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Daniel Stevens, International Students Officer, NUS, UK

DS: I think it is two things. Certainly PSW is a huge factor but also just the attitude towards international students. Put yourself in the shoes of an international student. You’re going to have to be interviewed I don’t know how many times, to be able to get a visa, once you are here you have to monitored by your institution but that’s not enough you have to be registered with the police and monitored by the police. What we have in place is the rhetoric and system that basically makes international students feel unwanted.

DanielStevens4

The PIE: What does police registration entail?
DS: Basically you go to a police registration centre, give all your details, it’s a simple process. The problem is sometimes, especially in London, lines [queues] can be very long, with waiting times of 3-4 hours during peak times. And you have to do it every single time you change address.

“Basically you go to a police registration centre, it’s a simple process. The problem is sometimes, especially in London, waiting times of 3-4 hours”

The PIE: Have you heard from students having problems with pending PSW visa issuance, as one of The PIE staff has been waiting six months for her visa.
DS: Oh yeah, we know there has been huge backlogs. Students can’t go home during Christmas, can’t go to funerals.. and the reason is that in-country applications are not seen as a priority. In reality that is having a huge impact on the lives of those individuals. The NUS has certainly raised these concerns.

The PIE: What other ways does NUS engage international students make them feel part of wider community?
DS: We were quite fortunate to receive funding from PMI [Prime Ministers Initiative], back when the UK wanted international students, and we ran the Internationalising Students’ Unions project. We set out to internationalise student unions and make sure they get involved. It was very successful in terms of level of engagement we reached.

The PIE: Do you think there is a lot of work to be done in the UK in terms of integration?
DS: We’ve got to be realistic about what we can achieve. It’s always a second-best solution. You said you studied in France… what happens when British students study at an institution abroad? They stick together. We’re never going to see pure integration because it’s very difficult. What we can try and achieve is a second-best solution – so that international students that come here try and get that experience of living in another country in which they feel fulfilled.

The PIE: So what are your prime goals in your year’s term?

“Unions have to look outwards and know the demographics of universities have changed completely”

DS: Our prime goal is building a strong foundation for both local and national international student representation. A lot of unions still have a long way to go to truly represent and engage international students and that is a huge issue. I think there are a lot of unions that are still focused very much on undergraduates but in reality they have to look outwards and know the demographics of universities have changed completely.

The PIE: And after that?!

DS: The other two big campaigns that we’re going to be pushing hopefully is, firstly, looking at international fees. One of the big things I’m concerned about is that institutions can raise international fees mid-cycle. You can be doing a four-year degree paying £8,000 pa, and the university can turn around – it has in many cases – and say your fees next year are £8,500. It can increase interntional fees above inflation. One thing we really have to look at is quality assurance in terms of international fees.

“One of the big things I’m concerned about is that institutions can raise international fees mid-cycle”

Another is hate crime. International students are more than three times more likely than a UK student to be a victim of hate crime. We’re looking at how can we tackle this essentially.

The PIE: How has it changed your outlook, being an international student?

DS: I can’t answer that but it has changed, definitely has changed; it has completely transformed me as a person.

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