Late on the evening of Wednesday 29 August, the UK Border Agency (UKBA) announced that London Metropolitan University was losing its “highly trusted sponsor” status.
This means that in the eyes of UKBA, being a London Met student no longer makes you eligible to stay in Britain on a student visa.
The right of the 2,600 non-EU students at London Met to remain in country has been stripped away with the stroke of a pen — the single biggest expulsion since Edward I's Edict of Expulsion which kicked out the Jews in 1290.
The basic drive behind this unprecedented assault on international students in higher education is the government’s racist immigration policy. For the past two years the UKBA have been conducting a drive to ”clean up” the numerous private language colleges which are seen as the “weak link” in Britain’s border regime. Hundreds of people have been deported or forced underground. This is the first time that such methods have been applied to a public university on this scale.
This attack goes hand in hand with the removal of Tier 1, the Post Study Work Visa, and the increasingly inhumane treatment that people who come here face at the hands of the Border Agency.
It is also no accident that all this has taken place at London Met. Over the past 10 years the university has been used as a testing ground for cuts and privatisation in higher education.
The administrative mess which the UKBA have used as a premise to revoke the licence is a result of a botched merger in 2002.
When the new funding arrangements for Home/EU students were introduced in 2010, LMU announced its course provision would be cut by 70%.
This is a University which the government was already prepared to see go to the wall and many fear the £30 million lost in international fees will be used to justify further cuts.
The “British” student intake is dominated by working-class people from London, with more Black and Minority Ethnicity students than the whole of the Russell Group of “top” universities combined.
The response of the university management has been to wash their hands of the international students. They are refusing to enrol or grant library cards for the new term. The UCU and Unison branches and defying this and continue to help the students. As it stands, students still have the right to be in the UK. This is going to expire after a statutory 60-period after notice is given. It currently looks like this will be on 1 December.
Unfortunately international students are being positively distinguished by many in the press, politicians, university management and even the NUS as “good” migrants who serve as cash-cows for the British economy, as opposed to “bad” migrants.
We need a campaign which is clear about opposing the Coalition’s whole project for smashing up public education and repressing immigrant communities.