The importance of occupied spaces: why we didn’t just book a room for the teach in

defendeducYesterday we held a teach-in at the University of Birmingham as part of the two weeks of action leading up to the National Demonstration for Free Education, happening on 19th November. There were workshops on a wide range of issues from “What is happening in Higher Education?” to “How to incorporate intersectionality into your activism” and a look at student movements in Quebec, Germany and Hong Kong. We deliberately chose not to book a room for this event but instead to take a space on campus without the permission of the university. This made our teach in an “occupation” under the university’s definition. Previous occupations have been greeted with court injunctions, security guard violence and suspensions. So why bother? Why not just book a room and make our lives easier? By Defend Education Birmingham

By not participating in the management’s room booking system, we chose to reclaim a space that should simply be available to us as students of the university. Room bookings serve to exclude students from academic spaces, creating narrow sets of criteria which determine who does and does not have the right to use university space. We believe that the university is a community and should be run by the students and staff who study and work here. We do not accept the authority of management to control the behaviour of the rest of the university community and determine where, when and what is appropriate for them to engage with. By taking and occupying, we challenge the barriers set by the university and empower students to use their university in a way not defined for them by management.

We felt that this is particularly relevant when this event was aimed at the mutual education of students. We have created a space within the university where students can educate one another about the neoliberalism within our institution and higher education as a whole, where we can critique and question underlying assumptions which we are prevented from doing in our formal education. We can expand the idea of learning beyond sitting in lectures and reading books to an experience where we share our knowledge and learn from each other in ways not sanctioned by management.

The space we took was ours to control. All decisions within it were democratically made by those participating in the teach in. Actions like these demonstrate an alternative to the hierarchical, undemocratic governance which we must endure in so many aspects of our everyday lives and show participants that things can be organised differently, in a way where those affected by decisions are the ones to make them.

The value of occupations does not stop there. Although ours did not aim to be disruptive, using occupations to disrupt the normal functioning of universities is a tactic which can be used to great effect. Whilst as students we cannot withdraw our labour in the form of a conventional strike as workers might, we can instead take space and use what we do have, our bodies, to create a similar effect in shutting down key processes in the university until our demands are met. They also create actions of resistance worth talking about and will often garner far more media attention than if students simply write to newspapers detailing their oppositions to the university and the higher education system.

The sheer level of repression faced by students who engage in occupation and tens of thousands of pounds management are prepared to spend on stopping them, as the numerous injunctions taken out to evict and prevent occupations from happening on campuses from Sheffield to London, Birmingham to Sussex show, demonstrate that occupations pose a great threat to management’s authority and their unquestioned neoliberal agenda which is so strong that they feel they cannot tolerate it.

In the run up to the National Demonstration for Free Education and beyond, students should be occupying their campuses, creating democratic spaces to educate each other about what’s going on in Higher Education and the alternatives we’re fighting for and disrupting the university to demand that that management come out in favour of free education and other measures to improve the rights, democracy and power of students and staff.

If you are in London tomorrow, then come to the teach-in at UCL: https://www.facebook.com/#!/events/1487254114890866/

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Students Occupy Universities UK Headquarters

PRESS RELEASE: FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

STUDENTS OCCUPY UNIVERSITIES UK HEADQUARTERS

For information, contact: 07989235178 / 02076797219 / 07821731481

A group of London activists occupied the headquarters of Universities UK today, presenting the management with a “Degree in Bullshit: First Class Honours – Privatisation.”

The stunt took place in the middle of the fortnight of action, called by the National Campaign Against Fees And Cuts, in the build up to the National Demonstration for Free Education on November 19.

Students entered the building and attempted to meet with the Chief Executive in her office; however staff tried to prevent them from gaining access, blocking them and calling the police. Students managed to gain access to the corridor outside his office, but were prevented from going any

The Degree in Bullshit

further. After much negotiation, it was agreed that students could meet the most senior executive in the building: the Director of External Communications, however he refused to come and speak to the group of students or the press and instead insisted that only two people meet with him.

Shelly Asquith, SUArts President, said “We met with the Director of External Communications. He didn’t seem fazed about privatising our institutions or receiving this degree; he actually seemed almost proud.”

David Dahlborn, UCL Student, said: “When we met with the Director, he defended fees and marketization vigorously. Universities UK are foisting the neoliberal agenda over our higher education institutions, whilst we in contrast believe that they must be publicly funded and accessible to all. Having met with him, it seems the Bullshit Degree was well-deserved”

The police arrived and for a while detained the students, however all were allowed to leave without further recrimination.

Hattie Craig, National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts National Committee, said: “It is absolutely ridiculous that the police were called. All we wanted was to deliver our message to Universities UK, and it is a shocking mark of the state of Higher Education that trying to meet with those who influence our universities is met with hostility and threats.”

Beth Redmond, National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts National Committee, said: “The way that Universities UK treated our concerns has only strengthened our resolve to fight for free education and living grants for all.”

NOTES:

  1. Universities UK describes themselves as “the definitive voice for Universities in the UK.” It is a lobby group for Vice Chancellors and university managers, which has previously argued for raising the cap on tuition fees. (Source: http://www.timeshighereducation.co.uk/news/interview-sir-christopher-snowden/2008521.article)
  2. The Fortnight of Free Education action was called by the National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts and involves actions on campuses from Falmouth to Strathclyde, as well as several events in London.
  3. The Coalition of groups involved in calling the demonstration includes the National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts (NCAFC), the Student Assembly Against Austerity (the student wing of the People’s Assembly) and the Young Greens. The demo is backed by the NUS.
  4. The National Demonstration on November 19 will assemble at Malet Street, London, at around 12noon and march round Russell Square, down Kingsway to the Strand, and then to Trafalgar Square, Whitehall and ending at Parliament by 4pm.

bullshit degree protest

PRESS RELEASE: NATIONAL DEMO ROUTE ANNOUNCEMENT

Route announced for national demonstration as students prepare fight for free education

Contact: 07989235178, 07821731481

With three weeks left to go until the national demonstration for free education on November 19th, we are in a position to announce a route for the protest. The march will assemble at Malet Street at around 12noon and march round Russell Square, down Kingsway to the Strand, and then to Trafalgar Square, Whitehall and ending at Parliament by 4pm.

The demonstration is expected to attract thousands of students from all over the UK. Dozens of campuses are sending coaches, and the protest is due to be the largest of its kind since 2010.

Hannah Sketchley, from the National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts, said: “We will be marching from the heart of the University of London – a symbolic site of protest over workers rights and the right to protest over the past year – to the centre of political power. We have no illusions that those inside will change their minds simply by persuasion: we are marching to make a point and build a movement.”

Hattie Craig, from the National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts and Birmingham Defend Education said: “This demonstration isn’t just about one day of protest – it’s about building a movement for free education. Across the world, students have fought and won. The student movement has played a historical role of igniting a broader movement among workers and in communities, and we want to play that role again”…

Is your campus coming to the demo ? Here is the full list !

The list of campuses mobilising for the national demonstration for free education on November 19th is growing by the day. As well as the thousands expected to attend from across London and others making their own way down, a number of student unions and local activist groups have laid on coaches and mini-buses.
Below is a non-exhaustive list of transport being organised. If you are in one of these places and want more information on the transport available, either get in touch at [email protected] or contact your local activist groups (see fb links) directly.
If you have additions, get in touch.

coach1

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Aberdeen University

Birmingham:
https://www.facebook.com/groups/234496556716798/ , https://www.facebook.com/defendeducationbrum

Bradford:

https://www.facebook.com/groups/226208990761390/

Cambridge:
https://www.facebook.com/camdefendeducation ,

Falmouth University:
https://www.facebook.com/events/708466315888342/ , https://www.facebook.com/groups/1500459403502855/

Fife College

Glyndwr University

Liverpool Hope

Manchester:
https://www.facebook.com/groups/345363965600537/, http://manchesterstudentsunion.com/events/campaign-for-free-education#.VE9sDk-i2d4.facebook

Oxford:

https://www.facebook.com/groups/oxfordactivistnetwork/

Sheffield University:

https://www.facebook.com/events/1502522233336718/

Stirling University:

https://www.facebook.com/events/381449655343736/?fref=ts

Strathclyde University:

https://www.facebook.com/events/717367341678592/

Sussex University + Brighton University:

https://www.facebook.com/groups/407080325992943/,

http://www.sussexstudent.com/events/6412/568/

Warwick University + Coventry University

https://www.facebook.com/WarwickFreeEducation , https://www.facebook.com/groups/1479037302370939/1486538328287503/?notif_t=group_activity

University of West Scotland:

https://www.facebook.com/uwsstudents

York University

 

Other campuses are expected to confirm their transport in the coming days:

Bath University

https://www.facebook.com/NCAFC?ref=aymt_homepage_panel#!/freeeducationbath

Bristol University

Chichester:

https://www.facebook.com/FreeEducationChichester

Durham University:

https://www.facebook.com/DurhamUniversityGreens

Exeter University:

https://www.facebook.com/defendeducationexeter

Kent University

Leeds University

Lancaster University

Nottingham:
https://www.facebook.com/UoNFreeEducation , https://www.facebook.com/groups/919202964774360

Portsmouth University

Plymouth University:

https://www.facebook.com/YGplymuni

Royal Holloway:

https://www.facebook.com/pages/Royal-Holloway-Anti-Cuts-Alliance/858913074132574

 

THIS IS THE TIME TO RESIST – COME TO THE TUC DEMO THIS SATURDAY

demo

On Monday NHS workers went on strike. On Tuesday FE lecturers demonstrated for their right to strike. Today civil service workers are on the picket lines and right now people are protesting for social housing in Kensington and blocking Boris Johnson from entering the world’s largest housing fair.

Meanwhile students are mobilising for Free Education on their campuses. Successful motions have been passed in places from Royal Holloway to Stirling University; coaches are being booked from Birmingham to Warwick to Scotland; debates and events held in Falmouth, Plymouth, Cambridge; and supportive motions being passed in trade unions such as the UCU and the RMT.

The fight for Free Education is not an isolated one. It is part of the bigger fight against austerity, the fight for fair pay, the NHS and social housing. That is why this Saturday we will be marching together with the trade unions in London and ask you all to join us.

We will be meeting at 10:30 on Blackfriars Embankment. Look out for our massive “Free Education NOW” banner. (Facebook event here)

However, we obviously all know that this demonstration is only one step in the long struggle against austerity and for Free Education. That is why we will be meeting up after the demo from 7pm at London College 1964935_10152843698493408_9050376829880739828_nof Communication to have some fun and get to know each other better. (Facebook event here)

Finally, on Sunday there will be a meeting of the NCAFC NC to organise the next month in the run-up to the 19th of November, talk about the organisation and plan our national conference. This meeting is OPEN to all NCAFC members ! The meeting is happening at UCL (near Euston station) from 12 pm. (Facebook event here)

Have you have been convinced that London is the place to be this weekend, but don’t have anywhere to stay? Then please get in touch with us ([email protected]) and we will find some lovely students who will hook you up with a spare mattress or sofa in their living room.

Students turn out to support health workers’ picket

nhsstrikeStudents from University College London and other London campuses turned out to support members of Unison at University College Hospital on strike on Monday 13 October over pay. An activist with UCL Defend Education told NCAFC:

“Impressive numbers of nurses and supporters alike withstood horrible weather conditions to send a clear message to Cameron, Hunt and co ­ cuts to the NHS have to stop. The anger and betrayal the nurses (and midwives, on their first strike in 133 years) were feeling was clear to see in the passion and commitment with which they picketed, chanted and even marched around the hospital. With further industrial action to come in the week ahead, it’s clear hospital workers won’t give up the fight for the fair wage they so obviously deserve.”

UK student solidarity for Hong Kong democracy protests

10355001_731960050212323_5263113539912234199_n10534724_877479252262967_644358709544393374_nOn Friday 10 October, in collaboration with NUS London and the Hong Kong Overseas Alliance, NCAFC called a demonstration in solidarity with the democracy movements in Hong Kong. Around 150 students attended, in spite of police opposition to our presence. Demonstrator Amy G from UCL wrote the following report:

Day 19 of the protest in Hong Kong and the 25th anniversary of the massacre at Tiananmen Square seems a fitting time for protesters to descend on the Chinese Embassy, to demonstrate against the appalling lack of democracy Hong Kong is currently suffering under. The police presence was farcically large, with far more present than necessary to control the peaceful but passionate protest, that saw hundreds of people crying out for workers rights and civic nominations in solidarity with their Hong Kong peers. There were rousing and empowering speeches from Chinese students as well as those from the UK, denouncing the shameful behaviour of the Chinese government and encouraging the UK and the rest of the world to stand by Hong Kong. One thing was clear, workers and students worldwide will always support each other in the fight for democracy.10633691_10152319055531607_2764832572780139990_o

Report of NUS NEC: success on national demonstration, disgrace on Iraq/Kurdistan

nuslogo

This is a report written by a member of the NCAFC, Daniel Lemberger Cooper, who also sits on the National Executive of the National Union of Students (NUS NEC).

It does not reflect the views of NCAFC. We would encourage contributions and reports on the points raised as well as for future NEC goings-on.

*

Dear reader, this is a rather lengthy report, but I would urge you to stick with it. The areas I will cover are:

  1. NUS vis a vis the free education demonstration, taking place on the 19th November.
  2. Accountability of NUS Full Time Officers (FTOs)
  3. Motions debated at NUS NEC.

*

As was the case with the first NUS NEC meeting of the year, the most recent, and second council of the 2014/15 year was coloured by debates about international politics, chiefly in the Middle East.

Free education demonstration, 19th November

There was cause for celebration: the meeting ratified NUS’s backing of the NCAFC and other assorted organisations 19th November demonstration for free education (see here). This is very positive. This was made possible by National Conference’s policy on education funding turning – for the first time since 1996 (apart from a brief interlude in 2003-5 when the policy was ignored and not acted on) – to free education, funded by taxing the wealthy in society.

It was also made possible by the solid work of left-wingers on the NEC taking the time to organise together and convince others of the arguments for the demonstration. More of this should continue.

The NUS leadership, including Toni Pearce, Raechel Mattey, Piers Telemacque and Megan Dunn, offered their support for the demonstration early on. The reasons for the NUS leadership gifting their support seem mixed: firstly, a recognition that policy has passed, and must be adhered to; a more welcoming attitude than previous FTOs towards political action in the lead up to the general election in 2015. It must be noted that Labour students made a “non-serious” (as was described to me by a Labour students NEC member) effort to challenge the demonstration motion.

It’s worth reminding ourselves that the demonstration now commands the support of every part of the NUS structures, including each of the Nation’s Presidents – from USI, Scotland and Wales.

The challenge now will be turning this momentum into activists and students on campuses come November.

Accountability of NUS Full Time Officers’

NEC meetings begin with accountability sessions for the Full Time Officers (FTOs). In turn, each of the FTOs presents a report on their activity from the last meeting. I think a few points are worth discussion.

At NUS national conference this year, policy was passed to support the TUC ‘Britain Need’s a Pay Rise’ demonstration on the 18th October. In response to a question I posed about what exactly the union has been doing to organise and prepare for this, the National President, Toni Pearce stated that member unions will be invited to attend, and a “student-bloc” would be formed on the demonstration itself. We should make sure NUS FTOs take this up with energy.

We put questions to the FTOs about the much criticised ‘Lead and Change’ training programme. ‘Lead and Change’ is a residential training event for sabbatical officers during the summer months. It is NUS’s foremost opportunity to inculcate their way of doing things, aiming to “develop a deep understanding of community organising, power and strategy for change whilst having opportunities to put skills into practice through discussions, simulated activities and planning.” This year the running of the school was outsourced to ‘Movement for Change’, a Blairite front, funded by the tax-dodging Lord Sainsbury. James Elliott, a national committee member of the National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts (NCAFC) has written more. It was admitted that the decision to invite MFC was a mistake, and then it would not be done again.

Megan Dunn, Vice President Higher Education, commented on the Labour Party’s new pamphlet on higher education, ‘Robbins Rebooted’ which can be read here. She argued that the proposals, particularly around the introduction of business, were of some concern. Cumulatively, Dunn believes that the proposals amounted to little concretely. Dunn said she would be seeking a meeting with Liam Byrne, the author of the report (and former Manchester SU General Secretary) to put pressure on him for more.

Two motions debated at NUS NEC

The meeting then turned to motions submitted by NEC members. Unfortunately this part of the meeting was no feast of reason. There are two motions I want to focus on: Iraqi solidarity and Israel/PalestineI urge you to read the motions before continuing.

The “Iraqi solidarity” motion had been worked on with Roza Salih, a Strathclyde university student of Kurdish descent (she submitted an almost identical motion to the Scottish equivalent of the executive, the Scottish Executive Council, which I will post later, which, incidentally, did pass! One must ask Scottish executive members why vote for a motion in Scotland, but not in England?!).

The motion was opposed by Malia Bouattia, the NUS Black Students’ Officer, for astonishing and bewildering reasons. Bouattia argued that the motion was “Islamophobic” and “pro USA intervention” – (see Aaron Kiely, a fellow NUS NEC member’s, tweet during the meeting as reflective of the position). The motion then fell as large numbers of NEC members either abstained or voted against (including the bulk of the political Left on NEC). I think this says a lot about the current state of the student movement.

(I must also put on record that after only a single round of speeches, Toni Pearce moved the debate on. This was wrong: there was no opportunity to respond to Bouattia’s allegations. I had my hand up to speak in response, but was not called.)

Let us look at Bouattia’s arguments: is the motion anti-Muslim or pro US intervention?

The motion was partly written by a Kurdish student activist, and presented by the International students’ officer, Shreya Paudel. I have looked again and again at the contents of the motion, yet I cannot track any Islamophobia or racism.

Pro-intervention?

The US occupation, and its aftermath, has been an utter disaster for the people of Iraq. Resulting governments, led by Nouri Al-Maliki, have been authoritarian and carried out virulent Shia sectarianism. A civil war in the mid 2000s killed 34,000 civilians. Today there are 1.6 million refugees.

The dynamics in 2014 are complex. ISIS, who have grown out of Al-Qaeda, have seized huge swathes of the country; there is a new, shaky, shia-sectarian government; and a Kurdish regional government, whose self determination I believe we should support.

The ultra-Islamist group ISIS is a threat to all the people of Iraq. It is repressing and persecuting minorities, including Christians, Yazidis, Kurds, and Sunni Muslim Arabs. On the 29th June it declared a “caliphate” (a religious dictatorship). It has carried out rape and other forms of sexual violence are being used as weapons against women in IS-occupied areas.

These developments have been exacerbated and driven by US policy deliberately fostering sectarianism.

The situation is desperate.

In this situation, it is fundamental that the political Left, trade union and student organisations, like NUS, show our solidarity with the Iraqi people, in particular the hard-pressed student, workers and women’s organisations, and those fighting for democracy and equality.

It is unclear whether Western forces (which congregated in Paris the day before the NEC meeting, on the 15th of September, to announce a “game plan” to defeat ISIS) will send boots onto the ground in Iraq. We know already that French aircrafts have begun reconnaissance flights over Iraq; and that US aid has assisted the Kurds and Yazidis. However it is unlikely they will want a re-run of a war that even they believe to have been a colossal failure. It may be more likely that the USA assists established forces from afar to defeat ISIS.

However, the motion cannot be clearer in saying that such forces cannot be relied upon to deliver democratic change in Iraq: “no confidence or trust in the US military intervention.” If one were to believe it is not sufficiently clear or that the motion is not worded strongly enough, fine: make an amendment to the motion; or seek to take parts to remove or strengthen a particular aspect. Instead, the whole motion – which calls for solidarity with oppressed forces in Iraq – was argued as wrong. This is a grave shame!

It is also true – and Left-wingers should think this over – that the Kurds and Yazidi’s thus far would not have been able to survive if it had not been for aid from the Americans. Calling simply for an end to this intervention is the same as calling for the defeat of the Peshmerga forces by ISIS. The policy is based on a negative criteria – opposing the US and UK – instead of positive critera – solidarity with the oppressed.

Perhaps this is what Bouattia meant when saying that the motion is pro-intervention? Such a suggestion is arrived at only when one’s “analysis” becomes an issue of principle: that even within limited parameters, that to suggest that imperialism is not the only problem is somehow to “support” imperialism. This is the basis of “Stalinist” politics on international questions: that one considers forces that oppose the US as either progressive or, at worst, not the real issue -no matter how barbaric and reactionary and fascistic that force is. This is not a useful or effective way of looking at the world.

The debate

Two interrelated issues struck me about this debate.

Firstly, there is a stranglehold of “identity politics” on the student movement. This is an issue which needs to be discussed in more depth, but essentially the idea is widespread that if a Liberation Officer opposes something, it must be bad. Of course this idea is not applied consistently (and could not possibly be) – eg the majority of the NEC has not accepted current and former Black Students’ Officers’ defence of Julian Assange or the SWP. But I think it was a factor here, perhaps because people see or claim to see debate on the Middle East as something that the BSO should somehow have veto power over, regardless of the issues and the arguments made.

Combined with this, there seems to be a low level of political education and even engagement and interest in the NEC. Some appear not to research issues, work out what they think, engage and take ideas forward. Instead, some are not very interested and vote on basis of who they want to ally with on NEC. In other words, many people who voted against didn’t to care about is happening in Iraq.

Positive Solidarity 

Another motion I believe deserves some discussion was on solidarity with an organisation, Workers’ Advice Centre/WAC-Ma’an, that organises Jewish and Arab workers in both Israel and the Palestinian territories. This was voted down by both the Left and Right on NEC, for different reasons.

At the last NEC policy was passed favouring Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions policy (BDS) – which I voted against. Policy was also passed favouring a two states settlement for the region, which I proposed.

For the Right on NEC (the “Right” on NEC are not Conservative party members but are certainly on the “Right” of debates on the NEC), the possibility of giving a tiny sum of our national union’s money to anyone – whether that is a student attacked by the police on a demonstration, or striking college workers, is unthinkable. We must challenge this! According to NUS estimates at national conference, there is a cumulative £4 million expenditure for 2014/15. Offering our resources to those that share our morals is important and potentially highly useful.

Unfortunately, this argument was also pursued by the Left-winger opposing the motion. Left-wingers: this is not something we should be in the business of doing. If left-wingers disagree with a motion, they should argue it on those grounds, not on the basis the right-wing argument that NUS “doesn’t have enough money”.

WAC Maan was established in the 1990s. It is one of the rays of hope in a bleak situation in Israel/Palestine. It’s an independent, grassroots trade union centre which organises in sectors and industries often neglected by the mainstream trade unions.

It shows that organisation and politics that unite Jewish and Arab workers on the basis of internationalism, anti-racism, opposition to the occupation, and basic class solidarity, are possible.

Currently WAC Maan are set to enforce the first collective agreement against bosses in the West Bank, in the industrial zone of Mishor Adumim, at the Zafarty Garage. This is precedent setting. It is also important as it is forcing the courts to look at how Israeli employers manipulate entry permits as a way of getting rid of militants.

If workers across the occupied territories were organised, they would be able to exert considerable influence over the Israeli government, and over the future of the occupied territories.

To conclude: there are clearly disagreements amongst the NEC, and political Left, about international politics. I hope we can continue to have those discussions openly and frankly. I would certainly encourage those on the NEC to write down their opinions on the subject, particularly if they disagree.

I will continue to write reports of NUS NEC activities, and can be contacted on: [email protected]

 

International students win at UAL

Non-Brits, like myself, have to jump through many hoops in order to get their student visa sorted. Acquiring an unconditional offer from the desired university, having a healthy bank account or scholarship, passing one of the few acceptable English tests, paying noticeable sums of money for the visa process and convincing UK Home Office case workers that the intention of applying for the visa is to genuinely study in the United Kingdom, are only a few of many steps that need to be taken for an international student to end up in the UK. Of course for someone like me, from a country like Iran, where the British embassy is closed, this process becomes significantly longer and more costly as the British embassies across the globe keep hold of the applicant’s passports while they process their application, restricting their ability to travel throughout the unspecified processing period which can exceed a month.

 

Even after all these steps are taken and the visa has been granted, depending on nationality, there will be more obstacles on the way. It can range from being questioned by plain-clothed Home Office agents during the wait for the connecting flight in Bahrain about your father’s occupation, all the way to being held at a London airport for your passport’s authenticity to be confirmed. If not from a Commonwealth country, you would only have 7 days to register with the police after arriving in the UK. If you are unlucky enough to live in London, there is only one place where all non-Commonwealth temporary migrants can go to do this. Where some have queued for hours on end just so they don’t miss their seven-day deadline. Throughout your stay, if you change address, change jobs, change course or university, change your marital status or get a new visa, you would have 7 days to report the change to the police. Forgetting to do so can result in fines of up to £5,000 and six months imprisonment.

 

The student has now arrived in Britain, registered with the police, enrolled on their course and hopefully has managed to find a place to live. This student would be naïve to think the draconian measures put in place to scrutinise every aspect of their life is now behind them. Thanks to the Home Office revoking the ‘Highly Trusted Sponsorship’ status of London Metropolitan University in 2012 in a heartbeat, which almost led to the deportation of 2,000 students , now many universities go above and beyond the Home Office’s requirements for attendance monitoring ‘just to be on the safe side’.

 

After the London Met chaos, my institution, University of the Arts London (UAL), resulted to a weekly sign-in policy for all international students during term time, which amounted to over 30 contact points throughout the year. This, of course, was well beyond the Home Office’s requirement of 10 contact points per year. However, it was not as draconian as fingerprinting students in Sunderland and Ulster or having three sign-in points per week at Coventry.

 

At University of the Arts London’s Students’ Union (SUARTS), with the support of our international students, we ran a campaign, putting pressure on the institution to change its attendance monitoring policy. We were persistent and had a clear vision of what we had in mind. Today, I am proud to say, we have achieved what we were asking for, for over a year! UAL no longer requires international students to sign-in on a weekly basis.

 

After jumping through so many hoops to get into the country and feeling unwelcome by governmental policies and attitudes such as the scrapping of the post-study work visa without prior notice, the last thing an international student expects, is to be treated with suspicion by their university. Treating international students as if they are on parole is simply unacceptable.

 

Let’s be clear, the battle is far from over. As I write this, at least 47 colleges and universities across the UK have been revoked of their Highly Trusted Sponsorship, leaving tens, if not hundreds of thousands of international students without a qualification, a refund or any other protection or compensation. We are still being denied the right to work in the UK for a couple of years after we graduate to gain experience. We are still not allowed to do freelance work or make money from our athletic talents. Most importantly, we are now, perhaps more than any other time in modern Britain, facing Xenophobia and Racism as immigrant bashing has become the norm within mainstream politics.

 

There is a lot of work to be done but I believe small successes like this is what help us keep going. For us at UAL, this will be an important first step to ensure our international students don’t feel isolated, unwelcome and under surveillance. I hope in the near future no student is made to believe they are not welcome in this country.

 

Mostafa Rajaai

Culture and Diversity Officer

SUARTS

NUS supports National Demo as Students Prepare for Autumn of Rebellion

Unity-is-strength-NUS-bannerThe NUS today confirmed its support for the National Demonstration for Free Education on November 19. The demonstration has been called by a coalition of student activists, including the National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts, the Young Greens and the Student Assembly Against Austerity. The support of the NUS will mean an increased national mobilisation from across the country, and it is predicted that thousands of students from across the country will descend on London to join the demonstration.

The demonstration will take place under the banner of ‘Free Education: No fees. No cuts. No debt’, marching once more through Central London and marks an escalation of opposition to the government’s programme of fees and privatisation in education and will provide a spark for further action. It will follow a week of direct action throughout the country, putting the debate over education funding at the top of the agenda in the run up to the General Election.

James Elliott, NCAFC National Committee said: “It is great that the NUS has followed the mandate of conference to campaign for free education. We know that free education is not won just by passing policy, but by taking concrete action on the streets and in our communities and colleges. I am glad that the NUS has caught up with the students it represents who have already been working hard to build the demonstration.”

Barbara Ntumy, NUS Women’s Committee said: “We need to send a clear message that education is not and should never be for sale. We need free education so everyone can access it not matter their background or circumstances. “

Kirsty Haigh, NUS Scotland Vice President Communities, said: “This demonstration is going to be the single biggest action in the fight for free education this year and so it’s excellent that the NUS are going to help us make it even bigger. Not only are the government not listening to our demands, but are trying to enact the opposite by lifting the fee cap. It’s clear the boardroom isn’t working so it’s time we take to the streets.”