- Friday, 31 August 2012
- Written by Matt Wood (militantstudent.com)
The decision this week by the UK Border Agency (UKBA) to revoke London Met’s Highly Trusted Sponsor (HTS) status for international student visas is a symptom of the wider economic crisis and of a government far removed from the lives of ordinary people.
Thousands of overseas students have been thrown into limbo by the decisions of top level civil servants and ministers like Damien Green MP in the Cameron government, who is keen to excite his xenophobic base with a few opportunist attacks on immigrants.
Many of these students will have invested significant savings in degrees that they thought would enable them to work towards a better future, and now, weeks away from the beginning of term, they are finding out how reliable the education system of one of the most ‘advanced’ nations in the world really is.
But this crisis has not come out of the blue. London Metropolitan staff has been warning management for some time that the university needs to get its house in order and maintain accurate student data. Instead, the university senior management, led by Vice Chancellor Malcolm Gillies, has embarked upon a programme of job losses, redundancies and privatisation through the ‘Shared Services’ initiative. Trade union activists have noted that their management is hollowing out and privatising the very services that the UKBA has criticised for not being up to scratch. With a reduced and demoralised staff, it is no wonder that checks are not being performed at an acceptable level. In 2009 the university faced a similar crisis when it was ordered to repay £36.5m after it was found to have been claiming funding for students who had not completed their courses.
London Met has clearly been in a lot of financial difficulty recently but we have to ask why. London Met is a university that still attracts thousands of students every year, it has prestige and it has a capable and well-respected teaching faculty. How could it be allowed to get into this mess? Socialist Appeal locates the cause of this crisis in the general attack on education that has occurred in Britain since the beginning of the global crisis of capitalism in 2008. Faced with a future of low growth, high unemployment and low profitability, the servants of capitalism in the government have been left with little choice but to attack ordinary working people, withdrawing the few concessions – free education, decent living standards, healthcare – we had won.
With funding from the government increasingly hard to come by, universities have looked to students outside of the European Economic Area (EEA), who pay even higher rates than domestic students, to fill the hole. This approach has led, by necessity, to the increasing marketisation of higher education. Whilst university management teams are only too happy to take money from prospective students, they are less willing to put that money into things like staffing and proper data management.
Rather than being abstract political theory, the experience of students at London Met shows the human cost of capitalist chaos. London Met’s crisis is just another local aspect of the global crisis of capitalism and indicates the necessity of the organised working class to take power and end the barbarism of the current system.
Socialist Appeal supports the struggle of London Met students and staff against the withdrawal of HTS status and the university’s programme of cuts and privatisation.