The BBC reports that UK University academics are reporting more than 1,500 foreign students a month to immigration officials over suspicions about their student visa status, figures show.
At least 27,121 migrants were reported to the UK Border Agency by UK universities and other foreign student sponsors, such as private colleges, between March 2009 and August 2010.
The figures were released to the Manifesto Club campaign group under the Freedom of Information Act.
Some 228,000 foreign students came to the UK to study last year.
Three in four of these come from outside the EU.
In its ‘Students Under Watch’ report, the Manifesto Club, which campaigns against regulation, said strict visa controls were forcing academics to spy on students, eroding academic autonomy and damaging relationships between students and staff.
Josie Appleton, the group’s director, said: “Academics are not border agents, and they should not be dragooned into spying on their students.
“The UKBA now has rights of entry to any university campus, which is a major threat to academic autonomy. We call for a more proportionate system, which recognises the historic autonomy of the university.”
The University and College Union, which represents academics said the relationship between staff and students was incredibly important.
Its General Secretary, Sally Hunt, said: “It is built on trust and must not be jeopardised by fears that lecturers may be spying on students.
“Successive governments have had plans to turn lecturers into spooks overwhelmingly rejected by the academic community.”
In July, MPs accused the government of rushing plans to curb student visas, saying they could harm the economy.
The Home Affairs Select Committee said that it was concerned that official figures indicated the restrictions could cost the economy £3.4bn.
Officials estimate the measures will cut net migration by 230,000 by the end of the current parliament.
But immigration minister Damian Green said the changes were introduced after full and extensive consultation.
A UKBA spokesman said: “There has been widespread abuse of the visa system for too long and we have made radical changes in order to make the system more rigorous and accountable.
“We expect education providers who are sponsoring foreign students to make the necessary checks.” Source: BBC
The UK Border Agency has recently published proposed criteria to become a Highly Trusted Sponsor under Tier 4, which could be the final ‘nail in the coffin’ for some private colleges.
Dozens of private colleges are shutting their doors every month and telling their students to “find another college”.
Tier 4 students are also utterly confused by further set of rule changes. In the last few weeks I have received an increasing number of calls and emails from panic stricken students reporting that their college had ‘closed down’, usually following their suspension from the Tier 4 Sponsors Register or perhaps following changes to the Tier 4 Immigration Rules on 4 July 2011.
Furthermore, students assume that if they are registered with any ‘Highly Trusted Sponsor’, they will be treated equally. NOT TRUE if the sponsor is a private college. A private college is a private college no matter how ‘highly’ they are trusted, and students applying to those colleges will not be allowed to work or sponsor their dependants.
These changes do not affect EU migrants such as Bulgarian and Romanian students coming to the UK to study and work on a Yellow Card. They need to find a college on the ‘pre-tier 4′ DIUS register and can still work full time when taking a vocational work based course, such as an NVQ or QCF in health and social care.