The application of farce as filter

Posted on January 22, 2012



It would be easy enough to see the farcical nature of the new Tier 4 visa restrictions (those aimed at ‘adult’ students, a.k.a. international university students) as some kind of error or self-defeating bureaucratic fuck up.  But, not unlike the management of call centres or emergency housing applications (or the dole in general), farce and error are integral to border control in the UK. Farce and error do what outright racism and hostility cannot – diffuse the experience and encounter, rendering collectivity in the face of such abject stupidity difficult, if not impossible.

The new visa restrictions, in place from July 4th 2011, aim to reduce international student numbers by one quarter. The new visa process requires potential students to provide proof that they have a minimum amount of savings (in pounds), reduces the ability for students to stay in the UK after graduation to earn money to pay back student loans, and to prove their English language capability before entry. These tight, culturally-biased restrictions have come into effect alongside the development of a visa-system controlled by staff who have no training or experience in being able to recognise and respond appropriately to differences between cultures, let alone be sensitive or responsive to the needs of potential students.

Obviously such a system, coupled with the massive withdrawal of funding in the arts, humanities and social sciences and with caps in student places, will have a devastating effect on some disciplines in the university (those not immediately amenable to ‘market conditions’). As Matthew Fuller, a lecturer at Goldsmiths, University of London, makes clear: “It’s a self-mutilating, self-wounding policy with disastrous long-term consequences. Universities need to operate at an international level and current government policy makes this impossible.” Beyond the actual UKBA, the university itself is now completely drawn into both the process of selection as well as the process of surveillance of international students.

Students Under Watch, a recently published report, demonstrates how tightened controls have led to a massive extension of surveillance on campus – and a humiliating and hostile experience for international academics and students. The report’s author, Valerie Hartwich, states: “Students from financially unstable countries and that those that do not conform with EU practices are most at risk of being refused visas. The visa process is for international students and yet it is impossible for many nationalities to meet the requirements.”

Students Under Watch can be accessed at

Posted in: 5. Ed Three