Universities in the UK are forcing international students to participate in fingerprint checks to prove they are attending lectures.

The move, which has so far been adopted by two institutions, has been condemned by the National Union of Students (NUS) who say it is "discrimination" and academics who describe it as "reprehensible".

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Daniel Stevens, the union's international students' officer, said: It is appalling that certain institutions have required physical checks of any quantity and have discriminated against international students when implementing monitoring procedures.”

Sunderland University and Ulster University have both defended the implementation, which was introduced following Home Office demands international student attendance be strictly monitored.

A spokesperson for Sunderland said: "It is essential that we monitor attendance in order to enhance student retention and achievement."

They added the students were "really comfortable" with the system.

But Kirat Raj Singh, an MA political theory student, disagrees:

Ulster University, which has brought in the checks on its Birmingham and London campuses, added: "Biometric scanning was introduced in response to changing UK Border Agency attendance monitoring requirements."

A letter signed by 280 academics and appearing in the Independent on Thursday condemned the controversial move as "reprehensible".

"We write as academics concerned with the way in which the rhetoric over security is undermining the university as a place of learning and open discussion," the joint letter read. "The latest move by the universities of Sunderland and Ulster, singling out international students to give fingerprints to prove their attendance at lectures, is reprehensible and to be condemned in the strongest terms.

"We call on the universities of Sunderland and Ulster to withdraw the use of this system, and for all other universities to take seriously their commitment to equitable treatment of all their students."

Last year Newcastle University's student union rejected proposals to introduce a fingerprinting register system.