Growing hate crime: what does this mean for international students?

The UK is one of the top destinations for undergraduate courses amongst international students, with London hosting more than half of international enrolees. To anyone who reads this data, it would inherently imply that perhaps the UK offers a safe, conducive environment for international students. But as of late, this has not been the case.

From the recent racially motivated attack on Oxford Street to the implications of Brexit on international students, the UK might be moving toward a more hostile environment for its international enrolees– and London might not be as safe of a bubble as you would have thought.

The National Union for Students (NUS) told LS that reported incidents of hate crimes have gone up 60% over the past two years. A recent report from the NUS also showed that around 1 in 3 (32%) Muslim students claim to have experienced some type of abuse or crime at their place of study.

Ilyas Nagdee, the NUS Black Students’ Officer, stated to LS “Over the last year we have seen high profile incidents of racism on UK campuses; yet many staff and students of colour have been aware of these kinds of incidents for decades. The response of many institutions has been inadequate, too often appearing more concerned with reputation than adequately addressing incidents of racism or promoting the welfare of students on campus.”

The UK’s Prevent strategy, along with the Hostile Environment policy, has triggered racist responses in universities, with international students facing the brunt of the problem. Many students, especially those non-European, believe that racism and islamophobia has been normalised on campus, with universities failing to take appropriate measures against this. With authorities lacking in proactivity, student unions have been called upon to conduct more research and surveys against hate crimes.

An NUS spokesperson commented on measures to curb hate crimes, stating “[We] have liberation and welfare officers on campus who receive training from NUS in order to support students who have experienced negative behaviour towards them, abuse or hate crimes whilst at university. As well as supporting local officers, we carry our national policy and campaigns work to take these issues forward. There are hate crime reporting centres on or near campuses and student services departments will also be able to provide support. We take the matter very seriously and would encourage individuals to report their situation in the appropriate way to the relevant authorities.”

Furthermore, a University of London spokesperson spoke out about the issue of hate crimes, saying, “The University of London takes a very strong stance against all acts of discrimination and condemns all forms of racist behaviour. We are proud of our diverse and inclusive community and prejudice of any kind has no place on our campus and halls of residence. We regard such action as a disciplinary offence and will take appropriate action against those found responsible. We have disciplinary processes in place which are covered in the University’s statutes and ordinances.”

Although these measures seem to be of good intention, they can be rendered inconsequential if students do not feel safe reporting them to the university. As stated by City University of London, along with other universities, no explicit record is kept for reported hate crimes. Most of these cases fall under “general misconduct” and hence do not get the special attention they need.

Perhaps now is the time, more than ever, for universities to start changing their policies against hate crime. With the Conservative government clearly not on the side of international students, it is on the universities to provide the uplifting environment the students are paying for.

Editor at London Student

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