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Newcastle University students protest biometric scanner move
3:11pm Friday 14th December 2012 in News
UNIVERSITY students may have to scan their fingerprints in future - to prove they are not bunking off lectures.
Newcastle University plans to introduce biometric scanners to bring it in line with the UK Border Agency (UKBA) and clamp down on illegal immigrants.
However, it also believes the new system will keep on top of attendance and identify home students in need of support
Students and staff - many of whom are already protesting the move - will be monitored through the Student Attendance system from the start of next academic year.
Exactly how it will work is still in question but one option would be to introduce finger scanners at lectures and classes which will recognise students' fingerprints and collect data on which sessions they attend.
Newcastle University says the move is necessary to meet their obligation to UKBA and ensure international students don't use student visas as a way to sneak into the country and work illegally.
But some students and staff claim the move is "'unnecessary and intrusive".
Newcastle Free Education Network has organised protests against the plans, claiming the scanners would "'turn universities into border checkpoints" and "reduce university to the attendance of lectures alone".
In a referendum at the Students’ Union, 1,200 students voted against the scheme, with just 320 voting in favour.
Dr Kyle Grayson, a senior lecturer in international politics at the university, warned that finger scanning risked ruining the university’s reputation overseas.
"I have had international students say that they don’t pay thousands of pounds a year to be treated like they are on probation.
"The majority of students, especially at a university like Newcastle, are genuine. They are creating this whole surveillance operation to deal with something which isn’t a big problem.
Dr Grayson said home students had also raised concerns about how the data could be used, or what would happen if it was breached.
Jeannette Strachan, academic registrar for student and academic services at the university, said various options are being considered.
She said: "As part of UKBA licence agreements, every university is obliged to carry out attendance monitoring to be able to certify at any time, to any visit by the UKBA, that an international student is present on campus and engaged in their studies.
"If either a student or a university does not comply with UKBA requirements then that student and university is at risk of severe sanctions."
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