To: Goldsmiths, University of London
We are strongly opposed to the implementation of the new attendance monitoring policy and related policies that have been imposed on our university by the Home Office under the new points based immigration system recently introduced in the UK. We invite our colleagues in at Goldsmiths and across the University of London to join us in voicing their opposition to these policies and in fighting their implementation
The new regulations make us do a policing job in our classrooms, turning both academic and administrative staff into agents of the UK Border Agency. We object to this for reasons both political and professional. We are concerned that the regulations represent possible breaches of European human rights conventions and seriously threaten our students’ rights to mobility, privacy and education. Although recent changes to implementation of the law have expanded the scope of student monitoring and reporting–with the result that policies explicitly targeting the monitoring and reporting of information about non-EU students have been expanded to include the monitoring and reporting of information about all students–this does not disguise the fact that these policies are discriminatory in intent and will very likely be discriminatory in practice. International students are an integral and valued part of our community, and we do not accept any measures that will lead to the unequal treatment of non-EU students as a result of their enrollment on our degree programmes.
As will be evident to anyone involved in teaching and learning in a university environment, the new regulations are ill adapted to that environment and out of touch with the lived realities of our work. They detract from academic freedom and will have profoundly negative impacts on the relationship between staff and students, which should be one of trust, not of spying and control. The turnaround time stipulated for the reporting of student absences is unrealistic, and the new regulations will lead to increases in workload for both academic and administrative staff. In the case of our own academic unit, the very premises of attendance monitoring fundamentally misconstrue our mission as a postgrad teaching and research centre. Finally, the regulations raise questions as to the security of staff, placing them in a position where they are probing into and ultimately violating students’ rights. Because staff will be unwilling to inform on students in a way that results in their expulsion from the UK, the regulations may also have the effect of discouraging staff from enquiring after students’ well-being, interfering in our ability to carry out pastoral duties and threatening students’ security as well.
In raising these concerns, we join colleagues at Goldsmiths and at other higher education institutions in the UK, who have publicly stated their opposition on related grounds (Goldsmiths UCU; UCU Black Members’ Standing Committee; UCU Black Members, University of Kent; Manchester Metropolitan University; a coalition of institutions in Liverpool; as well as the Institute of Race Relations and the National Critical Lawyers Group). We also join, significantly to our mind, Goldsmiths Student Union, which in November 2008 passed a motion asking staff not to comply with the new rules.
Finally, the new immigration policies are of urgent concern to all at a time when our university communities are facing unprecedented economic pressure. Due to new (and excessively stringent) financial requirements of students applying for visas to study in the UK, the new policies will have negative impacts on recruitment. These will hit us immediately, at a time when we are under pressure to increase international student enrollments college-wide. The difficulties recently reported by postgraduate research students who have applied for visa renewals in the final months of their degree work are also worrisome and stand as further evidence that the new immigration rules will detract from the quality of teaching and learning and are ill-adapted to our mission as a university.
We sincerely hope that Goldsmiths will insist on being a teaching and research institution, and that it will maintain its commitments to its educational mission by opposing the implementation of the new Home Office regulations both on our campus and in the context of the growing national campaigns.
Scott Lash, Director, Goldsmiths Centre for Cultural Studies
Centre for Cultural Studies Staff