From the end of this month international students wanting to come to the UK to study will be subject to finger-printing, in a piloting of the biometric identity cards that will be introduced nationally from 2011.

From 25 November any student coming to the UK will be forced by law to hold an identity card. A Home Office paper setting out the proposals declared: “All students allowed to come here will need to obtain a biometric identity card, so we know exactly who they are and what they are entitled to do.”  The legislation is partly aimed at stopping bogus colleges from providing a means for people to enter the country under false pretences.

But there are fears this may make attracting international students much more difficult. Earlier this year the university watchdog, the Quality Assurance Agency, warned that some universities were now financially dependent upon the revenues from international students, estimated nationally at £2.5bn a year. In a recent report the University of Sussex committed itself to doubling the amount raised from international student fees by 2015, but this may be made considerably more difficult if international students are made to feel unwelcome.

Similarly there have been civil rights concerns, with fears that international students are being victimised. In an interview with The Badger, Richa Kaul-Padte, USSU’s Welfare Officer, said she was appalled at this development, adding, “I think it is unfairly targeting some of the most vulnerable groups in the university and discredits the idea that education is free from prejudice. It’s something I think unions and universities should be fighting against.”

She also cited wider issues with the international student population. She said, “There are a lot of things all happening at the same time. There is this and there is the idea of universities sponsoring international students and monitoring their attendance. Is this really fostering the right attitude for attracting international students?”

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