AUSA Launches Borderless Campaign
Initiative aims to bridge gaps between UK and international students
By Clive Davies
Photo: Josh Pizzuto-Pomaco
The Aberdeen University Students’ Association (AUSA) has launched a new campaign to raise awareness about the disadvantages faced by international students.
The Borderless Campaign, launched in January, has four main goals; the reformation of the student monitoring system, the equalisation of opportunities, an increase in representation in university staff and an end to the investment in companies that enforce or benefit from border control.\
Currently, international students are monitored in different ways than students from the UK. While UK students are not actively monitored unless there is an abnormality in their academic performance, international students may be asked to sign-in regularly in-person to confirm their engagement in courses, which could impact their capacity to travel or enjoy the same freedoms as UK students.
The Borderless Campaign wants the monitoring system standardised for all students and an end to mandatory sign-ins for international students.
Camilo Torres Barragán, AUSA’s Vice President for Communities and the face of the Borderless Campaign, told The Gaudie that opportunities such as scholarships and internships for international students are limited as student visas provide no recourse for public funding.
Barragán, himself an international student, said:
'Many opportunities offered by the university are only offered to UK students because they are come from public funding, that makes it harder for the university to offer it to every student, so we understand that’s a legal, structural thing not controlled by the university but there are still avenues by which [they] can offer alternatives.'
He added: 'even if it’s a problem of resources, for example if public resources are only applicable for certain students, we still want the university to create equivalent opportunities to international students.'
Borderless Campaign representatives assert that an increase in international students at the University should be accompanied by an corresponding increase in international representation among the school staff.
“We want the university to train their staff to facilitate more culturally sensitive interactions with students and we want the university work force to also diversify to reflect the student body.” Barragán stated.
When asked if he thought some international students were wary of speaking up about these issues, Barragán replied:
'Definitely, international students and migrants don’t want to draw attention to themselves, you’re always scared that if you make too much noise your visa might be in danger, that’s a general feeling, I’m not talking specifically about Aberdeen University. But having weekly or monthly sign-ins doesn’t help because you always feel like you’re being tested. We go through great lengths and our families go through great lengths to get the money and visa to study here. So we’re wary about putting any of that at risk.'
When asked for comment, a University spokesperson said: 'We always welcome the opportunity to consider ways in which we can improve the experience of all of our students and have already held discussions with members of the Borderless Campaign.'
'While there are elements around visa conditions and government legislation that we cannot change, we continue to work to minimise disparity for students where we can. We have made many changes to our approach on compliance with engagement requirements of student visas as a result of student feedback in the past, and continue to work with AUSA on the impact of processes and legislation on the student experience and look forward to continuing these discussions where we are able to make meaningful change.'
'Fundamentally we must remain compliant with external regulations while minimising disruption and we are currently looking at the issue of engagement monitoring across the University through our Student Support & Experience Committee.'
'We will continue to work with AUSA on their campaign and will also work, where we can, with local and national government on issues outside our control.'