1,500+ students a month reported to immigration officials over suspicions about their UK visa status. 30th September 2011: The figures show that academics are reporting more than 1,500 foreign students a month to immigration officials over suspicions about their UK visa status. Around 228,000 foreign students came to the UK to study last year. Three in four of these come from outside the EU.
At least 27,121 migrants were reported to the UK Border Agency by universities and other foreign student sponsors between March 2009 and August 2010.
The figures were released to the Manifesto Club campaign group under the Freedom of Information Act.
In its Students Under Watch report, the Manifesto Club, which campaigns against directive, 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 the academics are not border agents, and they should not be pressed into spying on their students.
Appleton added the UKBA now has rights of entry to any university campus, which is a major danger to academic autonomy. They called for a more proportionate system, which recognised the historic autonomy of the university.
The University and College Union, which represents academics, said the relationship between staff and students was extremely vital.
Its general secretary, Sally Hunt, said that it was built on trust and must not be put at risk 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 point out 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 that there has been widespread abuse of the visa system for too long and they 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."