Vice Chancellor at De Montfort University assures students and staff that the Home Secretary’s proposed policies will not change the university’s global outlook.
At last week’s Conservative Party Conference, Home Secretary Amber Rudd outlined proposed policies seeking to crack down on the number of international students and workers coming to UK universities in a proffer to limit immigration. Alternatively, she declared plans for businesses to list the number of international workers they hire in order to ‘put British people first’.
It is certainly no surprise that statements of this classification seem to have caused distress and feelings of uncertainty amongst international students and staff across the UK. After Dominic Shellard, Vice Chancellor of De Montfort University, heard of these personal reactions from his own staff, those who were left feeling like ‘outsiders’, ‘unwanted’ and ‘alien’, a gathering of unity and solidarity was organised.
The Vice Chancellor reassured the legion of students and staff gathered that the university would ‘redouble its efforts’ in order to protect international students and staff following the controversial policy proposals. He said the proposals were ‘un-British’, ‘disturbingly intolerant’ and that he did not want to let down the ‘talented, brilliant and hardworking’ people who continue to contribute to De Montfort University and Leicester. The Chancellor affirmed that Ms. Rudd’s statement could not be a ‘positive, humane, intelligent, business friendly or patriotic statement of intent’.
With a reflection to history on the proposed policies for companies to list their number of foreign workers, the Chancellor warned: ‘We are all aware of the historical precedence of seeding out people based on the basis of ethnicity. Words echo through the ages, it is a dangerous approach.’
He continued; ‘So many politicians are arguing that this is what British people want, but they have forgotten just how close the referendum results were. It was 51.9% to 48.1%, the margin of victory was 3.8%. 16 million people did not vote to leave the EU, 16 million people did not want to seal our borders, 16 million people did not want to say to people not British they should no longer be here. If I’m not alone in saying this, the proposals will be divisive and damaging to Britain’s multicultural workforces.’
Mr. Shellard raised his concern on the increase of reported hate crime, which has risen 147% in the last three months. He said, ‘This is country founded on principles of open-mindedness, fairness and tolerance. There is simply no way that the policies outlined can represent the people of this country. Higher education is about sharing, sharing knowledge, culture and experiences for the benefit of all.’
He continued, ‘It’s about that magical chemical reaction occurs when all kinds of people come from all over the world and work to change the world, because international mobility is crucial for creativity.’
Professor Shellard concluded with pledging to both students and staff that DMU is a truly global university. He said, ‘We will do anything we can to protect the rights of our international students and staff to work and study here. Our building may be based in Leicester, but our campus is the world and we will not stand by and watch this being taken from us. The PM might consider being a citizen of the world a badge of shame, but I consider it to be a badge of honour.’
As part of the event to celebrate De Montfort University’s global outlook, the DMU Gospel Choir performed a song of international solidarity and Professor Dominic Shellard invited the crowd to his home, which is based on campus, for celebratory drinks.
Professor Dominic Shellard issued a statement to The Demon on the current situation in government, decreeing the following: ‘There are mixed messages coming from the government and this is unsettling for international students and staff, and students and staff generally. We are a very harmonious community based in one of the harmonious cities in the UK, we are keen to demonstrate that we will stand in solidarity for our staff and students.’
President of the De Montfort University Students Union, Daniel Winney, said, ‘I came to Leicester because of the diversity and four years later I’ve made so many friends from around the world. Now they are friends for life, it’s given me a global outlook and enhanced my student experience.’
Augustus Mbansor, President of Education, said, ‘Leicester is known as a multicultural city, it was great to be reassured by the Vice Chancellor that DMU will stand in solidarity, it was a very powerful message coming from him.’
Keira Rounsley, Vice-President Welfare and Community at De Monfort Students Union, said, ‘It was a great atmosphere on campus today, our campus is so diverse and its exciting, our global outlook is amazing, you learn so much from different cultures and it really develops you as a person.’
Roy Mahlasera, who studies Adult Nursing at the university, said, ‘Personally, from myself, the words of the VC resonate with me because the UK is an outward looking country and I hope events like this will help the government to stop and think about what they are doing.’
Charles Stevens, senior lecturer of the Law school, was very impressed with the talk and said, ‘It was very powerful, it’s good for international students and staff to be reassured from the top, I like the fact he is taking a stand.
Gavin Dingwall, Professor of Criminal Justice Policy and Faculty Head of Research Students, said, ‘The university should be about people coming from around the world to study, teach and research, it’s vital we remember this when students and staff are feeling uncertain. After Brexit the world seems to be becoming a smaller place, I was pleased to see so many students and staff here standing against that.’