Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 27 August 2014

Fingerprinting students at University of Ulster is 'incredibly unjust'

Universities forcing international students to give fingerprints to prove their attendance at lectures have been condemned by the NUS.
Universities forcing international students to give fingerprints to prove their attendance at lectures have been condemned by the NUS.

Fingerprinting international students at a branch of the University of Ulster is "incredibly unjust", a union has said.

Nearly 300 academics from universities across England put their name to a letter expressing concern over the fingerprinting of international students at the universities of Sunderland and Ulster.

It is implemented at Ulster's Birmingham campus, according to the letter – but not at its Northern Ireland ones.

In a letter to The Independent newspaper, they said: "The latest move by universities of Sunderland and Ulster, singling out international students to give fingerprints to prove attendance at lectures, is reprehensible."

Goretti Horgan from the University and Colleges Union (UCU) called for the practice to end.

"The implication of this is that lecturers are immigration officers, and we are not," she said. "We would be mobilising to resist this." A university spokesman could not be reached for comment.

NUS international students’ officer Daniel Stevens has criticised the measures, saying they are "incredibly unwelcoming" and "unfairly target one group".

He added: “It is appalling that certain institutions have required physical checks of any quantity and have discriminated against international students when implementing monitoring procedures.”

Both universities brought in the fingerprinting system after the Home Office demanded all international student attendance be monitored.

But Sunderland students’ union president Carl Taylor said his initial reaction was that students would see it as a "limitation of freedom".

He added although he appreciates the university’s requirement to monitor students, students should have been consulted extensively about the issue beforehand, with independent representation from the SU which he said "has not been the case".

A spokesman for the University of Sunderland said they did consult the student council and they were comfortable with the system being introduced.

“It is essential that we monitor attendance in order to enhance student retention and achievement,” he added.

A University of Ulster spokesperson simply confirmed that "biometric scanning was introduced in response to changing UK Border Agency attendance monitoring requirements".

In February, the UK Border Agency, which has now been scrapped, said universities do not necessarily need to consider physical checks such as fingerprinting, nor do overseas students require more regular checks than those from the UK.

Sunderland brought in fingerprinting at its London campus earlier this month, while Ulster implemented it at its London and Birmingham campuses in January.

Newcastle University decided against using the system last year after the students’ union voted against it.

The Home Office has recently ramped up its surveillance of international students, after it was revealed that over 100,000 foreign students were suspected of using the education system to get into the country last year.

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