Early last month, the University of York (UoY) hired a debt collection agency to target international students involved in the previous rent strike. The intimidation they have faced, and their militant response, should serve as a lesson to all students wanting to fight.  

This October, the University of York (UoY) decided to hire debt collectors and threaten deportation to send a message to their students and recoup some losses of past rent strikes. 

International students, who are treated as cash cows, are being targeted and threatened by UoY management. Their response has been one of strength of militancy, showing the way forward for students under threat everywhere. 

Lockdowns and Lock-ins 

We must rewind a couple of years and remember why students across the country organised rent strikes. From city to city, University to University, students were corralled into unsafe accommodation after being lied to by their institutions that all would be well. 

Students were subject to draconian control by university security. At the University of Manchester students were literally fenced into their accommodation and subject to racial stereotyping by security. 

A mental health and well-being crisis began to unravel as students were locked up, monitored, isolated and refused requests to go back to their parents.

This laid bare how universities view students: cash cows to be squeezed for as much as possible.

International students used as cash-cows

This goes doubly for international students. With fees over triple of British students, and tight restrictions on attendance, there was no shortage of reasons to organise against the University. 

The strikes ended nearly a year ago, but in an institution driven by greed, these lost funds were far from forgotten. The behavior of the University towards these international rent strikers is typical of the money driven bureaucrats that run our higher education institutions. Vice Chancellors are paid exorbitant salaries, nearly £290,000 annually at York, to make their Universities as ‘cost effective’ as possible, while putting students and staff at risk. 


In order to fight this intimidation, students at York, organised into the York Student Solidarity Network (YSSN), have responded with militancy. In response to the University’s threats, they retaliated with threats of a renewed rent strike and exposing the university’s campaign of intimidation to national and local newspapers. 

This has yielded success so far. The Student Union informed YSSN that the debt collection has been pushed back a month and all debt will be written off for individual rent strikers if an acceptable debt mitigation statement was submitted.

Although not a full victory, this shows that the University is on the backfoot. This concession from the university is a victory for the movement and allows these students to continue to push back. It is just a glimpse of the power students wield when organised. 

Next steps 

This should light a fire under the student movement to continue to press on with boldness. They must broaden out the struggle and push on for an end to intimidation and a writing off of all debts. 

It has been the uniting of international and national students, viewing this as a shared struggle, which has yielded this first success. 

It is clear that students should unite and organise to win more from the University. With the upcoming UCU strikes, students at UoY should link up with the staff, who are also fighting against the products of this marketisation. This would strengthen the movement and give it real backing. 

Staff, as those providing their labour to keep the University running, occupy a position to pressure and leverage the university in a way students cannot. A united struggle would cripple the University management.

We must unite to put forward the demand; open the books! Let staff and students decide if this debt is detrimental to the running of the university, if not it can be written off! 

Militancy, sacrifice and unity have already been proven to work. This fighting spirit must be spread to all students, united with staff, using the full might of the exploited majority at the university to crush the greedy bureaucracy running the show.

We say:

End all intimidation! 

Write off all debt!

Open the books!

Students and staff unite! 

National and international students unite!

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