The COVID pandemic has shone a light on how international students are treated as cash cows. As a result of the ongoing marketisation of education, international students are forced to pay eye-watering amounts with little support from universities.
Whilst many assumed that international students come from rich backgrounds and families, this is not always the case. There is a significant layer of working class international students, with parents who saved and struggled for them to come to university in the UK in pursuit of a ‘better’ education.
These students are left on the sidelines, finding themselves in a foreign country with an alienating university only interested in the money they bring, with virtually no financial or emotional support.
The pandemic has affected financial support students would receive from parents at home, as well as reducing the chance to find employment in the UK. Moreover, international students are not allowed to claim benefits which would reduce the burden of financial hardship.
This means the poorest have been forced to share cramped accommodation due to the increased cost of living and are struggling to sustain themselves; so much so to find the next meal.
Many local food banks have sprung up throughout the country to support students, catering to the needs of thousands of students per day, with many reporting that they’ve had students come to them who hadn’t eaten for days. One food bank in east London now caters solely for international students.Ironically the scarcity present in such conditions under capitalism is what apologists of capitalism state socialism would look like.
While universities claim they are supportive in name this is not reality. Universities still insist welfare teams are there to help and provide any kind of support to struggling students, in a classic tactic to shift the blame on the individual for not getting in touch with their respective university.
Meanwhile, they justify extortionate international student fees as a means of coping with the increased costs that come with providing students with technological, emotional and financial support. But this is a lie.
Poor international students receive the same education as their ‘home’ classmates yet face extreme hardship at the expense of extortionate fees. Universities have paid lip-service to protecting students’ mental health throughout the pandemic. None of this has been felt by the students.
As Marxists, we say that education must be free. Therefore we need to remove all barriers to it, which includes rent and cost of living. We must fight to end this rotten capitalist system that contributes to a life of poverty and misery for the working class and students.
Students and workers unite!
By Adrija Mahaptra