The University of Nottingham’s Student Union (UoN SU) council met for the second time on Tuesday 11th February. The only motion put forward was by Beth Carter, who proposed that asylum seekers in the UK should be able to pay the same tuition fees as ‘home’ students when studying at university, instead of paying International fees.
Carter primarily distinguished between a refugee and an asylum seeker, illustrating that whilst a refugee is someone who has fled their country due to the fear of being persecuted because of their race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group; an asylum seeker is a person who is waiting for a decision from the government about whether or not they are allowed to become a refugee.
She stated: “Education is a human right and in the declaration of human rights it states that everyone should have a right to higher education in particular as well. At the moment asylum seekers do not have discretion to remain [in the country], so those seeking refugee protection are excluded from Higher Education.”
“ I have talked to a lot of student leaders and [this motion] receives their whole hearted support.”
Cater went on to explain that this exclusion occurs indirectly as a result of financial barriers that are put in the way of asylum seekers, and highlighted the main aim of the proposal: encouraging UoN to remove financial barriers so that everyone can have equal access to Higher Education.
As it stands asylum seekers do not have the right to work in the UK; likewise, they do not have access to student loans or grants, consequently they cannot afford Higher Education.
Cater’s proposition to reclassify asylum seekers as ‘home’ students would mean that they are able to access these resources and would make accessing Higher Education easier.
“What would happen if a student was forced to leave University due to their Asylum claim being turned down half way through their course?”
The Environment and Social Justice officer, Mike Olatokun, stated: “I have talked to a lot of student leaders and [this motion] receives their whole hearted support.”
Ellie McWilliam, the UoN SU President, suggested that the campaign should be taken straight to the Vice Chancellor. Carter explained this strategy had been used by other University’s and was something that UoN could consider.
A panelist asked: “What would happen if a student was forced to leave University due to their Asylum claim being turned down half way through their course?” to which Carter responded “I’m going to be honest, I don’t really know what would happen in that situation, but what I would say is that the asylum seeking process is very lengthy so it is unlikely that it would happen.”
The motion was passed 16 votes to 1 and is now part of the policy of the SU.