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- subtext 191 – ‘fresh from the fridge’, December 13, 2019
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Tag Archives: Home Office
Many have found fault with the recent efforts of the Student Registry to track postgraduate research (PGR) students’ attendance by ‘provision in Moodle PGR Records to record supervisory meetings’ (email to supervisors, 16.10.19).
This new online system of recording all meetings between PGR students and their supervisors is being touted as a way of protecting the rights of students from negligent supervisors, as well as complying with UK Visas and Immigration’s increased scrutiny of students on Tier 4 visas.
Since the new online system offers a non-obligatory notes section in which to log the content of meetings, all the process appears to achieve is a numeric record of dated meetings. Quite how this ensures the quality of engagement from either party is unclear.
Thus we arrive at the secondary premise: surveillance of international PGR students. Students who already register with the Police, the Home Office, the University (through appraisals, registration and DNA tests) and their Departments. Students who are already the object of intense scrutiny by a Home Office intent on making life for them in the UK as uncomfortable as possible.
Caoimhe Mader McGuinness from Unis Resist Border Control (URBC) says these schemes are often presented as safeguarding students’ experience or health:
‘It is sold to lecturers as a way of making sure that the student is taken into account and sees someone, but this is also the sort of data that is used by the Home Office to, if they so wish, declare that that student hasn’t been to enough contact points and then potentially deport them.’
(See Guardian article – Hostile Environment: how risk-averse universities penalise migrants, dated 5.6.18)
It now appears the University’s need to maintain its license to recruit foreign national students (how else would we pay for all the new buildings?!) is, ironically, making it an accomplice to the Home Office, contributing to the UK’s increasingly hostile environment towards our foreign students.
I hope the readers of subtext need no wordy exposition on the intellectual and cultural benefits of a diverse PGR student population. This new system is yet another stumble down a slippery path towards exclusion, alienation and infringement of the rights of those from abroad who choose to enrich Lancaster University’s community through postgraduate research. Shame on management for their capitulation. Philip Pullman had it right: we need some scholastic sanctuary.
MORE TIER 4 TEARS
In subtext 177, we reported that the Home Office has rejected UA92’s application to become a Tier 4 Visa sponsor for international students. Now, word reaches us that Lancaster has come up with a cunning plan. It’s really quite simple. We will use our own Tier 4 sponsorship licence to recruit international students to study at UA92. After all, it is argued, don’t we do the same for some Study Group International students, who belong to a separate organisation? It is certainly the case that many Study International students come here under Lancaster’s Tier 4 licence, though some are also eligible under Study Group International’s own licence. They follow foundation or pre-sessional programmes to prepare for Lancaster degrees, both at undergraduate and postgraduate level. They live on the same campus as other students, are covered by the same rules, and have access to the same library, IT facilities, sporting, and social facilities. All the structures to support their learning and welfare are in place in order to meet Home Office requirements. By contrast, UA92 is still awaiting planning permission to lay the first brick.
The Home Office is unlikely to be impressed by Lancaster’s special pleading. In its latest guidance on ‘Sites and teaching partnerships’ issued earlier this month, it is made clear that there has to be ‘a direct relationship between a sponsor and the student they are sponsoring’. Furthermore, ‘an institution which teaches Tier 4 students must take responsibility for sponsoring them’, a requirement that would rule out Lancaster – the whole point of UA92 is that it will be responsible for delivering its own degree programmes.
If Lancaster really is considering this approach to Tier 4 approval, we should be aware of what we may be risking: ‘Arrangements or partnerships that circumvent the Immigration Rules or this guidance will be considered to be an abuse of the Tier 4 sponsorship system, and compliance action may be taken against the Tier 4 sponsor and/or its partner in such circumstances’. In other words – don’t take the piss. It’s not as if the Home Office is renowned for its flexibility or sensitivity to individual circumstances when it comes to migration matters (see above).
LET IT GO, GARY
In subtext 177 we reported on Gary’s rather graceless responses to the probable demise of his development plans for the Turn Moss green area as a result of the Conservative loss of Trafford Council. He said then that he would put this behind him and seek new areas where his valiant efforts would be more appreciated. But, rather like that other thin-skinned self-obsessive across the Atlantic, it seems that he just can’t leave it alone, and continues to air his hurt feelings on Twitter and in the local and national media.
He told the BBC that he ‘was “insulted” by the suggestion that the club wanted to take anything out of the community’, and that the local opposition was ‘selfish’ and ‘politically motivated’. The Mirror reported him as saying to local campaigners: ‘Once this campaign ends you will fade into your old world again’. He gave a long self-justifying interview to local listings guide Manchester Confidential, whose write-up was described by one Trafford resident as being ‘so far up GN’s arse it should come with a free Davy lamp’. The same article was re-tweeted approvingly by Sean Anstee, the ousted Conservative leader of Trafford Council, who accused the local resistance of creating ‘a highly politicised angry environment to the detriment of today’s young people’. Clearly, that’s the last thing that’s needed in Manchester – politics in election campaigns!
In the meantime, Trafford Labour has done a deal with the Lib Dems and has now formed an administration. The Turn Moss plans are now dead in the water, and the main UA92 campus plans will be called back in for review. UA92’s future is not bright.
WHERE’S THE LEADER?
Folk in Lancaster and Manchester are asking what’s happened with the appointment of the ‘Principal/Chief Executive Officer’ for UA92. As we reported in subtext 175, the post was advertised with much fanfare by fancy recruitment agency Anderson Quigley, and interviews were scheduled for 27 April. That was four weeks ago and since then, silence. Did the interviews even take place? If they did, was anyone appointed? If so, have they changed their mind? Given the growing uncertainty of UA92 ever getting off the ground, it wouldn’t surprise us if someone currently in a secure position would be having second thoughts about heading up such a risky enterprise. In the meantime, it looks like Professor Simon Guy will just have to soldier on as Acting Principal/Chief Executive Officer. But for how long? He is due to return as FASS Faculty Dean in August, and it is not clear how much longer he will be willing to put his academic career on hold just to help Gary.
This Saturday, all eyes will be on the final of the European Champions League, as Liverpool seeks to wrest the trophy from Real Madrid. If things go Liverpool’s way, then Gary Neville is in line for a well-deserved break from his current UA92 tribulations. Last week, he declared: ‘If Liverpool win the European Cup and Chelsea beat United in the FA Cup Final, I might go travelling for a year – somewhere where there’s no wifi or mobile phone signal’.
Thanks to a Chelsea penalty goal at Wembley, it now falls to Liverpool to make Gary’s dream come true. But you can never underestimate Real Madrid, and you can bet your bottom dollar that Ronaldo’s boys will be doing their utmost to ensure that the world of academia is not deprived of Gary’s Vision. Should be a cracking game.