At 11pm last night (29th August) the UK Border Agency announced that London Metropolitan University’s ‘Highly Trusted Status’ has been revoked, and consequently has lost the right to recruit international students from outside the EU.
LondonMetropolitanUniversity is a predominantly working-class university with more black students than the entire of the Russell Group (the top 24 most ‘elite’ universities – including Edinburgh) combined. They also have 2600 international students whose visas are sponsored by the University. Now that the University’s Highly Trusted Status has been revoked, these visas have become invalid – so these thousands of students have 60 days to find another place to student, or they will be forced to leave the country. This is the first time that a publicly-funded university has lost its Highly Trusted Status, so it is a very dangerous precedent to set.
The other reason why this is so concerning is that London Met relies on international student fees for 1/5th of its budget. So losing this substantial income, particularly at such short notice, will leave all the UK and EU students in a very precarious position as well.
Why is this happening?
The Conservative Party promised in their last election campaign that they would cut the number of immigrants coming into the UK from the hundreds of thousands to the tens of thousands. In my view, this was a populist sentiment aimed to placate working-class people across the UK who are unemployed, and don’t want to compete with non-UK citizens for the few jobs that are around. (Of course, the proper solution to this would be that the government creates more jobs, not stirring hatred amongst unemployed people of different nationalities!).
However, this goal is hugely over-ambitious, and arguably impossible, so the Government have targeted a group who are much easier to regulate: international students. They are consequently making it much more difficult for non-EU residents to study in the UK, and more difficult still for them to work here after they graduate.
EUSA take the firm stance that this policy is racist and xenophobic, and should be opposed by all students, whatever their nationality, and all Universities.
What Does This Mean for Edinburgh Students?
At this stage, there is no risk whatsoever that the University of Edinburgh will lose its Highly Trusted Status – so anyone currently studying at Edinburgh, or thinking of applying should not worry about this whatsoever.
However, it is important to recognise that if this goes ahead, it will hugely affect the reputation of UK higher education as a whole. We must therefore do everything that we can to prevent it.
What can we do?
The National Union of Students (NUS) are looking for case studies of international students who think that the Government’s immigration rules are hostile towards them, and who might have reconsidered coming to the UK to study had they known that this could happen (an example is available here)
If you can help out in this way then please email your case study to Johanna.Holtan@eusa.ed.ac.uk
We are also asking the Principal, Sir Tim O’Shea, to lobby the UK Border Agency on our behalf. This is an issue that Universities and students should agree on 100%.