UK universities suggest ways to monitor Tier 4 visa student attendance

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A UK vice-chancellor has warned that UK universities may be compelled to use swipe cards that monitor foreign student attendance to comply with tough new UK immigration rules.

Quintin McKellar, vice-chancellor of the University of Hertfordshire, said the university was considering introducing an electronic registration system that would allow the school to prove that its foreign students on Tier 4 visas were attending lectures.

McKellar said he came to this conclusion following recent visits from the UK Border Agency (UKBA) to Hertfordshire's campus as part of the government's crackdown on Tier 4 student visa abuse.

In order to gain the UKBA's highly trusted sponsor status, all UK higher education institutions must provide evidence that their non-European Union students are actively attending courses. This status is necessary for the university to sponsor foreign students on Tier 4 UK visas.

McKellar said that without an electronic register to prove attendance, it is difficult to demonstrate compliance with Tier 4 student visa requirements.

"It is becoming clear that we have to have a real-time register of where students are," he told an audience at the Higher Education Funding Council for England's annual conference in London on 18 April 2012. "Will they need swipe cards? And is that discriminatory and does it affect civil liberties? The way the UKBA is going, it is going to compel us to do this."

Some UK higher education institutions already use, or are considering implementing systems that can monitor student attendance.

"When you have budget restraints, spending money on monitoring students is ridiculous," said Liam Burns, president of the National Union of Students.

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