Friday, July 31, 2015
I Don't Feel Welcome in This Country as a Foreign PhD Student: The Government’s Orwellian-Style Monitoring of International Students Makes me Feel Like an Imposter
As a non-EEA (European Economic Area) migrant, if I wish to complete the most mundane paid tasks at the university - such as sealing up undergraduate exam scripts and carrying them from the examination hall to the faculty - I have to fill out seven pages of paperwork.
Each time I complete such a task, I must also fill out an online form requesting that a letter be mailed to my flat, which I then take in person back to the university offices, in order to prove my physical existence in the UK and its correspondence to my address.
Such letters expire every 30 days, so I have had to apply for new ones several times. The last time I was asked to help carry exam papers I refused, on the grounds that it would take longer to fill out the paperwork than to actually do the job.
This week marks the ninth time since I arrived in the UK that I must appear in person at the university registry and display my US passport in order to “confirm my attendance”.
Apparently, it is not enough to the Home Office that I attend a university that is a “highly trusted” sponsor. Or that as a postgraduate tutor I must, ironically, take attendance records of students who attend my classes, as part of the university’s own self-monitoring practices established to retain its “highly trusted” status. Or that I paid several hundred pounds to obtain my Tier 4 visa and residence permit. Or that UK Border Control can track each time I enter and exit the country. Or that I possess a national insurance number and am registered with an NHS surgery. Or that I meet regularly with my supervisors.
In a visa provision that may be eliminated for future international students, I am allowed to work 20 hours a week. I am banned, however, from working as a private tutor. Why? I suppose because some students came to do a course like mine and decided they would set up a tutoring business instead, and were actually quite good at it. So the Home Office says, no more tutoring for you lot. They introduce a blanket policy.
If student migration abuse is a problem, then the Home Office is like a repairman who, when called to fix a hole in the wall, decides to burn down the house.
With the ever-changing goalposts for post-study work visas, we international students find ourselves wondering: even if we got a job offer, would be able to stay in this country? Would we even want to? The idea of deporting students upon graduation, and then inviting them to apply for a job from abroad and re-migrate, is simply laughable as a method to attract the “best and brightest”. As a general principle, the more the rules change, the more trust is eroded.
The Home Office’s continued threats towards international students have created an Orwellian monitoring system that shreds the peace of mind and the sense of stability necessary for critical reflection and groundbreaking research.
Such meddling undermines the mental wellbeing of young persons and mocks the vocation of people who came to this country to use its libraries and laboratories, and to learn.