Issue 62

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Issue 62 - Autumn 2018

Investigations - Foreign students: mistreated - Temp jobs: outsourced - The rent: too damn high

Humour - A look into UCL’s future - A case of mistaken identity - Spicy memes (NOT CLICKBAIT)

2 Autumn 2018 The Cheese Grater

News & Investigations

Inside the Panopticon: UCL Surveillance Creates a Hostile Environment for Tier 4 Students Weronika Strzyżyńska

Recent changes to the attendance monitoring policy for Tier 4 students in several UCL faculties are generating opposition from staff and students. It is alleged that the new policies not only unjustly target overseas students, but also force teaching staff to act as border officers, making them responsible for enforcing immigration policies. On 23rd April, overseas postgraduate students at the Institute of Education received an email, outlining a new ‘engagement monitoring’ policy, and reminding them that failure to comply with the new rules will result in ‘curtailment’ of their visa and they will be ‘expected to leave the UK.’

even though it has clear relevance to postgraduate study at the IoE. Visa Sponsorship Rex Knight, the Vice-Provost of Operations, and other representatives of UCL management have met with concerned IoE staff and students, assuring them that the changes were due to a policy that has been uniformly implemented across the university and complies with Home Office guidelines, yet it is clear that policy varies between departments and the guidelines do not stipulate any particular form of engagement monitoring as a Tier 4 visa sponsorship requirement.

Engagement monitoring is nothing new. With the introduction of a The policy has introduced compul- points-based immigration system in sory checkpoints every ten weeks for 2008, universities became visa sponpostgraduates at the IoE, requiring sors, responsible for ensuring their students to either check in with their overseas students comply with immisupervisor in person or to attend other gration laws, which includes ensuring events that demonstrate engagement that international students are not neand have this signed off by an appro- glecting their studies. priate staff member. Although perhaps easy for an undergraduate, the checkUCL has been monitoring attendpoint requirements are highly imprac- ance and engagement for the past ten tical for PhD students, who frequently years, but their methods have been beconduct research away from their in- coming increasingly draconian. Acastitution for months at a time. demics at the IoE and other faculties recall that a simple email confirmation One student at the IoE recalled that used to be enough to prove a student’s a colleague once had to travel outside engagement, whereas face-to-face of London to check in with a supervi- meetings are now required. sor who was on maternity leave. They expressed their frustration at the buThis places a burden both on stureaucratic and infantilising monitor- dents to attend such meetings, and ing policy which requires students on staff, who must complete copious attending academic conferences to paperwork to ensure their students obtain signatures from the conference are complying with their Tier 4 visa leaders to prove their engagement. requirements as interpreted by the university. The new policy also undermines the importance of the work done by post‘London’s Global University’? graduate teaching assistants (PGTAs) as it does not consider their teaching The Home Office demands that to be a legitimate form of engagement, universities use an attendance

Society Bitch UCL Drama Soc left the Fringe with a bloody nose after The Scotsman, that most beloved of Scottish-radicalrags, deposited a steaming pile of spicy invective on Papaya, the society’s productional centrepiece for this year. Slapped with a risible two-star review, Papaya was derided as a ‘mishmash’ of ‘uncertain performances and unconvincing dialogue’, leading Papaya (the fine theatrical jaunt’s namesake) to stare off into space. Honey, Soc Bitch can relate. Nonetheless, one can predict with near-total certainty that, despite this most vicious of reviews, Drama Soc will return to Edinburgh next year, dazed, myopic, and amnesic. Certainly not the kind of drama with which Soc Bitch wishes to be associated. Back in London, pandemonium ensued at the first Sportsnite of the year, when the Carlsberg tap ran dry in Mully’s. One devastated fresher forced his way through the tumultuous rattle to the front of the queue, only to find his beloved snakebite off the cards. Downhearted, he opted for water. Soc Bitch is pleased to see the Quaker contingent within team sports growing ever stronger.

By the numbers £31,440,646 The total amount UCL Accommodations brought in from rent last year. £11,252,285 The amount spent on maintaining UCL halls, as part of the commitment that “all rental income [be] reinvested back into the Estate”. Things that make you go ‘hmmmm’.

News & Investigations

The Cheese Grater Autumn 2018 3

Visa sponsorship fears spur hard-line approach continued from page 2 monitoring system that is ‘fit for purpose’. However, it offers little guidance as to how academic institutions should implement such a system. Hence, universities are left to determine for themselves what effective monitoring looks like with the ever-present threat of losing their sponsor status.

use a location-tracking mobile phone application to ensure that students are physically attending lectures. There were plans to test this controversial approach at UCL but it was abandoned at the behest of the Student Union.

UCL markets itself as ‘London’s Global University’. In the last academic year, 13,387 UCL students paid overIn 2012, London Metropolitan Uni- seas fees — 32% of the overall student versity had its Tier 4 sponsor status re- population. voked due to insufficient monitoring of student attendance and other systemic Given that UK and EU students’ failures, leaving the university’s 2,700 fees barely cover the university’s costs, contemporary and prospective overseas it is mostly the ever-increasing student students with just 60 days to find anoth- numbers and the large number of stuer university to sponsor their student dents paying overseas fees which allow visas. UCL to turn a profit. LMU later regained its right of sponsorship, but the fear of a similar fate looms over other institutions, especially those with a high proportion of international students. Many see LMU, the first public university to lose its sponsorship licence, as a ‘test case’.

It is clear that UCL cannot afford to lose its right of sponsorship. However, many academics and students are dismayed by UCL’s excessive compliance efforts, with some feeling that the university is contributing to the government’s hostile environment policy, and effectively becoming a ‘second border’ The fear of losing sponsorships rights which overseas students must cross. for Tier 4 students has led universities, such as Leeds, Exeter and Lancaster, to According to a recent survey con-

ducted by the Students’ Union, 70% of Tier 4 students felt discriminated against, and only 38% said they would recommend UCL to other overseas students. Prof. Judith Suissa of the IoE points to American colleges, some of which refuse to denounce undocumented students to the government and provide such students with support, as examples for how British universities could stand up government policies on immigration. She argues that a large and prestigious university like UCL could afford to take a stand against the government, a luxury that is not afforded to lesserknown institutions such as LMU. As it stands, UCL places the responsibility for the £20,000-per-case fine for failing to report any breach of a student’s Tier 4 visa requirements squarely at the feet of individual staff members. UCL is quick to claim its liberal heritage and points eagerly to Jeremy Bentham as its intellectual godfather but it appears that his vision of surveillance via the Panopticon provides more inspiration for the institution than his egalitarianism.

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News & Investigations

Keeping it casual: UCL outsource temporary staff to Unitemps agencies, UCL projects savings of £356,026 for 2018/19, increasing From September 2018, UCL will year on year to as much as £1.6 miloutsource employment of tempo- lion by 2022/23. The Cheese Grater rary workers to an external agency, was reassured that ‘any actual savings Unitemps, in a move which UCU made will be reinvested into the unirepresentatives have described as ‘un- versity.’ UCL made a profit of £80.2 dermining … staff rights’ and propa- million in 2016/17. gating an ‘anti-university community culture’. Ambiguity and confusion Jasmine Chinasamy

Student Ambassador jobs will be the first to be outsourced. However, in time, all temporary and non-academic student contracts will be handled by the external agency. How this will affect those already employed by the university is still unclear. Unitemps branch manager Sam Taylor declined to comment about whether current HR and administrative permanent staff faced unemployment because of the move, but other sources assured The Cheese Grater that ‘replacing existing staff is not an objective’ of using Unitemps. Nevertheless, for those affected, the impact of this outsourcing will be significant. Temporary workers will receive the same rate of pay as staff directly employed by the university, but will be deprived of many benefits and protections currently enjoyed by UCL employees. Speaking to The Cheese Grater, UCU representatives expressed outrage that ‘anyone employed by Unitemps will not have the same rights as in-house UCL employees for the same job.’ Instead these workers will enjoy only the statutory minimum for annual leave and sick pay, and can be dismissed without notice. The new arrangement is essentially a cost-cutting exercise for the university. By advertising vacancies with Unitemps rather than directly through external employment

The announcement of outsourcing to Unitemps so soon after the UCU strike that disrupted teaching across UCL is enough to raise eyebrows.

The strike action this spring still casts a shadow over relations between UCL management and teaching staff. UCU representatives told The Cheese Grater that ‘Unitemps means less [sic] union rights, including the right to There are currently no plans to out- strike, and so the more staff you have source the contracts of postgraduate on such contracts with Unitemps, the teaching assistants (PGTAs), though less likely you are to face industrial acthe university failed to make this clear tion against you because you are not when the introduction of Unitemps the employer.’ was was first announced. One departmental manager was allegedly told If Unitemps were used to recruit that “no decision” had been made. academic staff, History Professor Only several days later was an FAQ Adam Smith told The Cheese Grater, posted online, clarifying that PGTAs requiring a department or faculty to would remain direct employees of the outsource PGTAs would likely prouniversity. voke anger from academics as it ‘distances teachers from the institution’ Although UCL has emphasised and could potentially affect the qualthat it has no plans to outsource ity of teaching at UCL, damaging the permanent academic positions, the university’s reputation Unitemps FAQ page states that the agency will handle the employment of UCU-UCL considers the use of ‘infrequent or one-off visiting lectur- Unitemps to be a part of the univerers and academic guests’. sity’s buzzword-riddled Transforming Our Professional Services (TOPS) However, Unitemps has been given programme. Efficiency seems to be greater responsibility at other univer- the latest shibboleth among senior sities like Leicester and Nottingham, staff at UCL, the agenda of the TOPS where the agency has recruited teach- programme echoing Sam Taylor’s ing assistants and academic research- emphasis on the ‘robust and efficient ers. During the UCU strike earlier this online system’ that Unitemps will year, the Salford branch of Unitemps provide. even offered to provide temporary workers to cover teaching disrupted The cost of this increased efficiency by the strike at the University of War- will be felt most keenly by staff, faced wick. They later claimed that the offer with increasing casualisation and dimade to the university was a result of minishing rights in the workplace. ‘human error’ after being called out by TOPS proudly calls for the university anti-casualisation campaigners, who to ‘invest in people’ and empower staff called the move ‘illegal’. to make things better, but staff having their contracts outsourced and their Striking out for union rights benefits stripped seems a far cry from realising that vision.


The Cheese Grater Autumn 2018 5

Contributors: Sasha Baker, Darcy Bounsall, Jasmine Chinasamy, Sam Dodgson, Ollie Dunn, Peter FitzSimons, Suzy Kingston, Weronika Strzyżyńska

6 Autumn 2018 The Cheese Grater


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The Cheese Grater Autumn 2018 7

8 Autumn 2018 The Cheese Grater

Like what you see? Want to know more? Investigations · Humour · Sketch · Zine · Imposter syndrome

Welcome Meeting #1

6pm, Monday 1st October

Welcome Meeting #2

6pm, Tuesday 2nd October

Locations TBC - check our Facebook page or meet one of our team outside The Print Room café 15 minutes before. UCL CHEESE GRATER MAGAZINE SOCIETY President—Peter Daniels Co-Editors—Ollie Dunn and Peter FitzSimons Investigations Editor—Sasha Baker Humour Editor—Suzy Kingston

© Students’ Union UCL, 25 Gordon Street, London WC1H 0AY. Views expressed herein are not necessarily those of SU UCL or the editors.

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