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?
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.