Overseas academics cite 'lack of trust' due to Home Office regulations
There is a growing feeling among foreign academics working in the UK that Home Office regulations – which encourage institutions to record the whereabouts of overseas staff and students – is creating an atmosphere of mistrust.
Some staff and students have been sternly warned that any time off campus should be reported, and that those failing to do so will have their name passed to the UK Border Agency.
One international academic on a sponsored visa has voiced their concerns that they are being “assumed to be a criminal”. The individual, who wished to remain anonymous, told the Times Higher Education platform: “Being constantly monitored in this way makes me feel like I don’t really want to be here…if I had an opportunity somewhere else I would consider leaving the UK.”
The University of Sussex is one of the institutions which has taken the lead in highlighting the problems of immigration monitoring in universities, launching a petition which urged the vice-chancellor, Adam Tickell, to take action in order to address the “hostile environment”.
Much of the aggravation seems to stem from the differing interpretations of the Home Office regulations. Some institutions have assumed that a tough response is necessary, with suggestions at one stage that Tier 2 and Tier 5 visa holders would be checked up on at home if they chose to work away from the office.
There are also concerns that academic teams around the country could be in effect acting as ‘UK border guards’, with the responsibility to check the UK visa status of foreign visitors.
Writing on workpermit.com, Sanwar Ali suggested that institutions might be scared into taking more stringent measures than they need to by the threat of losing their sponsorship licences, even after apparently ‘ticking all the boxes’.
He explained: “There are a number of examples where organisations have lost their Tier 2 sponsorship licence for no good reason. It seems in practice even if you do everything right you can still lose your sponsorship licence.”
In order for the UK to continue to attract the best academia from around the world, it seems the current atmosphere needs to be addressed.