UK visa hostile environment controversy involving Cambridge University

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Two Cambridge University institutions have been accused of supporting the Home Office’s UK Visa and Immigration (UKVI) department’s hostile environment policy. The Cambridge Centre for Data-Driven Discovery (CD23) and Cambridge Neuroscience reportedly advertised jobs with the Border Vision Advisory Group (BVAG).


The BVAG describes itself as an ‘operational command of the Home Office.’ The adverts were initially circulated by email on 5 October and were then posted online across departments at CD23 and Cambridge Neuroscience, seeking ‘academic experts’ to help create ‘innovative border technology.’


Controversial adverts removed 


According to a report published by Varsity, the advert read: “Border Force (BF) is an operational command of the Home Office which is responsible for securing the UK border and for controlling migration at ports and airports across the UK and overseas.

“The work on the development of a Border Code is part of work under the Future Borders and Immigration Systems (FBIS) and Digitising the Borders (DtB) Border Intervention work and is being taken forward by the Border Force Industry Partnerships Team.”

The advert ended saying: “This is an opportunity for academic experts to work with BF and the wider Home Office to drive theoretical research into propositions for cutting edge border solutions.”

Amid pressure from Unis Resist Border Controls – a national campaign orchestrated by international students, activists and lecturers fighting the UK immigration hostile environment policy – the adverts were removed.




Members of Unis Resist Border Controls have since been urged to use an email template to submit to CD23 – which ‘brings together researchers and expertise from across the academic departments and industry to drive research into the analysis, understanding and use of data science – to protest against the institution working with the Home Office.

The email template reads: “It is deeply shameful that the Cambridge Centre for Data-Driven Discovery would even entertain circulating emails and working with the Home Office.”

“Any knowledge that your centre shares with the Home Office would make you complicit in the deaths that have happened as a result of this country’s xeno-racist border regime, including the hostile environment policy,” the template adds.

Unis Resist Border Controls is now urging CD23 and Cambridge Neuroscience to cease any activity with the Home Office, UK Visas and Immigration or any other body that seeks to tighten border controls, whether that’s in the UK or overseas.

A spokesperson for Unis Resist Border Controls told Varsity: “Academia does play a role in furthering the Prison and Industrial Complex around the world.” 

The spokesperson accused Cambridge University of ‘using decolonisation and the Legacies of Enslavement enquiry to migrant wash their complicity in policies and participating in partnerships with the Home Office, which strengthens borders and the hostile UK immigration policy.’

Cambridge University students have been urged to ‘look within their own backyard’ in the fight against oppression. The spokesperson said: “Students of Cambridge your University has been complicit in this for many years.”


Tier 2 and Tier 5 visas affected


In particular, Unis Resist Border Controls highlighted how the Home Office’s hostile UK immigration policy affects academic staff on Tier 2 visas and Tier 5 visas at Cambridge through attendance monitoring.

Under this policy, Cambridge University has to gather and collate information on attendance at events prior to submitting the information to the Home Office, which then records the information and contacts the University if there are any inaccuracies.

The spokesperson for Unis Resist Border Controls did point out that it was CD23 and Cambridge Neuroscience that were advertising on behalf of the Home Office, hinting that each of these departments were ‘the most useful for establishing the digitising of border controls and blanket surveillance that the UK government desires.’

According to Unis Resist Border Controls, the majority of migrant students in the UK hold a Tier 4 visa, which makes them subject to housing discrimination, employment discrimination, no recourse to public funds and the controversial UK Immigration Health Surcharge. can help with Tier 2 Visa Sponsor Licences and Tier 2 Visas


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