Monday, September 03, 2012

Goldsmiths support for London Met students

Eyebrows were raised last month when Goldsmiths in New Cross advertised for the post of 'UK Borders Agency Compliance Officer'. The duties were set out as follows: 'you will be responsible for ensuring that Goldsmiths maintains its status as a Highly Trusted Sponsor under Tiers 2, 4 and 5 of the United Kingdom Border Agency's Points Based System. Key tasks will include advising academic, professional and administrative staff across the institution on Tier 2 and Tier 4 PBS sponsorship duties, reporting and auditing requirements, and working with senior managers to ensure that appropriate systems and processes are developed and that the day-to-day operational activities at Goldsmiths comply with all relevant aspects of UK Government legislation in relation to international student and staff recruitment'.

The existence of the post highlights the extent to which colleges (and indeed employers) are now expected to act as an arm of the Government's immigration authorities, carrying out checks on students and workers that were previously the responsibility of immigration officers. The consequences of being judged as not implementing policies properly have been spelt out at London Metropolitan University in the last week, with its 'Trusted Sponsor' status withdrawn, and thousands of international students there being told they can't complete courses.

Des Freedman of Goldsmiths lecturers' union UCU has criticised the action:

'The UK Border Agency’s decision to revoke the licence of London Metropolitan University to recruit and teach international students marks the latest stage of the government’s assault on higher education. Some 2,700 students from non-EEA countries now face deportation for the crime of having chosen to study at a popular and multicultural institution, widely respected for its widening participation profile. This applies both to those on their way to London to start their degrees as well as those in their final year of study, perhaps only a dissertation away from a degree.

The UKBA claims that it has identified ‘serious and systemic failings’ concerning the University’s monitoring of language qualifications, immigration status and attendance and that, despite several warnings, London Met has failed to deal adequately with the problems. Yet, from what we can gather, the numbers involved are tiny and involve only a very small minority of international students. If there are serious problems with checks, why should thousands of innocent students be penalised for the failure of the institution fully to carry out its responsibilities? (read full article here).
Goldsmiths UCU and National Union of Students have issued a joint statement: 'Goldsmiths Students Union and Goldsmiths UCU send their solidarity to all staff and students at London Metropolitan University affected by the UKBA’s recent decision to revoke the University’s licence to recruit and teach international students. This is not simply a question of systems and procedures but a political attack on the right of international students to study in the UK and is based on fundamentally discriminatory legislation which collectively treats students from outside the EEA as suspicious and ‘bogus’. The UKBA’s decision is completely disproportionate and will penalise thousands of students who entered the UK in good faith and with a genuine desire to study. We call on the Home Office to issue an immediate amnesty to existing students at London Metropolitan that will safeguard the futures of those promised an education in the UK. We further pledge our support to campaigns organised by students and staff at London Met to challenge the UKBA’s actions'.

You can sign the petition calling for an amnesty here:

An 'Amnesty for London Met Students' protest has been called for this Wednesday, 1 pm at the Home Office, Marsham Street, SW1P

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