Thousands of students have been given until December 1 to find a new university place or face being rounded up and deported from the UK.
Around 2,600 non-EU students have had their education thrown into jeopardy by the decision of the UK Border Agency (UKBA) to strip London Metropolitan University of its right to issue visas to students from abroad.
The decision means the students are unable to renew their visas or continue their studies past September. Both the Students’ Union and UCU branch condemned the move.
The government defended its decision by claiming ‘serious systemic failure’ meant that ‘allowing London Met to continue to sponsor and teach international students was not an option.’
The lecturers’ union, UCU, blames an incompetent management and racist government policies. For many universities, foreign students are treated as a cash-cow. They are charged much higher fees than UK students, and their dependence on the University for visas means an insecure existence.
In 2010-11 15 per cent of London Met’s income came from foreign students.
Unsurprisingly then, that the pro-fees university bosses’ organisation Universities UK condemned the decision. But their fear that it will put off foreign students is motivated more by their reliance on fees from these students than a defence of equal access to education.
For the overpaid pen-pushers sat in Vice-chancellor offices up and down the country, foreign students are central to new funding plans which will see many universities enter ‘partnerships’ or ‘service sharing’ schemes with private contractors.
In effect this will see student loans funded by the government used to inflate the profits of private companies, who will be paid to run services with fewer workers and a bigger bill.
Despite news that some NHS hospitals will be privatised after being bankrupted by exactly the same public-private partnerships, uni bosses have no doubt in their ability to turn a profit from overcrowded, under-resourced courses.
After revealing a £4 million surplus this year, London Met management announced plans to privatise swathes of university services: BT, Capita and Wipro are competing to win a £74 million contract to run (and wring a decent profit from) student services, careers, libraries, IT and ‘consultancy’.
The massive economic and social value invested in our universities has been built up over decades with public money. We should not allow our common wealth to be auctioned off to private businesses whose only motive is profit.
The truth is that both the government and university vice-chancellors are cynically exploiting the desperate situation of thousands of students.
It’s no coincidence that the government’s attack on foreign students came on the same day its immigration statistics were published. These figures showed a decline in the numbers of immigrants – mainly due to a 20 per cent cut in new student visas.
But the Con-Dem government is determined to distort our understanding of immigration – by blaming poor immigrant workers and students for the social problems caused by a system which exploits millions for the profit of a few.
Student visas account for 40 per cent of all immigration into the UK. The majority are paying vast sums to study with very little security. In 2008, one of the first cuts made to pay for the bailout of the banks was state funding for English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) courses. This mostly affected poor and female immigrants.
Now the students at London Met are being penalised for the failings of the university bosses and UKBA.
Education is a right that should be provided with free and equal access to all. The barriers to education are used as a weapon to separate the skilled from unskilled, men from women and white from black.
The barriers to immigration and freedom of movement are a tool used by the bosses to keep us divided, struggling in competition against each other rather than collectively against the capitalists enriching themselves at our expense.
We oppose all barriers to freedom of movement and access to education. The rich have no barriers to hiding their fortunes in tax-havens – yet their racist border laws impose total control over the freedom to find work or education.
We reject any attempts to turn people against immigrant students and workers. They are not to blame for bosses who swindle the government or their employees. They face the same cuts and social problems as their neighbours along with the racist violence of the media and police.
Anti-racists, the NUS and teaching unions should immediately launch a campaign to get the students visas immediately reinstated.
We call for citizenship rights for all undocumented workers, with no penalisations.
We stand for equal access to education for all, free and paid for by raising taxes on the banks and capitalists.
REVOLUTION supports a statement of solidarity with the students, calling for the government to reinstate London Met’s HTS status and stop the persecution of foreign students.
You can sign the statement at www.anticuts.com