Government to track overseas students' attendance

Students from outside Europe studying in the UK will have to supply their fingerprints so that a new IT system can track their attendance.

The...

Students from outside Europe studying in the UK will have to supply their fingerprints so that a new IT system can track their attendance.

The UK border agency will run the system in an attempt to deter bogus students. But university chiefs say they are concerned about the IT system for the scheme.

From March next year, universities and colleges will need a licence from the agency to teach non-European students before they can enroll them, the home office announced. The students will need sponsorship from a licensed education institution and will need to supply their fingerprints.

Students will also have to prove that they have the money and qualifications to take their courses.

From autumn 2009, the government will introduce technology that will help universities and colleges monitor these students' attendance. This will make it easier for institutions to inform on students who fail to enroll or miss more than ten "expected contacts", such as tutorials or coursework deadlines.

The government says that it has identified and de-listed nearly 300 bogus colleges since 2005.

The immigration minister, Phil Woolas, said, "International students contribute £2.5bn to the UK economy in tuition fees alone."

"This new route for students will ensure we know exactly who is coming here to study, and stamp out the bogus colleges which facilitate lawbreakers."

However, Diana Warwick, chief executive of Universities UK, the group representing vice-chancellors and principals, warned that the information was being released too late to be included in this year's prospectus.

And she was worried about the IT system that will run the new system, saying, "We remain very concerned about the IT system that will support the new arrangements. Sufficient time needs to be allowed to enable universities to provide input to the IT specification and for testing to take place, both in the UK and overseas.

"Students have a short period of time in which to make their visa applications and if the IT system does not work during this window, students will miss the start of their programmes and may decide not to come to the UK."

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