- Wednesday, 19 September 2012
- Written by Daniel Morley
As the government proves intractable over demands to revoke London Met’s ban on teaching overseas students, it is becoming increasingly clear that only a militant campaign by the student union and trade unions can force the government’s hand.
At a protest outside London Met on Friday 14th September, students demanded an end to the victimisation of blameless foreign students. There is a huge amount of anger from thousands of students who now face deportation and years of hard work and financial investment being flippantly thrown away by the government.
What is more, this issue not only affects hundreds of thousands of overseas students around the UK, who represent an £8bn industry, but the tens of thousands of non-overseas students at London Met. How will the university, already ravaged by cuts and facing the threat of privatisation, survive the removal of this huge source of funding? Already the revered Women’s Library it runs faces closure. Not only is the future of tens of thousands of London Met students at stake, but the entire credibility of higher education in Britain.
John-Paul Okeke, a 2nd year overseas PhD student at London Met, gave a fiery speech to the crowd, condemning the Tory government in harsh terms. When I asked him about the reasons behind this move, he immediately linked it to cuts and the undermining of public education over a long period of time.
He said: “How did the concept of commercialised education that we overseas students represent come about? It was because of the public sector cuts since the Thatcher government in the 80s. Most British universities have liason offices all over the world, to advertise their ‘brand.’ They need the money.”
This is where large scale privatisation and cuts have led Britain. Its universities have to compete to lure in as many overseas students as possible, most likely at the cost of proper administrative checks to meet the governments ridiculous immigration requirements. Then when the flow of students stops, because of government attacks such as this, an economic crisis limiting the spending power of foreign students, or Britain’s lack of competitiveness in the marketplace for students, the whole of higher education is undermined. Higher education under capitalism is far from guaranteed and Britain is now experiencing a general crisis in education thanks to capitalism.
It is time that students fought back. We showed what we could do in 2010/11. That will be as nothing in comparison with what is coming. Rather than simply occupations, we need the whole student union/NUS structure to mobilise its full force to organise mass occupations and student strikes in defence of higher education.
A good starting point would be London Met. This attack has laid the basis for a militant campaign with the whole student body once term starts. The student union must make preparations for this now, and organise a campaign of mass student meetings in support of a student strike. A successful blockade of the university could be the spark to start a fire across the whole of the education system in Britain, as we saw in 2010.
John-Paul Okeke expressed his support for a student strike, saying “a strike is the best way forward. It is possible to achieve that.”