Wednesday 07-03-2018 - 12:17
The past year hasn’t been particularly easy for international students. Although latest figures show a rise in overseas interest in studying in the UK, the Home Office has been exposed for increasing pressure on international students as an easy win for the broader immigration debate.
Panel discussion (from left to right): Vivienne Stern (UUK International), Marguerite Hogg (Association of Colleges) and Yinbo Yu (current International Students' Officer)
Yet, despite a backdrop of contradictory newspaper headlines, visa myths, and shaky student numbers science, the international student movement this last year has flourished, and its collective achievements have been incredible. Together, international students have fought against racism and xenophobia on our campuses and beyond, been a voice of reason in the debate on Brexit, and continued the fight for the rights of migrants and refugees everywhere. A clear message, to those listening, that international students are more than just cash cows.
This year’s International Students’ Conference was a beautiful example of this international student solidarity. Hosted last week in a snowy Sheffield, the two day event was a perfect reminder of the strength of the movement and the collective power of the 425,000 international students it represents.
The conference launched with opening remarks from Abdi Suleiman. Former President of Sheffield SU and cofounder of #WeAreInternational, Abdi spoke passionately about the extraordinary times we are living in. He told the room:
“We are living in times where the hands of political leaders hover over buttons of destruction. But the times we are living in are international times. This room is incredibly important – each one of us has lives which started in different countries but have ended up here together … a room with people from every corner of the world”.
In the afternoon, the conference heard from a panel of experts about building global student communities. Yinbo Yu was joined by Marguerite Hogg on behalf of the Association of Colleges, and Vivienne Stern from UUK International. Speaking on the importance of international students in FE and HE institutions, the panel also launched the Building Global Communities Toolkit, which aims to guide SUs in self-assessing performance in relation to internationalisation activities. You can download the toolkit to use in your SUs here.
Workshops followed, and in packed rooms delegates unpicked the impact of Brexit on international students, and pieced together what it means to be an international student leader.
That evening, the winners of NUS International Students’ Awards 2018 were announced. These awards were created in order to recognise and celebrate some of the amazing work that international students do, and covers five categories: Internationalised Students Union of the Year, International Student of the Year, International Student Officer of the Year and International Students’ Campaign of the Year. The competition was tough, and our judges, Dominic Scott (UKCISA) and Daniel Stevens (Knowledge Quarter), had their work cut out for them! Read here for this year’s lucky recipients.
At a time when it feels like xenophobia and racism are at an all-time high, the international students’ campaign is increasingly relevant and arguably more important than ever. It’s up to us to come together and stand up for the rights of almost a half a million students in the UK, and make sure that international students’ voices are heard.
Want to learn more about the International Students’ Campaign? Click here.
To download a Building Global Communities Toolkit, click here (for the Welsh version, click here)