Open Letter: The Government’s Education Policies are Attacking BME and Migrant Students

by Unis Resist Border Controls

9 January 2017

Unis Resist Border Controls

On 12 December, it was reported that the home secretary, Amber Rudd, has pledged to reduce the number of non-EU international students enrolled at British universities from 300,000 to 170,000.

Many aspects of the May government’s treatment of migrants, refugees and asylum seekers are disturbing; at present, however, we want to highlight two elements of these policies ignored in the above article, namely its continued attack on BME and migrants who attempt to further their education and the ongoing surveillance affecting non-EU international students. Rudd will be instituting these tougher visa restrictions on non-EU international students at universities deemed by the establishment to be of ‘lower quality’ – a not so thinly veiled attack on former polytechnics.

It is no coincidence that these tougher visa restrictions will not affect bastions of the elite such as Oxford or Cambridge. In 2012 the then home secretary, Theresa May, targeted London Metropolitan University, a former polytechnic, revoking the university’s licence to sponsor non-EU students. These actions left 2,700 students in the situation of having to find another university within 60 days, or face removal. Former polytechnics, such as London Metropolitan University, are often less wealthy than their counterparts in the Russell Group, and less able to attract private funding to offset government cuts. They are consequently less able to defend themselves against government attacks. At the same time, former polytechnics have more students from marginalised groups, including working class and BME students, than ‘elite’ institutions. The government’s austerity measures and their anti-immigrant policies thus go hand-in-hand. Restricting former polytechnics’ licences to sponsor international students sends the message that the education offered at these institutions is ‘less valuable’ than that offered at Oxbridge and other Russell Group universities. This, in turn, devalues the education being received by the students at former polytechnics, who are disproportionately likely to be from working class and BME communities. These restrictions are an attack on access to education for all marginalised students, British or migrant.

Many of the same vice-chancellors who are now objecting to the decrease in international students have long been complicit in implementing state-sanctioned racist and xenophobic policies – for example, Prevent and the sharing of international students’ attendance records with the Home Office. This in turn forces lecturers, particularly those who are migrants themselves, to be border and thought police, creating an hostile environment that stifles critical thinking and learning. Non-EU international students from Muslim and BME backgrounds have been especially subject to heightened levels of surveillance and victimisation.

Despite this, students across the UK continue to resist attacks on their right to an education, for example, boycotting the National Student Survey (NSS), and, having successfully occupied Warwick University, forcing management into making big concessions on casualised workers in addition to conceding that the Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF) is ‘fundamentally flawed’. As educators and activists, we stand with these students, and demand an immediate end to attacks on the right to an education, whether in the name of austerity, or ‘border security’.

Endorsed by the following organisations, unions, academics and students:

  1. Unis Resist Border Controls
  2. King’s College London Action Palestine (KCLAP)
  3. Demilitarise King’s
  4. King’s College London Undoing Borders
  5. SOAS Justice for Cleaners
  6. Justice4Sanaz
  7. Warwick for Free Education
  8. Docs Not Cops
  9. SOAS Detainee Support
  10. Independent Workers Union of Great Britain (IWGB)
  11. Campaign to Stop the Deportation of Luqman Onikosi
  12. Sanaz Raji, independent scholar, activist, Justice4Sanaz and Unis Resist Border Controls
  13. Illary Valenzuela, project coordinator, Sin Fronteras Project
  14. Rowan Davis, NUS Women’s Committee (Trans place)
  15. Caoimhe Mader McGuinness, PhD candidate, QMU, QMU UCU, Unis Resist Border Controls
  16. Dr Molly Geidel, lecturer, University of Manchester
  17. Gywneth Lonergan, University of Manchester
  18. Dr Adi Kuntsman, senior lecturer, Manchester Metropolitan University
  19. Dr Marika Rose, postdoctoral fellow, University of Winchester
  20. Katherine Mellor, NUS Women’s Committee
  21. Valeria Racu, SOAS Justice for Cleaners
  22. Marina Burka, research assistant, Glasgow Refugee Asylum and Migration Network, University of Glasgow
  23. Prof Luke Martell, professor of political sociology, University of Sussex
  24. Katharina Karcher, research fellow, University of Cambridge
  25. David Dahlborn, UCL union external accommodation officer
  26. Dr Tom Frost, lecturer in legal theory, University of Sussex
  27. Arianne Shahvisi, lecturer in ethics and medical humanities, Brighton & Sussex Medical School
  28. Anne Templeton, PhD candidate, University of Sussex
  29. Dr Jack Saunders, research fellow, University of Warwick and UCU
  30. Michael Collins, coordinator, Right to Remain
  31. Toby Atkinson, PhD candidate, Lancaster University
  32. Maxine T. Sherman, postdoctoral research fellow, University of Sussex
  33. Dr Samuel Soloman, lecturer in English, University of Sussex
  34. Jon Walker, teaching fellow, Sussex Centre for Language Studies, University of Sussex
  35. Dr Sabita Menon, teaching fellow, University of Sussex
  36. Dr Benedict Allbrooke, University of Sussex
  37. Prof Nuno Ferreira, professor of law, Sussex Law School, University of Sussex
  38. Dr Noam Bergman, SPRU, University of Sussex
  39. Dr Jessica S. Horst, senior lecturer in psychology, University of Sussex
  40. Tom Trevatt, associate lecturer, Goldsmiths College, University of London
  41. Lou Dear, PhD student and tutor, University of Glasgow
  42. Kalpana Wilson, lecturer, Birkbeck, University of London
  43. Prof Willy Maley, English literature, University of Glasgow
  44. Prof Martin Paul Eve, Birkbeck, University of London
  45. Jeremy Page, senior teaching fellow, University of Sussex
  46. Andrea Brock, PhD researcher and AT, University of Sussex
  47. Dr Nina Held, teaching and research fellow, University of Sussex
  48. Prof John Holmwood, professor of sociology, University of Nottingham
  49. Prof G.K. Bhambra, University of Warwick
  50. Dr Yuliya Yurchenko, University of Greenwich
  51. Katy Hastie, PhD candidate, University of Glasgow
  52. Federica Mazzara, senior lecturer in intercultural communication, University of Westminster
  53. Gavan Titley, Maynooth University
  54. Dr Leon Sealey-Huggins, senior teaching fellow, University of Warwick
  55. Jessica Baines, senior lecturer, University of the Arts, London
  56. Lucy Finchett-Maddock, lecturer in law, University of Sussex
  57. Andrew Chitty, senior lecturer in philosophy, University of Sussex
  58. Dr James Gordon Finlayson, director of the Centre for Social and Political Thought, University of Sussex
  59. Alexandra Campbell, PhD candidate and GTA, University of Glasgow
  60. Dr Ina Linge, postdoctoral scholar, University of Cambridge
  61. Nicky Melville, PhD candidate and GTA, University of Glasgow
  62. Waseem Yaqoob, temporary lecturer, University of Cambridge, and branch secretary, Cambridge UCU
  63. Dr Myka Tucker-Abramson, lecturer, King’s College London
  64. Diletta Lauro, PhD candidate, University of Oxford
  65. Dr John Drury, reader in social psychology, University of Sussex
  66. Lisa Tilley, research associate, University of Warwick
  67. Hilary Aked, PhD candidate, University of Bath
  68. Carlus Hudson, PhD candidate, University of Portsmouth
  69. Dr Kevork Oskanian, lecturer, University of Birmingham
  70. Mareike Beck, doctoral researcher and associate tutor, University of Sussex
  71. Prof Frieder Otto Wolf, philosophy, Freie Universität Berlin
  72. Dr Charles Dannreuther, lecturer, University of Leeds
  73. Tom Mills, lecturer in sociology, Aston University
  74. Stefan W. Schmitz, treasurer, Vienna Circle Society – Society for the Advancement of Scientific World Conceptions, Institut Wiener Kreis/Institute Vienna Circle
  75. Dr Krzysztof Nawratek, senior lecturer in humanities and architectural design, University of Sheffield
  76. Dr Francisco Castañeda, associate professor, Universidad de Santiago de Chile
  77. Elio Di Muccio, doctoral researcher, University of Birmingham, and UCU anti-casualisation officer, University of Birmingham branch and West Midlands regional executive committee
  78. Francesco Pasetti, researcher and PhD candidate, University of Pompeu Fabra
  79. Prof Habil Peter Hermann, Istituto di Studi Politici, Economici e Sociali
  80. Dr Lizzie Stewart, University of Cambridge
  81. Por-Yee Lin, organising director, Taiwan Higher Education Union
  82. Kate Begley, the Conference of Socialist Economists
  83. Prof Keith Reader, visiting emeritus professor, University of London Institute in Paris, emeritus professor, University of Glasgow
  84. Dr Alex Law, professor of sociology, Abertay University
  85. Anna Wilson, postdoctoral Researcher, Abertay University
  86. Dr Derek Averre, reader in Russian foreign and security policy, University of Birmingham
  87. Ben Fincham, senior lecturer, University of Sussex
  88. Dr Andrew D. McCulloch, visiting fellow, University of Lincoln
  89. Hulya Dagdeviren, professor of economic development, University of Hertfordshire
  90. Dr Julian Paenke, lecturer in European politics, University of Birmingham
  91. Dr Phoebe Moore, senior lecturer and UCU health and safety rep, Middlesex University
  92. Stefan Wolff, professor of international security, University of Birmingham
  93. Jo McNeill, president, University of Liverpool UCU and NEC
  94. Prof Christian Fuchs, professor of media and communication studies, University of Westminster
  95. Martin Upchurch, professor of international employment relations, Middlesex University Business School
  96. Jana Bacevic, PhD researcher, University of Cambridge
  97. Dr Sotirios Zartaloudis, lecturer in politics and director of postgraduate teaching, University of Birmingham
  98. Dr Daniele Albertazzi, senior lecturer in European politics, University of Birmingham
  99. Andreas Bieler, professor of political economy, University of Nottingham
  100. Dr Owen Worth, senior lecturer of international relations, University of Limerick
  101. Daniel Bailey, research fellow, Sheffield Political Economy Research Institute
  102. Dr David Bailey, lecturer, University of Birmingham
  103. Feyzi Ismail, senior teaching fellow, SOAS, University of London
  104. Dr Andrew Denis, senior lecturer, City, University of London

Formed in March 2016, Unis Resist Border Controls is a collective of British, EU and non-EU migrant students, lecturers, and university workers. We are opposed to UKVI surveillance inside universities. We want to see provisions in place for all non-EU migrants working or studying the ability to seek recourse against their university without it affecting their visa status and/or having their precarious immigration status repeatedly threatened both both the university and the Home Office. We call on British students, lecturers and university workers to not collude or be complicit with the border controls culture on university campuses.

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