#MichelleMocksStudents: Minister of State for Universities responds to URBC’s #TuitionFeeAmnestyNow for international students

On the 26th November 2020, after waiting over three months, Unis Resist Border Control (URBC) finally received a response from Michelle Donelan, Minster of State for Universities to our #TuitionFeeAmnestyNOW letter. URBC along with the Migrants’ Rights Network (MRN) sent a comprehensive letter on the 10th August 2020 that explained in detail why international students demand #TuitionFeeAmnestyNOW.

The URBC/MRN letter, signed by 530 students, university lecturers, UCU, Unison, IWW union representatives, along with anti-racist, and migrant rights organisations, indicated the following:

1. In a study conducted by URBC and MRN, of the international students who responded during the first national COVID-19 lockdown, 56% indicated that they are either destitute or at risk of destitution. In response, URBC offered financial assistance to international students due in part to inadequate support structures at their universities and because of no recourse to public funds (NRPF) which prevents Tier 4 student visa holders access to public funds like universal credit and housing benefits that could be used to prevent destitution.

2. Many international students were withdrawn from their university courses for being unable, during a global pandemic, to pay their tuition fees. URBC and MRN further explained that in many cases affected students cannot pay the remainder of their university tuition fees because their families are also in lockdown in their respective countries and unable to work and send them money. Because their universities are also their visa sponsors, being withdrawn would undoubtedly put Tier 4 students in jeopardy of becoming undocumented and at risk of deportation.

3. The findings of the URBC study on the hostile environment in UK higher education highlighted numerous cases of university lecturers and research staff indicating the particular exploitation that Tier 4 students experience within UK higher education that treat them as essentially “cash cows”. URBC & MRN further state:

” If UK universities continue to treat their Tier 4 students like revenue streams to exploit rather than students with aspirations and dreams, expect to see fewer Tier 4 and EU students enrolling in UK higher education institutions.”

For these reasons, URBC & MRN demanded that there be a #TuitionFeeAmnestyNOW to be imposed to prevent Tier 4 student visa holders from being withdrawn from their courses during the global pandemic and face further violence as a result of the hostile environment policy.

However, Michelle Donelan’s letter, not only misgendered founder and URBC member, Sanaz Raji, it also failed to address the substance of the joint URBC & MRN #TuitionFeeAmnestyNOW letter.

Donelan is, in effect, cruelly mocking the hardships of precarious international students, many of whom have been withdrawn from their studies, are left in penury, and now face visa curtailments and eventual deportation. This is why we must actively work to end marketised higher education and the hostile environment policy within UK universities.


1. Send this template letter to your MP demanding that they encourage Michelle Donelan, Minster of State for Universities to reconsider her decision not to grant a #TuitionFeeAmnestyNOW: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1U9NlCRWoFFJ0S5-_CULlEFm7Q-GKF-AXBZ7cIfE6Sys/edit

2. Join URBC on Thursday 3rd December for a Twitter storm from 11AM- 7PM @michelledonelan, #MichelleMocksStudents. Details here: https://tinyurl.com/yxcp7duy

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