Terror Checks for University Students

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Byline: CAROLINE WHEELER

FOREIGN students studying 'sensitive' subjects at Midland universities are to be vetted by the security services for potential terrorist links.

The Government plans tough new measures to check on those arriving from 'countries of concern' including Iraq, Iran, Egypt and Cuba.

Courses which will be particularly monitored will include physics, chemistry, biology, engineering and computer science.

But the move, currently in consultation stage, has angered some university lecturers who claim that it will damage student-teacher relations.

One Midland lecturer, who asked not to be named, told the Sunday Mercury: 'These proposals will compromise the university's autonomy and compromise our relationships with students.

'A compulsory vetting scheme will transform our role from one of supervisor to one of surveillance.

'Of course we don't want terrorists coming to study at British universities and gaining access to potentially lethal chemicals.

'But no one wants a situation where every student from the Middle East is immediately put under suspicion.'

In 1994, the Government introduced a voluntary vetting scheme for foreign students studying 'sensitive' subjects.

But the Foreign Office now wants to make checks compulsory in the run-up to a possible war with Iraq.

In a response to a recent Government green paper on the new checks, the Foreign Affairs Select Committee said: 'We are concerned existing measures to regulate the use of biotechnology research in this country may be insufficient to prevent dangerous materials falling into the hands of terrorist groups. …