The Vice-Chancellor of De Montfort University Leicester (DMU) has reassured international students that the university will ‘redouble its efforts’ to protect them following controversial policy proposals outlined by the Government.
Professor Dominic Shellard told hundreds of staff and students who gathered in DMU’s Hawthorn Square that he felt the proposals made by Home Secretary Amber Rudd at the recent Conservative Party Conference were ‘un-British’ and ‘disturbingly intolerant’.
Ms Rudd announced last week that the Government would be cracking down on students from outside the EU coming to study in the UK, pledging a limit to the number who are allowed to study on ‘lower quality courses’, along with other measures, in an effort to control immigration.
DMU was ranked in the top three universities in the UK for teaching quality according to a mock league table published by the Times Higher Education magazine this summer, ahead of the new Teaching Excellence Framework to be introduced in the UK next year.
However, Professor Shellard argued that it was immoral to distinguish who could study at UK universities based on their nationality.
He said: “In June, the country did indeed vote to leave the EU in a referendum. But it was 51.9% to 48.1%, 17 million to 16 million, a margin of victory of 3.8%.
“It is a dangerous approach to make policy statements extrapolated from the confusing and untested promises made before a referendum won only by the smallest of margins and whose result the Home Secretary and the Prime Minister didn’t even agree with.”
Professor Shellard said that since Ms Rudd delivered her speech, he had heard comments from some of DMU’s nearly 400 international staff saying they felt like ‘outsiders’ or ‘aliens’.
He said: “How can a policy announcement which has left talented, brilliant, hard-working people living and working in the UK feeling like this possibly be considered a positive, humane, intelligent, business-friendly, patriotic statement of intent?”
After the EU referendum result was announced on June 24, DMU responded by launching its #LoveInternational campaign, starting a petition to protect the residency rights of international staff. It also staged a series of visits to European cities to meet prospective students, education leaders and media to talk frankly about Brexit and make clear that DMU is open for business as usual.
Professor Shellard is concerned that these latest policy announcements will have affected the perception of the UK far outside the EU, with potentially damaging consequences.
“Removed from context, statements framed with rhetoric like that used by Amber Rudd can have immediate and negative effects, souring those mutually-beneficial international relationships we have so meticulously built up across education, culture and industry over so many careful years,” he said.
Staff and students in the crowd also heard Professor Shellard’s assertion that despite the proposals, DMU would continue to try to protect their right to study and work in the UK.
He said: “We will also redouble our efforts to send our students overseas through our award-winning outbound mobility scheme, #DMUglobal. I am proud to announce that – as a direct response to recent events - we intend to take 1000 DMU students to New York in January.”
Newly-arrived Kenyan student Daisy Kiptoo, who is studying MSc Energy and Sustainable Development at DMU, attended the event and said: “The speech was so moving; it’s great that DMU are taking a stand.
“It is time that we stand together for international students to support cultural diversity. The Government’s policies will affect brilliant minds from unleashing their potential.
“I have come to study in the UK to build my career, give back to society and to gain international experience. DMU is awesome and I am learning about new cultures every day.”
Posted on Wednesday 12th October 2016