SFI-UK Conference Urges Varsities to Address Housing Issues of International Students
Harsev Bains, VP of the Indian Workers Association UK, addressing the conference.
The second conference of the Students Federation of India - United Kingdom unit (SFI-UK) urged the universities to ensure adequate accommodation and social security measures for international students, who are financially exploited for want of housing facilities.
The conference held in Ruskin House, Croydon, on November 11, discussed the challenges faced by international students, particularly Indians arriving at different universities spread across the UK. With around 1.18 lakh students enrolling for higher education in the UK during June 2022, an increase of 215% from 2019, the SFI-UK has decided to take up the issues of the larger student community.
The conference also passed resolutions seeking an end to the genocidal attacks by Israel on Palestinian territories, ending the blockade of Cuba by the United States (US) and the impact of imperialism and capitalism on society, particularly the refugees across the globe.
SPREAD ACROSS 30 UNIVERSITIES
The SFI-UK, the first international unit of the SFI, formed in early 2022, held its first conference in June 2022. Within a year of formation, the organisation has managed to make inroads in 30 universities by actively taking up issues and challenges faced by students across higher education institutions.
Speaking with NewsClick, Nikhil Mathew, the organisation's general secretary, said, “There has been a steep increase in the number of students arriving in the UK from India to pursue higher education. As the largest progressive mass organisation, the SFI decided to engage these students, forming the SFI-UK unit in 2022. We have established ourselves into an organisation with members in over 30 universities within a year.”
Harsev Bains, the chairman of the reception committee and the vice president of the Indian Workers Association (IWA) UK, credited the SFI for making an impact within two years of its foundation.
“Within less than two years, people here in the UK are already talking about the SFI. When we got out for demonstrations here, the flag of SFI was very visible. It is the flag that stands for people's rights, against hate and is for love and peace. This is the most important role that SFI plays today,” Bains said.
R Arun Kumar, the former national president of the SFI and general secretary of the All India Peace and Solidarity Organisation (AIPSO), urged the students to put to use the knowledge they gathered for the betterment of India.
“You are privileged in the sense that only 22% have access to higher education. Education abroad is subsidised by taxpayers, particularly the poor, who pay huge amounts of indirect taxes. The knowledge you gain here should benefit the people of India,” he said.
‘STOP EXPLOITATION OF STUDENTS’
With the participation of around 100 delegates from universities across the UK, 16 delegates participated in the discussion on the report. A major issue deliberated was the facility of accommodation for international students and the financial exploitation associated.
A resolution was passed seeking affordable housing facilities arranged by the universities. “International students in the UK face a deepening housing crisis and are subject to excessive financial exploitation. Due to their vulnerable position, they are susceptible to accommodation scams and fraudulent schemes,” the resolution urged.
The resolution also called for additional public support for international students in the UK and urged universities to adopt greater social security measures for the students.
The SFI-UK successfully intervened in several issues faced by the students, including the discriminatory approach of faculty members at Ruskin University. Several students of M.Sc (Accounting and Finance Studies) were intentionally given a fail mark for a subject and were asked by the faculty to look for jobs or get married. After the intervention of SFI, the Dean promised to hold a special online exam during October, helping the students finish their course before the expiry of their visas.
The conference elected a 15-member committee with Nikhil Mathew as general secretary and Priyambada Seal as the president of the organisation. The venue was named after revolutionary Sardar Udham Singh, and the stage was named after SFI martyr Dheeraj Rajendran from Kerala.
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