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

January 23, 2017
John Wight
Trump’s Inauguration: Hail Caesar!
Mark Schuller
So What am I Doing Here? Reflections on the Inauguration Day Protests
Patrick Cockburn
The Rise of Trump and Isis Have More in Common Than You Might Think
Binoy Kampmark
Ignored Ironies: Women, Protest and Donald Trump
Gregory Barrett
Flag, Cap and Screen: Hollywood’s Propaganda Machine
Gareth Porter
US Intervention in Syria? Not Under Trump
L. Ali Khan
Trump’s Holy War against Islam
Gary Leupp
An Al-Qaeda Attack in Mali:  Just Another Ripple of the Endless, Bogus “War on Terror”
Norman Pollack
America: Banana Republic? Far Worse
Bob Fitrakis - Harvey Wasserman
We Mourn, But We March!
Kim Nicolini
Trump Dump: One Woman March and Personal Shit as Political
William Hawes
We Are on Our Own Now
Martin Billheimer
Last Tango in Moscow
Colin Todhunter
Development and India: Why GM Mustard Really Matters
Mel Gurtov
Trump’s America—and Ours
David Mattson
Fog of Science II: Apples, Oranges and Grizzly Bear Numbers
Clancy Sigal
Who’s Up for This Long War?
Weekend Edition
January 20, 2017
Friday - Sunday
Paul Street
Divide and Rule: Class, Hate, and the 2016 Election
Andrew Levine
When Was America Great?
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: This Ain’t a Dream No More, It’s the Real Thing
Yoav Litvin
Making Israel Greater Again: Justice for Palestinians in the Age of Trump
Linda Pentz Gunter
Nuclear Fiddling While the Planet Burns
Ruth Fowler
Standing With Standing Rock: Of Pipelines and Protests
David Green
Why Trump Won: the 50 Percenters Have Spoken
Dave Lindorff
Imagining a Sanders Presidency Beginning on Jan. 20
Pete Dolack
Eight People Own as Much as Half the World
Roger Harris
Too Many People in the World: Names Named
Steve Horn
Under Tillerson, Exxon Maintained Ties with Saudi Arabia, Despite Dismal Human Rights Record
John Berger
The Nature of Mass Demonstrations
Stephen Zielinski
It’s the End of the World as We Know It
David Swanson
Six Things We Should Do Better As Everything Gets Worse
Alci Rengifo
Trump Rex: Ancient Rome’s Shadow Over the Oval Office
Brian Cloughley
What Money Can Buy: the Quiet British-Israeli Scandal
Mel Gurtov
Donald Trump’s Lies And Team Trump’s Headaches
Kent Paterson
Mexico’s Great Winter of Discontent
Norman Solomon
Trump, the Democrats and the Logan Act
David Macaray
Attention, Feminists
Yves Engler
Demanding More From Our Media
James A Haught
Religious Madness in Ulster
Dean Baker
The Economics of the Affordable Care Act
Patrick Bond
Tripping Up Trumpism Through Global Boycott Divestment Sanctions
Robert Fisk
How a Trump Presidency Could Have Been Avoided
Robert Fantina
Trump: What Changes and What Remains the Same
David Rosen
Globalization vs. Empire: Can Trump Contain the Growing Split?
Elliot Sperber
Dystopia
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail