he had to say on the War on Terror, Trump, and the 'special relationship'
In 1972 David Widgery wrote about the bitter intensity of love in capitalism
Andrew Dolan on how the left must match the anti-establishment rhetoric of the right, but with a different politics
Emma Snaith speaks with directors Emer Mary Morris and Nina Scott about the power of theatre to encourage community resistance to estate demolitions.
In the first of a series of interviews with migrants' rights and racial justice activists from the US, Marienna Pope-Weidemann speaks to Peter Pedemonti, co-founder and director of the New Sanctuary Movement in Philadelphia
Photos from The World Transformed festival in Liverpool, by David Walters
Red Pepper’s race section: open editorial meeting 19 April
On April 19th, we’ll be holding the second of Red Pepper’s Race Section Open Editorial Meetings.
Changing our attitude to Climate Change
Paul Allen of the Centre for Alternative Technology spells out what we need to do to break through the inaction over climate change
Introducing Trump’s Inner Circle
Donald Trump’s key allies are as alarming as the man himself
Secrets and spies of Scotland Yard
A new Espionage Act threatens whistleblowers and journalists, writes Sarah Kavanagh
#AndABlackWomanAtThat – part II: a discussion of power and privilege
In the second article of a three-part series, Sheri Carr reflects on the silencing of black women and the flaws in safe spaces
How progressive is the ‘progressive alliance’?
We need an anti-austerity alliance, not a vaguely progressive alliance, argues Michael Calderbank
The YPJ: Fighting Isis on the frontline
Rahila Gupta talks to Kimmie Taylor about life on the frontline in Rojava
Joint statement on George Osborne’s appointment to the Evening Standard
'We have come together to denounce this brazen conflict of interest and to champion the growing need for independent, truthful and representative media'
Paul O’Connell and Michael Calderbank consider the conditions that led to the Brexit vote, and how the left in Britain should respond
On the right side of history: an interview with Mijente
Marienna Pope-Weidemann speaks to Reyna Wences, co-founder of Mijente, a radical Latinx and Chincanx organising network
Disrupting the City of London Corporation elections
The City of London Corporation is one of the most secretive and least understood institutions in the world, writes Luke Walter
#AndABlackWomanAtThat: a discussion of power and privilege
In the first article of a three-part series, Sheri Carr reflects on the oppression of her early life and how we must fight it, even in our own movement
Corbyn understands the needs of our communities
Ian Hodson reflects on the Copeland by-election and explains why Corbyn has the full support of The Bakers Food and Allied Workers Union
Red Pepper’s race section: open editorial meeting 15 March
On 15 March, we’ll be holding the first of Red Pepper’s Race Section open editorial meetings.
Social Workers Without Borders
Jenny Nelson speaks to Lauren Wroe about a group combining activism and social work with refugees
Growing up married
Laura Nicholson interviews Dr Eylem Atakav about her new film, Growing Up Married, which tells the stories of Turkey’s child brides
The Migrant Connections Festival: solidarity needs meaningful relationships
On March 4 & 5 Bethnal Green will host a migrant-led festival fostering community and solidarity for people of all backgrounds, writes Sohail Jannesari
Reclaiming Holloway Homes
The government is closing old, inner-city jails. Rebecca Roberts looks at what happens next
Intensification of state violence in the Kurdish provinces of Turkey
Oppression increases in the run up to Turkey’s constitutional referendum, writes Mehmet Ugur from Academics for Peace
Pass the domestic violence bill
Emma Snaith reports on the significance of the new anti-domestic violence bill
Report from the second Citizen’s Assembly of Podemos
Sol Trumbo Vila says the mandate from the Podemos Assembly is to go forwards in unity and with humility
Protect our public lands
Last summer Indigenous people travelled thousands of miles around the USA to tell their stories and build a movement. Julie Maldonado reports
From the frontlines
Red Pepper’s new race editor, Ashish Ghadiali, introduces a new space for black and minority progressive voices
How can we make the left sexy?
Jenny Nelson reports on a session at The World Transformed
In pictures: designing for change
Sana Iqbal, the designer behind the identity of The World Transformed festival and the accompanying cover of Red Pepper, talks about the importance of good design
Angry about the #MuslimBan? Here are 5 things to do
As well as protesting against Trump we have a lot of work to get on with here in the UK. Here's a list started by Platform
Who owns our land?
Guy Shrubsole gives some tips for finding out
Don’t delay – ditch coal
Take action this month with the Coal Action Network. By Anne Harris
Utopia: Work less play more
A shorter working week would benefit everyone, writes Madeleine Ellis-Petersen
Mum’s Colombian mine protest comes to London
Anne Harris reports on one woman’s fight against a multinational coal giant