The motion was prompted by “substantial evidence” which suggested that “at the request of the United Kingdom Border Agency (UKBA) the University will monitor international students.”
As a result OUSU will enter discussions with the University to assess the extent of any possible changes, as well as writing to the Vice Chancellor and the UKBA in order to denounce the introduction of any new monitoring regulations.
Kathryn Howard, a first year Law student from Wadham, who proposed the motion stated: “The motive behind the motion is the fact that Oxford University is an academic institution, not a body for enforcing immigration controls.
“If such measures are deemed to be necessary then the very least that should be expected is that they be undertaken by a democratically accountable public body with transparent procedures. Such monitoring is based on negative assumptions about the trustworthiness of international students.
“I hope the fact that the motion has passed will demonstrate Oxford students’ opposition to the recent demands of UKBA regarding the monitoring of international students.”
The UKBA requires that any University which sponsors foreign students, “do all [they] can to ensure students [they] sponsor arrive to take up their course and see that course through to completion”, in order to stop the educational system being exploited by those that come to the country to work illegally.
In order to fulfil this requirement the University already has a system in place through which they “monitor” and “keep a record of” students’ attendance.
However, a University spokesperson has assured students that “Oxford University has worked hard to minimise the impact that continuing government policy changes on immigration will have on current and prospective students, and has lobbied UKBA to reduce any negative impact it may have on students.
“Oxford’s priority as a leading global university is recruiting the very best students, wherever they are in the world, and the University has lobbied the government not to enact policies that will be detrimental to world-class universities.”
Oxford University currently has the status of being a ‘Highly Trusted Sponsor’ (‘HTS’), which allows it the right to host international students. If the University were to lose this status then it would leave all those on a ‘Tier 4’ visa, amounting to nearly all non-EU students, at risk of deportation.
Christopher Gray, the OUSU vice president responsible for graduate affairs, commented: “This motion was brought by students who are concerned about the impact of the new UKBA attendance monitoring policy that international students should have ten recorded ‘contact points’ each year.
“The University visa team has assured us that no new systems will be introduced and that existing contact points with students, such as tutorials, classes, supervisions, email exchanges, and GSS forms, will fulfil this requirement.
“It is very important, however, that students who do not feel this is what is happening in their departments should contact OUSU so that we can tackle any local problems.”
The motion which passed through OUSU called for the University not to, “legitimise the malpractice of UKBA,” pointing out that the agency has been labelled “not fit for purpose” by Home Secretary Theresa May.
Rohit Subramanian, an Economics and Management student from Keble, expressed his support for the motion saying: “As a student on a Tier 4 visa I think it is good that OUSU is standing up for the rights of its students against the reach of the UKBA.
“The level of monitoring is a concern which is shared by many foreign students and the University should keep this monitoring to an absolute minimum to safeguard my rights.”