The Students’ Association has launched a petition in response to the proposed Immigration Bill that could see international students having to pay to use the NHS and facing additional visa checks when applying for accommodation.
Earlier this semester, the Students’ Representative Council (SRC) passed a resolution to stand against the potential law. The Association launched the ‘in good health’ campaign following the vote.
The main focus of the campaign is a petition to home secretary Theresa May urging her to “recognise the huge negative impact the Immigration Bill would have on St Andrews as it’s written and to reconsider [her] position on the legalisation.”
The petition continues: “Our globally diverse student population is one of our greatest strengths, gives students the chance to learn more about other cultures, and ultimately makes our students more ambitious by bolstering confidence in adapting to new cultural surroundings and exploring professional opportunities across the globe.”
The bill was first presented to the House of Commons in October. It proposes restrictions on the use of the National Health Service by immigrants, as well as a visa check when immigrants apply for a bank account or a rented residence.
There would also be checks on marriages to eliminate “sham” marriages, where a foreign national marries a citizen of the United Kingdom to gain citizenship.
Given the competitive nature of applying for accommodation in St Andrews, the additional visa checks could cause more problems for international students here.
Paying into the National Health Service has been a particularly contentious part of the law, given that, as it stands before the House of Commons, there is not a specified amount stated that an immigrant may have to pay in. An estimate of £00 has been used, but the lack of specificity has raised concerns that there will be few obstacles to making enrolment in the NHS prohibitively expensive.
Teddy Woodhouse, director of representation for the Association, pushed for the resolution to be brought to SRC, citing the £73.5 million brought into the United Kingdom each year by international students.
He said: “Socially, international students make this University so unique: it gives its students an opportunity to engage with new cultures and to build skills in adapting to new surroundings, eventually meaning we’re leaving St Andrews with the confidence to take up opportunities around the world.
“Given the proportion of international students here in St Andrews, what may be a small adjustment for many universities may have a large – and negative – impact on our town and our University.” Approximately 30 per cent of the student body in St Andrews is made up of international students.
Mr Woodhouse went on to explain why this debate was not just central to the international students directly affected but also students from the United Kingdom.
“It would likely change the character of the University as a whole, so that’s why we’re very particular in wanting to emphasise that British and EU students should also be engaging in the campaign. It’s all of our education that is being affected.”
The Association hopes to raise 1,500 signatures to send to the home secretary and will accompany them with a promotional video. The Association also held a postcard signing event to encourage international students to write to their ambassador to make clear the economic and social impact the Immigration Bill would have on St Andrews.