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Impact on members

How the new points-based immigration system may affect UCU members.

A recent article in the Times Higher Education noted the new legislation is already having a detrimental effect. Previously visas were given to overseas academics who came to participate in research at UK universities but whose salaries continued to be paid by overseas institutions. Under the new system there is no equivalent direct route into the country for such staff. The closure of the sponsored-researcher route will see the loss of researchers to other countries, a trend which is already being reported in universities according to Universities UK.
Times Higher Education
(4 December 2008)

It would appear the new duties include the object 'to monitor compliance with immigration rules' requiring universities and colleges ensure that students comply with the terms of their visa and comply with record keeping duties – keeping copies of passports, keeping and updating student contact details and give the police any information it may have that suggest that the foreign national may be engaging in terrorism or other criminal activity.

From autumn 2009 the system will be tightened further with the introduction of a Sponsor Management System – dedicated technology that will make it easier for universities and colleges to inform the UK Border Agency.

Reporting includes:

  • when a student does not enrol on the course at the expected time, the information must be given within 10 working days and must include any reason given (for example a missed flight)
  • where a student has missed 10 expected interactions (for example, tutorials, submission of coursework etc)
  • any suspicions that a student is breaching the conditions of his or her leave
  • detailed requirements of record keeping and reporting for up to two years after the student is no longer sponsored

A new maintenance test is also to be introduced requiring overseas students to show that they have £9600 for living expenses for the year plus £535 pcm for any dependants.

Equally as troubling is that as of November 25th the government will begin issuing biometric ID cards to all non-EU students and spouses and this will extend to students applying for loans in 2010. Existing student visas will not be renewed without providing bio-metric data and obtaining the ID card. Interestingly, universities and colleges will be required to keep photocopied records of the bio-metric cards. The precise value of a photocopied version of a bio-metric card has yet to be determined.


The Home Office will impose penalties against any sponsor who fails to comply. So, if you have been named by your employer (Sponsor) as one of the key personnel administering this system, beware, that while the Home Office states they will treat anything done by a representative on the sponsor's behalf as if it were done by the sponsor, we believe that this could potentially allow your employer to take action against you.

The requirements further state that employers will need to identify and allocate key personnel responsible for the management of the system. There are four roles that can be filled by the same person or by a combination of different people:

  • Authorising officer (responsible for the activities of all users of the sponsorship management system)
  • Level 1 User (conduct day-to-day sponsorship activities)
  • Level 2 User (assign certificates of sponsorship to migrants and report migrant activity, for example, if a migrant goes missing), and
  • Key contact (act as the main point of contact between the UK Border Agency and the sponsoring organisation).

Early reports

University of Wales, Lampeter
Branch reports that the University wishes to check the legal documents of all staff to establish whether they have the right to work in the UK. The employer states 'this is to meet the In order to comply with equality legislation the University carries out checks on all employees whether or not they are UK citizens'.

Goldsmith College, University of London
Branch report that staff are now being asked to put their attendance registers online, and are being told that if they don't "make a point of doing this" that Goldsmiths could lose its licence for recruiting international students. Concerned about legal issues, in terms of noncompliance with the new regulations and if this is occurring elsewhere.

College of North East London
The college backed down from their original request insisting all staff produce their passports after representations from the branch.

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