Student Assembly met for their third session of the academic year on Thursday, January 31st. The role of Student Assembly is to generate healthy debate and ultimately create the policy that is representative of the entire student body. What is passed in this meeting becomes policy of the Union, and as such the Union will then go on to campaign and lobby for what has been approved. In this meeting, International Students Officer Om Sai Jaman Jyothi proposed a motion urging the Union to honour the rights and needs of International Students, by supporting the ‘Post Study Work Visa Now’ campaign. In addition, both the Community Campaigns Part-Time Officer role and the Mature and Part-Time Students Officer role were also decidedly removed. Changes were also made to election rules.
Om Sai outlined the current situation for International Students who are recent graduates in the UK. An increasingly hostile social and political environment in the UK has made International Students feel unwelcome. The previous post-study work visa scheme was abolished in 2012 and since this, the number of non-EU international students finding employment after graduation has fallen by seven and a half times. Om Sai explained that International Students feel they are treated like cash-cows, paying staggering amounts of money in tuition fees, visa costs, and NHS bills. Overall, the International Student community contributes £20.3 billion to the UK economy annually. However, despite the huge economic and cultural contributions provided by International Students, upon graduation, there are very restrictive conditions placed on their ability to remain in the UK and find employment.
In his motion, Om Sai expressed his own disappointment and frustration with the current state of affairs for International Students. Most of these students are forced to leave the country unfairly, despite having created a life in the UK and contributed so much during their time here. Om Sai argued that it is a disgrace that International Students are essentially deported upon graduation or otherwise forced to leave; they need solid representation and a campaign that creates a positive outcome for this. Citing the existing ‘Post Study Work Visa Now’ campaign, Om Sai proposed that the Union should support their pledge, signing their petition and campaign on their behalf. This would involve partnering with Unions and students across the UK, including in England, Northern Ireland and Wales – to bring a united campaign to Westminster so that International Students can stay in the UK after graduation.
During this meeting, two motions were also proposed to remove both Community Campaigns Part-Time Officer and Mature and Part-Time Students Officer roles. It was argued by Vice President Student Activities, George Wardle that both positions are currently ineffectual and ill-defined. The Union has liaised with the Mature and Part-time Student group to find a more flexible form of representation for them and the community-inclusion work will simply be within the remits of the Union President and College Officers.
In addition, new rules for elections were approved. With an exception of morning online voting, all votes will now be cast via ballot stations in the Hamilton Campus during elections.