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Students reject biometric scans

Fingertip scanning plans refused by Newcastle students

Students have rejected proposals to implement biometric fingertip swiping to monitor course attendance on campus.

Results from the referendum, which was called by Students’ Union Council on 8 November, revealed a record poll turnout of 1,528 students. This worked out as a 7.3% turnout and showed a vast overall improvement from last year’s numbers in the student November elections.

Statistics show that an overwhelming 1,206 people voted against the implementation of biometric fingertip swipe scans as a digital record of attendance in lectures and seminars. 320 people voted in favour of the scans.

By UKBA (UK Border Agency) law, it is only international students’ attendance requiring monitoring. When asked whether, if accepted, attendance monitoring should be implemented for all students, 813 agreed. 700 voted against.

Rachael Thornton, Education Officer for NUSU, said: “I think the right decisions were made. I feel the results are quite telling of the population of students we have, and that they’re not voting for something which would mean segregation of just international students.”

Thornton added: “University is not about attendance monitoring, especially not biometric.”

Statistics also show that 617 people were in favour of universities monitoring student attendance using all methods, whilst 904 were anti-attendance monitoring.

The University is looking to implement a new attendance monitoring system in September 2013. These results now constitute the Students’ Union’s stance on biometrics and monitoring. Other possible methods of monitoring include smart card scanners and students using a PIN input.

Lindsey Lockey, Junior Returning Officer, said: “Across all elections, there was a remarkable increase in turnout and the demographic is improving but still requires further work.”

21% of all international students on campus voted in the referendum, while 7% of postgraduates voted to make their opinions on the scans heard.

Lockey added: “Increasing turnout within both these groups is a target.”

Charles Barry, Chair of Students’ Union Council and newly appointed NUS Delegate, said: “This is a sound endorsement of what the Students’ Union is doing. The results are testament to fact.”

Results from the referendum were announced on Friday evening alongside those from the November elections, for which there was a record turnout of 2,899 students voting, nearly doubling last year’s total of 1,528.