Against xenophobic divisions in our universities and communities

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2017 Higher Education Service Group Conference
10 November 2016

This conference notes with concern the proposals by Home Secretary Amber Rudd regarding changes to the way the government approaches international students and their status. We are also concerned about the uncertainty faced by international staff in universities following the Brexit vote.

We believe everyone has a right to a decent and happy life and that everyone has a right to access work and education. International students and staff, alongside migrants and refugees in wider society, make a valuable contribution to our workplaces and to our communities, and that contribution is not just an economic one – they are our colleagues, friends, family and partners. We strongly oppose racist, nationalist and xenophobic policies that aim to divide us along lines of race or nationality.

Aside from the problematic notion of ranking universities against one another based on, at best, questionable statistics, Amber Rudd’s proposal to limit international student recruitment to the “best” universities and courses is potentially hugely damaging for our international community. As the NUS points out: “International students studying at Top ranking universities make up a very small proportion of those studying in the UK.” Limiting international admissions to those “top” universities could see a massive decrease in the number of international students arriving to our universities.

While we do not subscribe to the xenophobic notion that “Britain is full”, we believe that international students should not be included in net migration targets. We oppose the idea that we should limit the number of international students and other migrants that we welcome to the UK.

This conference calls on the HE SGE to:

1)Initiate a campaign, alongside the NUS, UCU and other education unions, in defence of international students and staff. The campaign should include demands for an internationalist higher education service and for an end to the treatment of international students as a cash crop, bringing fees into line with those paid by home students, with an increase in funding from government to make up any shortfall. The campaign should explicitly oppose the xenophobic and racist scapegoating of migrants and refugees across our society, and should include mobilising against racist and fascist groups such as the English Defence League and Britain First.

2)Make representations to the Home Office, in coordination with the NUS, UCU and other education unions, demanding that:

a)International student numbers are not included in migration targets;

b)International staff are given assurance that they will be allowed to remain and work in the UK following the exit of the UK from the EU.