A campaign to allow international students who could not pay their fees to remain at the University has achieved partial success. Over 20 international students who contacted the Union for help with their financial difficulties were allowed to sit their summer exams and given the summer to try and raise the money for their fees. The campaign, Let Them Study, began in March last year when it became clear that a number of students were in danger of being thrown out of the University before being able to sit their summer examinations. It climaxed in June with over 200 students sitting in Falmer quad and a petition of over 1,000 names calling for the pupils to be allowed to study handed in to the Chancellors office.
However, mystery remains about how many of the international students were able to get funding and return to the University this year. Richa Kadte, the USSU’s (University of Sussex Student Union) Welfare Officer, declared that unless they have got back in contact with the Union then the whereabouts of the students remains unknown. Onikosi Luqman Temitayo, a Nigerian student who struggled to pay his fees following the death of a family benefactor, has been able to raise the money from a number of charitable sources but the rest of the students have had no contact with the Union.
It is also clear that while the short term goal of allowing those unable to pay their fees to sit exams has been successful, the longer term goals of the campaigns appear to be struggling. These longer-term goals involve pushing the University to lower their fees for international students and make the international students’ base more wide-ranging. Laura Tazzioli, president of USSU, pointed to Manchester University as an example of where Sussex should be heading, “They [Manchester] give UK fees to asylum seekers applying to University, this increases the diversity of the international student population”.
The campaign also touched upon wider issues of international students roles in British Universities. International students currently pay at least £9,000 pounds for their tuition fees (staggered by subject), compared with just over £3,000 for British students. It is also significantly harder for international students to attain loans meaning that they often rely on benefactors, normally family members. Adam Farrell, the Union’s education officer, believes that the University is using international students to fill the gap in their finances. “The current market in higher education has created a climate of high continual expenditure by Universities in order to compete,” he argued, “In order to fund these changes Universities are constantly looking to utilise larger streams of income with international students being treated as fair game by international admissions branches of Universities.”
In fact the University plans to expand its revenue from international students still further. In the recently published ‘Sussex 2015: Agenda for Growth’ approved by University council this summer the University announced its intention to increase revenue from international students from £8m to £17m per year. It is not immediately clear whether this will be funded by increased numbers of students or higher fees.
It appears that the battle lines are drawn and this battle will continue for some time yet. Mr Farrell argues that “International student fees are all part of the wider problems. This isn’t just a local issue, this is created through poorly thought out national policy.” The University reiterated its commitment to the current pay structure reiterating stating “There are legal prohibitions on the use of public funds to subsidise the fees of international students – and any waiving of fees implied by changing the University’s policies could be illegal.”