Eighteen international students at Newman University are having their studies halted, with at least two students being told they have to leave the country due to having their visa applications rejected by Home Office officials. The Birmingham-based Catholic institution has had its Tier 4 license (required to host international students) revoked, subsequently pushing the university over the ‘10 per cent refusal threshold set by the Home Office’.

 

Speaking on behalf of Newman University to Times Higher Education, Professor Scott Davidson claims that: ‘The basis for the revocation was that we had exceeded the 10 per cent … we’d issued 18 CASs [Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies], and two had been refused’. Davidson continued to say that he feels this would have a ‘profound effect on students who are already here’. The university had its title changed from ‘university college’ to ‘University’ back in 2013, something the Vice-President, Peter Lutzeier at the time said ‘will prove invaluable as we look to strengthen our international links’. In an increasingly commoditised higher education system, expelling the students who are paying over-the-top fees seems somewhat contradictory.

A petition in defence of the students has been created on change.org (Allow Newman University International Students to complete their studies!) by Mohammed Rohim, who said the following:

‘This move is a nonsensical violation to international students who come to the UK to benefit our society with the hope to invest their knowledge back into the British Economy; not forgetting that international students contribute around £25bn in our economy (Universities UK, Oxford Economics, 2014-2015) with this figure expected to rise over the next few years … The Home Office should have a duty to act to ensure that students are at least able to complete their course of study — and in this case — there is just a matter of weeks before the academic course comes to end. Coming to the UK and investing life savings (for some) in their education is a sacrifice that many of us home students cannot begin to imagine. The Government need to maintain such relationships if they are to succeed on a global level’.

This comes at a time when the Home Office and current Home Secretary Amber Rudd are calling for even tougher measures, wishing to bring in stricter regulations for ‘low quality’ qualifications. This move is also in stark contrast, not only to the ideals of market competition that are staunchly defended by our Conservative government, but to the promises that are stated by the UK Council for International Student Affairs website:

– International fee income enables colleges and universities to invest in additional, enhanced or expanded facilities, and to offer specialist courses which would not be viable for the UK student market alone.
– International students help sustain the UK’s research base especially in science, technology, engineering and mathematics: they account for over 40 per cent of UK postgraduate students, 50 per cent of those doing full-time research degrees.
– The money they spend also sustains thousands of jobs across the UK economy, both in colleges and universities and in local economies.

Following a similar situation at other higher education institutions, such as London Metropolitan University in 2012 (coincidentally the university previously attended by Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn), during Theresa May’s tenure as Home Secretary, the case in question at Newman University is a further example of how the anti-immigration narrative is diminishing our nation’s reputation. It mirrors the hateful narrative that has been constructed against immigrants with regard to all aspects of our society (a.k.a. ‘They’re taking our jobs, using our health service and learning skills in our schools!’).

On the surface this debate could be seen simply as making classes smaller, but if we ask ourselves about the true nature of what is happening here, what we see is a society being privatised more and more by the year, hand-in-hand with record levels of inequality, a blind eye being turned to the acts of multinationals and all our attention being put on creating division. The case of these 18 students at Newman University is but a symptom of a heavily bureaucratic neoliberal economic model that is struggling to work for the majority of people.

What do we achieve by pulling the plug on these international students? We achieve the loss of both the potential talent of the individuals themselves, as well as the potential economic benefits of these prospective students.

The UK is known worldwide for the quality of its higher education and there is no reasoning behind advertising ourselves as an economic power, to then begin kicking foreign students out of our universities. For further (and quite amusing) insight into the multi-faceted consequences of kicking foreign students out during or shortly after their studies, I recommend this poem by Oliver Higgins, ‘F**k You Theresa May’. The poem tells the story of Oliver (a domestic student) falling in love with an international student, and how his partner and himself were being separated by Theresa May’s decision to shorten the 4-month period within which international students have to find employment following their studies, a pressure not put upon British-born students.

Expect more of this with a Conservative agenda in government. Vote for a fairer society on June 8.

Sign the petition here