Daft things that happen in higher education (3)

I am examining a doctorate next week, and the university wants to see evidence of my right to work in the UK. I have already blogged about another university which asked me to bring my passport with me. Now we have a refinement of this redundant procedure: this time, they ask for “a photocopy of the front cover and photo page of your passport”.

Now, just suppose that I were in fact an illegal immigrant. Somehow I have persuaded my own employer that I have the right to work in the UK, but the doctoral student’s university does not trust my employer. In which case, why ask me to supply a photocopy – which a cunning criminal can easily ‘doctor’ (a good word to play with in the circumstances).

And a photocopy of the front cover – well, anyone who has seen an EU state’s passport knows that the outside covers do not contain a single distinguishing feature. What useful purpose can it serve? And does the doctoral student’s university keep on file hundreds of identical photocopies of passport covers?

Daft things that happen in higher education – Number 1

We’ve just had to cancel a doctoral viva, and start again on the laborious process of finding a time that suits the student, external examiner and internal examiner. Nothing to do with the student or the examiners. But I work for an employer who insists that all staff must show a passport to prove that they are eligible to work in the UK.

We even have to present our passport if we have worked for the university for over a decade (as I had when the university told me to prove that I was who I said I was). Or, in the case of an external examiner, if you come from another UK university to do us a big favour. And my university isn’t unique.

I do not believe the official line about this being a Border Agency requirement. Even the battiest UKIP hardliner doesn’t believe that illegal immigrants will swarm into Britain to conduct doctoral examinations.

I have recently examined doctorates in two other universities, both large and distinguished, who did not ask to see my passport. They simply sent a letter of guidance on external examining, which included a sentence explaining that if I was not entitled to work in the UK, then I should let them know.

Don’t get me wrong. I love being an academic, and I don’t buy into the nonsense about administrators who contribute nothing but extra trouble. But this is a daft practice, and it is unnecessary. It makes us look silly and it wastes time. It’s not the only mildly irritating or baffling thing to go on in our much-loved sector, so expect another blog on this topic very shortly.