You think this is my job?
"If they come over on a student visa and don't go to classes, that's fraud, and they ought to be sent back to East Bumfuckistan to try and scratch a living out of the rocky soil."
"The concern is that some people are using student visas to come to the UK then working full time rather than studying. This is, frankly, not an unreasonable concern."
Perhaps true. But we already have a (presumably) well-funded service for finding people who come to Britain for fraudulent reasons. It's a mixture of the Border Patrol, the Police, the Home Office, Customs & Excise, etc. etc. etc. What is being talked about here is a wholesale delegation of both responsibility and blame onto universities - and perhaps even onto specific people - without any extra resources, and without the slightest bit of protection (legal, financial, etc.) for the universities or the individuals who now have to do the government's job. Even for academics who _wish_ to do it, this is a pretty damn vulnerable position.
I'm the course director of a Masters' degree which brings in about 10 non-EU students a year (from a total student enrolment of around 45, which makes it above the average size for a UK Master's programme). All are sponsored by their governments or have otherwise stumped up a huge amount of money to come here - course fees alone are in 5 figures and the associated living costs for a year make this an expenditure at least equivalent to the national minimum wage _in the UK_ - and many of them come from very much poorer countries than that. (I have students this year from Malawi, three different tiny Caribbean islands, non-rich Arab countries, Turkey and other decidedly low- and middle-income countries.)
Sometimes they miss lectures. Sometimes they might miss a couple. One gentleman from an Arab nation last year had his daughter (they have their families here too in many cases, you see) fall fairly seriously ill. He missed about a month of the course: but still completed his course work on time, incidentally. And passed. Good for him. Meanwhile, another woman from the same country was told by her sponsoring agency that she could not write her dissertation on the subject she intended to, so had to virtually start again. The sponsors and the university between them agreed on a four-month extension. I have no lectures to take with her, she's writing her project work. She has a full legal right to be both in this country and a registered student of the university, but I don't know where she is physically, only that she is working hard on her project, according to the emails I receive. The work she does is my problem. Where she does it is not. After all, I am doing a full day's work at home today myself. Would be pretty hypocritical for me to suggest she had to do otherwise.
If you - and I mean here any of you reading this and also "you" the government - seriously think these clever, committed people are here on some kind of scam please feel free to come to one of our classes and discuss your theories. And if you think "well of course I'm not talking about _you_ dear chap, just all those other dodgy 'academics' running fraudulent courses out there" - you think this initiative will discriminate? And if so, on what grounds will it do so? Where do you draw the lines?
Still, there is one factor not included in the report directly, and perhaps not mentioned that much in the comments above. I am not going to do this. Any of it. Nor is any other academic I work with or know. I don't even need to actively refuse to do it. I don't have much time and this is not a priority. If things aren't priorities they get put to one side for quite some period, and like most people at the same level of this job as me, I've got a diary that's looking full up until March. I might get round to looking for them then. (By the way I don't take registers. We're all adults. I'm not going to start either. I offer a course which also runs online and because we are all adults people can come and study from that material as well, if they want, as long as they do the work.)
I post all the above anonymously purely to protect the identities of people referred to here, were this not the case I would have happily given you my own name. I work at a major UK university.