frompda%2B010To:  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
Jennifer Bajorek
Josephine Berry-Slater
Matthew Fuller
Graham Harwood
John Hutnyk
Breda McAleer
Bhaskar Mukhopadhyay
Luciana Parisi
Lisa Rabanal
Adela Santana




    Educators challenge points based immigration policy News & Analysis
    Submitted by mute on Tuesday, 19 May, 2009 – 13:34
    ByCJ Lotz

    New country, new language, new people, new school. As if international students studying in the UK didn’t deal with enough challenges, the UK Border Agency launched a “new” immigration system that, as their Web site states, will “ensure that only those with the right skills or the right contribution will be able to come to the United Kingdom to work and study.”

    The “points based immigration system” has been implemented in phases since February 2008.

    For the academic community, there are five requirements:

    1. Schools must comply
    All educational providers will need a UK Border Agency (UKBA) Licence if they want to teach international students. Schools who comply fully will receive an “A Rated License”, while schools that meet most requirements will receive “B Rated License”, and must work out a timetable to meet the A-level or risk having their license revoked entirely.

    2. Students must prove their worth
    Students need an academic track record so that, as the UK Border Agency puts it, there won’t be a flow of “bogus students who may target genuine education providers to enroll on low level courses.” Students must also prove their financial stability.

    3. Students and schools must form a relationship
    Students must connect with a school and prove a “Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies”, which is basically a pledge that the school thinks the student can thrive in the academic setting.

    4. UKBA will personally check all documents
    Simply put: UKBA makes the final decision, and can reject students if it suspects forged documents.

    5. This is the kicker: Schools must keep close tabs on students once they are in the UK.

    They must take attendance of students, “lock” their visa so that the student may not change schools, and report to the UKBA no more than 10 days after a student has withdrawn or stopped attending classes. Schools also must report on students who miss 10 “interactions”, or tutorials, classes, assignments or meetings.

    The new policies have spurred discussion on a number of questions:

    What is the role of the academic community in policing international students?
    Does this method of policing compromise academic freedom and integrity?
    How will the relationship between educator and student change with the new requirements?

    Educators from the Goldsmiths Centre for Cultural Studies at the University of London have answered these questions in a to-the-point petition that voices major concerns with the new policy.

    According to the petition, points based immigration policy:
    -breaches human rights to mobility, privacy and education
    -discriminates against international students, a valuable part of the academic world
    -threatens the relationship between staff and students, “which should be one of trust, not of spying and control.”
    -imposes unrealistic regulations that will increase workload for academic and administrative staff, possibly even threatening staff by expecting them to probe into the lives of students and limiting their ability to make their own judgements on students’ well-being.

    An article from the Institute of Race Relations lays it out flat:
    “The only reason for monitoring student activity or achievement should be to inform the best pedagogic, pastoral and ethical practices.”

    Sign the Centre for Cultural Studies’ petition online at

    UK Border Agency Web site

    IRR article

  2. following this year’s Congress: UCU has agreed to
    support a policy of non compliance with Points Based Immigration.

    Points-Based Immigration campaign meeting – London, June 17

    London Region UCU (HE) are calling a meeting, hosted by UCL UCU, on ‘Campaigning against Points Based Immigration rules’ at 6pm, Wednesday 17 June in Lecture Theatre 106, First Floor, Roberts Building, UCL, Torrington Place (opposite Waterstones, Malet Street). Speakers will be announced next week and all those who wish to understand the implications of the new rules and to think of ways of campaigning against them are invited to attend. Given the recent motions passed at UCU conference, this will be a significant opportunity to discuss the new rules.


    Wednesday, 17 June, 6PM

    Lecture Theatre 106, First Floor, Roberts Building, UCL, Torrington
    Place(opposite Waterstones, Malet Street).

    This meeting is open to anyone interested in discussing the new
    immigration rules, and to think of ways of campaigning against them. It is
    called by London Region UCU (HE) and hosted by UCL UCU. It is an open
    public meeting.


    Frances Webber, campaigning immigration lawyer

    Arun Kundnani, editor ‘Race and Class’

    Ann Singleton, Senior Research Fellow, Centre for the Study of Poverty and
    Social Justice, University of Bristol, signatory on Times Higher Education
    letter, available here:

    For more information, see:

    Download a flyer here:


    Without any advance warning from their ISS bosses nor the
    university management, SOAS cleaning staff were confronted by a
    hefty team of immigration officers at 6.30am this morning (Friday
    12 June).

    Fearful cleaners were detained on SOAS premises as the officers
    demanded to see their papers. Some were taken into rooms of the
    university to be interviewed. A shocked witness said that someone
    had to intervene when a heavily-pregnant cleaner was being
    manhandled by immigration officers.

    Nine cleaners were taken away by Immigration Officers.

    SOAS staff and students, many who had been at a protest at the
    sacking of another cleaner and UNISON Branch Chair, Jose Bermudez
    Stalin, were shocked and outraged by the raid and fear that the
    cleaners may be deported very soon.

    There has been widespread support amongst lecturers, staff and
    students for the successful campaign for the living wage and union
    recognition led by mainly migrant cleaners.

    Graham Dyer, SOAS UCU Branch Chair said: “It is no co-incindence
    that there is an immigration raid at a time when the UCU ,Unison
    and the NUS are fighting against the victimisation of a migrant
    worker who has been at the heart of a fight that has improved the
    pay and conditions of workers here at SOAS. It is also not
    coincidental that ISS had only just signed a union recognition
    agreement with UNISON last week. Our fight has united lecturers,
    staff and students and has rocked SOAS management. Those managers
    are now lashing out. It is a disgrace that SOAS management saw fit
    to use a seat of learning to intimidate migrant workers. This is
    their underhand revenge and we will do all we can to stop migrant
    workers paying the price.”

    Ken Loach, director of the film Looking For Eric, stated:

    “This raid is the action of a bully. Migrant workers are amongst
    the most vulnerable – poorly paid and far from home. Recent action
    by Unison to secure better wages and conditions at SOAS was good
    news. Now we wonder if the SOAS cleaners are being targeted because
    they dared to organise as trade unionists. We should all stand with
    them in solidarity in the face of this victimisation.”

    The living wage campaign has had the support of John McDonnell MP ,
    who said:

    ““As living wage campaigns are building in strength, we are
    increasingly seeing the use of immigration statuses to attack
    workers fighting against poverty wages and break trade union
    organising. The message is that they are happy to employ migrant
    labour on poverty wages, but if you complain they will send you
    back home.

    It is absolutely shameful.”

    Press Enquiries/messages of support to Dr. Graham Dyer : 07940 539 027

    See for updates



    Student and worker activists at the School of Oriental and African Studies
    (SOAS) in Central London have occupied the university’s directorate block
    in protest at an immigration raid and potential deportation of 9 cleaning

    Their blog is online at, and their
    Facebook group is at

    Please use these sites to find out more information and for details of how
    to send messages of support/solidarity.

  5. Turning Universities into Borders: The Case of the SOAS Cleaners
    by Alberto Toscano • 16 Jun 09 • Comments (3) • Print
    Commons: Politics

    On Friday, June 12 cleaning staff at London’s School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), employed by the company ISS, were called to an emergency staff meeting, where they were set upon by forty immigration officers and taken away for questioning. Six of the cleaners have already been forcibly removed from the country, while two remain in custody. Students at SOAS have rightly protested against the intolerable conduct of immigration police and ISS (already criticised for their maltreatment of workers on the London Underground) and the lack of any opposition to this action by university management.1 This scapegoating of the most precarious and exploited members of the ‘academic community’ is deeply objectionable.

    Cleaners at SOAS had recently made important gains, in conjunction with other workers and students, in their struggle for better working conditions and the London Living Wage.2 In a country where union activity is already curtailed, and where the desire to roll back the gains of the labour movement continues to obsess elites, it is perhaps not surprising if government and employers respond to struggles for elementary rights with such expedients. Yet at a moment when all over Europe economic anxieties are playing into the hands of xenophobes, who propose that we shore up our security by excluding or oppressing those whose lives are most insecure, it is particularly urgent to resist the blinkered authoritarianism that lies behind these arrests, which are not only unjust but hypocritical. Even the mayor of London (hardly a critical sociologist) has recognised the extent to which London’s economy depends on the labour of immigrant and undocumented workers.3 It is bad enough that this city is the site of extreme economic inequalities, it is totally unacceptable that those at the bottom of the rung – often made invisible by the hours and conditions of their work – should be rewarded for their toil with such contempt.

    Needless to say, universities are not special places, reservations for freedoms absent from the ‘real world’ beyond. But they are institutions whose critical vocation and cosmopolitanism should hold them to certain standards. The students at SOAS have clearly been more faithful to this calling than those who facilitated these arrests or turned the other way. They have demanded of their institution a minimal coherence with its reputation for research on human rights and migration. They have rejected the pervasive cynicism that allows us to be critical in theory but indifferent to, or complicit with, practical abuses of power. They have testified to the idea of universities as places where the questioning of how we’re governed, how we work and how we live together is not a purely speculative pursuit.

    If tolerated or ignored, current moves to integrate education, business and the state will effectively make a mockery of any vision of the university as an institution that seeks to foster independent thought and broaden our solidarities. This is true both of the often invisible and precarious labour that makes university life possible and of academic life in general. If the government has its way, universities will become extensions of the border, with lecturers and administrators effectively required by law to monitor their students on behalf of the Home Office.4 This is not a question of some unique moral mission bestowed on academia. What Friday’s arrests and deportations bring home is that universities are workplaces much like any others, microcosms where all the stresses and contradictions of our society – inequality, the exploitation of migrant labour, the expansion of state power – are manifest. But they are also places where we supposedly foster critical thinking – an activity that is irreconcilable with the callous and hypocritical treatment of the SOAS cleaners.

    Sign Petition

    1. [^]
    2. [^]
    3. [^]
    4. [^]

    Tags: academy, citizenship, immigration, labour

    Alberto Toscano teaches sociology at Goldsmiths, University of London. He is the author of Fanaticism: On the Uses of an Idea (forthcoming from Verso), and sits on the editorial board of Historical Materialism.

  6. Universities must not ride the wave of xenophobia
    By Scott Poynting, Martin Ralph, Ann Singleton, Steve Tombs & Dave Whyte
    18 June 2009, 3:00pm
    We reproduce below a statement by a number of UK-based academics.

    ‘We called for labour power’, playwright Max Frisch once said, ‘and human beings came’. The British government has called for higher education fees, and is discomforted by the actual arrival of non-EU students along with their overseas students’ fees. Apparently, it cannot tell the difference between overseas students and ‘illegal’ (undocumented or semi-documented) immigrants or even terrorists, so it suspects them of being one or the other unless they prove otherwise. The proof must be continual, in case they lapse, or ulterior motives are allowed to emerge.

    Two years ago, in the backlash of paranoia after the failed London and Glasgow car-bomb attacks, the Telegraph dutifully duplicated a Tory press release: there was a ‘Student visa loophole’, rendering ‘Mr Brown’s overall strategies against terrorism … “fatally flawed”‘. The anti-terrorism ‘crackdown’ was ‘in danger of being undermined by a failure to monitor immigrants’ [1]. In a bidding war to be tough on terrorism, the crudest of xenophobic policies are quickly laundered and adopted across the political spectrum.

    By April 2009, the Labour government had introduced its new ‘Tier 4’ of the Points Based Immigration System, whereby students from outside the EU or Switzerland must have their attendance and progress monitored by their educational institutions, and be reported to the UK Border Agency (UKBA) for any repeated absences. This is despite their already significantly proven commitment, usually at great cost to their families, since prospective students must have their fees for the first year deposited up front in a bank account in their name, plus £600 per month in living allowance plus £400 per month living allowance for each dependant. Educational institutions must be licensed by the UKBA in order to admit students from outside the EU, which universities are very keen to do, since they want the fees. Institutions failing to police these and other immigration regulations can have their licences downgraded or withdrawn. Moreover, all such overseas students are being forced to acquire biometric identity cards, of the sort that has been roundly rejected for the rest of the population. Educational institutions must keep on file the information on these cards.

    The media announced the new visa fees and proof of savings required of non-EU students in the context of a racialised moral panic that migrant workers were a drain on the economy through their extra demand on housing stocks, health and education services and the resources of local councils – even though a recent London School of Economics study, commissioned by the London mayor, Boris Johnson, has calculated that ‘An amnesty for an estimated 618,000 ­illegal immigrants in Britain would provide a £3bn boost to the economy’ [2]. Ideology about ‘British jobs for British workers’, propagated by the prime minister and the British National Party alike, continues to circulate within the maelstrom of xenophobia. Coincidentally, perhaps, at this very time new legal requirements also came into effect for educational institutions with employees from non-EU countries. Their passport data and visas must be kept on file by their employers, and eventually, they, too, must hold biometric identity cards. It may be that employers, in order not to be seen to discriminate, are demanding copies of passports and the like of all new employees, whether or not they are British nationals, but there is no mistaking the intent of the provisions.

    The significance of this ‘surveillance creep’ has not been lost on the University and College Union (UCU), whose members will be required by their employers to give effect to the new regulations, and are already being directed and trained to do so. The union rightly reasons that it is not the job of workers in universities, for example, to become de facto agents of the UKBA [3]. Further, it is inimical to the functions and core values of higher education, and those who teach there, to be spying and reporting on their students. These measures, if implemented, would betray the trust and destroy the openness upon which academic processes and the ethics of the university depend. They are immoral. Nor should university staff be performing mini-Stasi roles for the immigration authorities in filing and submitting personal information about their colleagues from abroad: the data collection and functions of immigration authorities are not the rightful province of universities, nor are observing and reporting their attendance patterns and compliance with immigration requirements.

    Even if there were a terrorist threat of the sort that is imagined, universities are not set up for a policing function and nor should they be. Forcing them to conduct surveillance would be an inefficient measure. ‘Terrorist’ students could adopt the simple precaution of attending classes. Moreover, if there has been a real problem with ‘bogus colleges’ and the exploitation of their students, this has been in large part caused by a privatising of education and the consequent marketing opportunities for cynical operators. It will not be remedied by bullying genuine educational institutions into harassing their students. If vulnerable students are being exploited in the labour market, then again the problem and the remedy lie there, and not in the institutions in which they are enrolled to study.

    If the surveillance measures are to be implemented in universities, they can only be practically effected (in the case of the attendance records) through directing university staff to single out certain categories of students to be checked up and reported upon in a highly discriminatory manner. These staff have a legal right and a moral duty to decline these surveillance tasks. Further, the new controls and the ethos generated by recently introduced requirements are likely to run contrary to the Higher Education Funding Council for England’s widening participation agenda of ‘ensuring equal opportunity for … all ethnic groups’ [4], even if this is not designed with non-EU students in mind.

    Accordingly, the University and College Union’s Congress overwhelmingly carried a resolution on 29 May that:

    ‘The UCU immediately launch a campaign of non-compliance with all such policing and surveillance duties (including recording details from foreign national students, supplying personal details to other institutions in our capacity as external examiners, assessors and lecturers, and refusal to request such details on behalf of our own institutions from external examiners, assessors and lecturers). The UCU will give unqualified support to any member disciplined or victimised as a result of this campaign’.

    These are strong words and bespeak a firm stand. Yet in these days of Thatcherised industrial relations, union leaderships are timorous of anything with the whiff of illegality. (So much for our history!) Already four days before the Congress, UCU General Secretary Sally Hunt was pre-emptively recoiling from this position: ‘Members need to be clear that these duties are part of a legal obligation on universities, and that the union’s protection of members cannot extend to endorsing a breach of the law relating to the points-based system, or defending members who do so’ [5]. The leadership of the union’s forerunner already has a record of deferring to lawyers and ceding its democratic decision-making in the matter of the academic boycott of Israel in 2005. It will therefore require a good deal of pressure from the rank and file, from whence this current resolution came, to hold the leadership to the Congress’s non-compliance decision.

    This democratic pressure must be applied. Otherwise, it starts with spying on our students, and very easily leads to some being incarcerated, while the rest – academics and students alike – learn some obvious, unpleasant, and not unprecedented lessons.
    References: [1] Carlin, B., Steele, J. and Gardham, D. (2007) ‘New UK terror threat from foreign students’ Telegraph, 9 July. accessed 15/6/09. [2] HEFCE (2009) Widening participation accessed 15/6/09. [3] Labour Research (2009) ‘We are not border guards’. June. accessed 16/6/09. [4] Lipsett, A. (2009) ‘University lecturers may boycott immigration ‘snooper’ rules on foreign students’, Guardian, 25 May. accessed 15/6/09. [5] Travis, A. (2009) ‘Migrants amnesty would aid economy by £3bn, says study’, Guardian, 16 June. accessed 16/6/09. For further information email: Scott Poynting: or Steve Tombs:

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