FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Extending the Surveillance State

by BINOY KAMPMARK

If the government can’t do it, they get the teachers to. It’s an old trick of state regulation, and it only works if the teaching class prefers compliancy over independence. In the British sense, the latest round of co-opting teachers into monitoring students and their immigration credentials has brought the issue to a head.

On Monday, more than 160 academics wrote to The Guardian1, claiming that, “A pernicious new turn took place in 2012 when London Metropolitan University lost its ‘highly trusted sponsor’ status, to catastrophic effect for students in the middle of their courses.” According to the letter, British academics since 2012 have become, effectively, “preoccupied with managing accountability demanded by UK Visas and Immigration (formerly the UK Border Agency), and, in effect, have become its proxy.”

Under the Cameron government, over 700 colleges have been banned from taking in students from outside the EU. A range of measures have been further introduced, be it through testing in the English language or means testing.

Various techniques are encouraged in the policy of using teachers as immigration shock troops, be it overtly or by stealth. Mechanisms of “pastoral care” are employed, which stress the monitoring of student attendance and meetings with tutors. On the surface, this all seems fairly innocuous, but they are hardly designed for the welfare of students. Non-EU students, which have become a sub-category to be monitored with greater vigilance, are the target of this policy.

Other mechanisms have become standard fare: the use of biometric scanning and electronic means of signing in, again a special favour afforded non-EU students. Universities are also being granted the task of keeping tabs on “behaviours that may be unrelated to academic endeavour”, data will is then “used by UKVI in determining the supposed legitimacy of non-EU students.”

The letter finally urges Universities UK, the vice-chancellors’ body, to “oppose the discriminatory treatment of non-EU students in all forms.” Students should be “treated equally regarding their attendance of classes”, and their “right to privacy […] respected, irrespective of their nationality.” Which way the UUK bends is anybody’s punt, given that body’s tendency to bat against academics as often as it does for them.

Some of the comments and observations in the letter are well meant, but it is also worth pointing out that foreign students have become the global milch cow for universities, a seemingly endless supply of finance that does not necessarily encourage innovation let alone quality. Services often do not match the heft that comes with the price. Students’ wallets are there to be stretched. This effect has been compounded by the scorched earth policy being waged against universities by the coalition government.

For David Cameron and company, students are also a tricky bunch, seeking to violate the sovereignty of the Queen’s realm via an ingenious market of evasions. Last month, the Home Secretary, Theresa May, was confronted by a terrifying spectacle: the prospects of fraud in the student visa system which allowed “200 foreigners2 into Britain each year.” Much of this came on the heels of a BBC Panorama investigation which found flaws in the system. Nothing new came out of it. The program simply demonstrated that students are big business, and those with the cash will bypass formal rules. For May, what was “shown is that people effectively go into a situation where [the entry requirements] are being faked for them and that is a matter of grave concern.”

Added to this is the Cameron government’s insistence on broadening the surveillance tentacles on all immigrants. This again involves conscripting others to do its dirty work. Making private landlords undertake immigration checks is another example of this, and is the red rag to the bull of discrimination. The Common home affairs committee3 condemned the moves last November, noting that landlords would have to consider anywhere in the order of 400 “legitimate European identity documents alone” to make a decision. “There is a possibility that landlords will discriminate against all immigrants regardless of their status rather than take the risk of housing a person without right to remain.”

Such policies are the hallmark of meanness tinged by a lack of imagination. They even consume their architects. Mark Harper4, the immigration minister who ever so brightly suggested that “go home” advertisements be placed on vans to compel illegal immigrants to flee Britain, had to resign himself. The reason: his private cleaner of seven years did not have permission to work in the UK.

For a government looking for ways to earn more cash in a shrinking economy, targeting students and immigrants seems more than a touch daft. As the Home Secretary had to concede over Harper’s “go home” advertisements, they simply proved “too much of a blunt instrument.”

Dr. Binoy Kampmark was a Commonwealth Scholar at Selwyn College, Cambridge.  He lectures at RMIT University, Melbourne.  Email: bkampmark@gmail.com 

Binoy Kampmark was a Commonwealth Scholar at Selwyn College, Cambridge. He lectures at RMIT University, Melbourne. Email: bkampmark@gmail.com

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

February 28, 2017
Behrooz Ghamari Tabrizi
A Paradigm Shift in the Middle East: Iran as the Solution, Not the Problem
stclair
Big Brother Capitalism Strikes Back
Stephen Cooper
Trump’s Pusillanimous Immigration Policy Imperils the Public and the Police
Vincent Emanuele
The Madness of U.S. Empire
Michael Sainato and Chelsea Skojec
We Need the Endangered Species Act Now More Than Ever
David Underhill
Oops, They Did It Again: Crowd Bowls Over Rep in Beery Alley
John Eskow
Jimmy Kimmel is a Total Dick and Other Reflections on the Oscars
Steve Horn
Trump’s Top Energy Aide, Mike Catanzaro Peddled Climate Change Denial
Jack Random
The Trump Diaries: Week Five
Robert Fisk
The Education of Marine Le Pen
Pauline Murphy
Felicia Browne’s Fight Against Fascism
Mary Lynn Cramer
Fearing the Trump Impeachment
Mel Gurtov
While Our Attention is Elsewhere, Climate Change Worsens
Dan Bacher
Extinction 2017: California Edition
Abel Cohen
The Trojan President: America Never Saw It Coming
February 27, 2017
Anthony DiMaggio
Media Ban! Making Sense of the War Between Trump and the Press
Dave Lindorff
Resume Inflation at the NSC: Lt. General McMaster’s Silver Star Was Essentially Earned for Target Practice
Conn Hallinan
Is Trump Moderating US Foreign Policy? Hardly
Norman Pollack
Political Castration of State: Militarization of Government
Kenneth Surin
Inside Dharavi, a Mumbai Slum
Lawrence Davidson
Truth vs. Trump
Binoy Kampmark
The Extradition Saga of Kim Dotcom
Robert Fisk
Why a Victory Over ISIS in Mosul Might Spell Defeat in Deir Ezzor
David Swanson
Open Guantanamo!
Ted Rall
The Republicans May Impeach Trump
Lawrence Wittner
Why Should Trump―or Anyone―Be Able to Launch a Nuclear War?
Andrew Stewart
Down with Obamacare, Up with Single Payer!
Colin Todhunter
Message to John Beddington and the Oxford Martin Commission
David Macaray
UFOs: The Myth That Won’t Die?
Weekend Edition
February 24, 2017
Friday - Sunday
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Exxon’s End Game Theory
Pierre M. Sprey - Franklin “Chuck” Spinney
Sleepwalking Into a Nuclear Arms Race with Russia
Paul Street
Liberal Hypocrisy, “Late-Shaming,” and Russia-Blaming in the Age of Trump
Ajamu Baraka
Malcolm X and Human Rights in the Time of Trumpism: Transcending the Master’s Tools
John Laforge
Did Obama Pave the Way for More Torture?
Mike Whitney
McMaster Takes Charge: Trump Relinquishes Control of Foreign Policy 
Patrick Cockburn
The Coming Decline of US and UK Power
Louisa Willcox
The Endangered Species Act: a Critical Safety Net Now Threatened by Congress and Trump
Vijay Prashad
A Foreign Policy of Cruel Populism
John Chuckman
Israel’s Terrible Problem: Two States or One?
Matthew Stevenson
The Parallax View of Donald Trump
Norman Pollack
Drumbeat of Fascism: Find, Arrest, Deport
Stan Cox
Can the Climate Survive Electoral Democracy? Maybe. Can It Survive Capitalism? No.
Ramzy Baroud
The Trump-Netanyahu Circus: Now, No One Can Save Israel from Itself
Edward Hunt
The United States of Permanent War
David Morgan
Trump and the Left: a Case of Mass Hysteria?
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail