Disturbing the Universe

David L Clements, science and science fiction

Hertfordshire: the ‘your papers please’ university

1 Comment

I just sent the following to colleagues at the University of Hertfordshire, the University that wants to see the passport of anybody visiting.

I doubt it will do any good in the short term, but if more bad press accrues, and if they lose more visiting speakers and external examiners, maybe sense will prevail in the long term.

One must draw a line somewhere, and this is mine.

Dear Colleagues,
As I’m sure you are aware there has been much discussion about the University of Hertfordshire’s requirement that visiting speakers must present a copy of their passport before being allowed to talk. This has been discussed in the THES, in blogs, on twitter and has even reached the hallowed halls of Mumsnet. In none of these venues has the University of Hertfordshire looked even sensible. One blogger has gone so far as to suggest Hertfordshire should go to the top of the league for silliest university.

Since no seminar speaker is paid to speak, the question of right to work is not an issue. Instead, my understanding is that the justification for demanding a passport is to ‘ensure we know who is on campus’. This would seem to suggest that anybody stepping onto the grounds for whatever reason will have their passport demanded. People attending a TAG meeting at Hertfordshire, as I have done, will thus be subject to this demand, as would anybody attending a conference. Presumably, parents picking their offspring up for the vacation or members of the public attending an open day will also be subject to a demand for their papers, and that’s before we get to the milkman and whoever is dropping off parcels from DHL this week.

There is also significant fraction of the UK population (17% according to the last census) who do not have passports at all. Are they banned from the campus? This might include many of your own students.

This is surely bureaucratic paranoia over-reaching itself, and it is bringing significant reputational damage to the University of Hertfordshire and, I’m afraid, to those who work there.

I have been approached by XXX to act as an external examiner for [redacted]. I had been looking forward to this, but, while Hertfordshire continues to support this unreasonable and unworkable passport policy – something I believe is antithetical to the whole concept of a university – I sadly conclude I must withdraw as an external examiner as an act of protest.

I will also encourage my colleagues to avoid a campus where ‘your papers please’ is the first demand made of anybody visiting.

Yours sincerely,



Author: davecl

Astronomy, science, science fiction

One thought on “Hertfordshire: the ‘your papers please’ university

  1. And of course if Hertfordshire say that speaking is work then you must be entitled to National Living Wage 😉

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