Adam Powell-Davies, Socialist Students national organiser

Nigerian international students are in a desperate situation.

As a result of the severe economic crisis in Nigeria, and drastic devaluation of the Nigerian currency, the naira, many students are unable to cover the eye-watering costs of living and studying in the UK.

This crisis was set in motion by the disastrous policies of the Nigerian president Bola Tinubu, whose government last year decided to ‘float’ the naira – essentially allowing the currency’s value to be determined by market forces for the first time in years. This policy instantly led to the biggest-ever collapse in the value of the naira.

300% increase

The naira has lost two-thirds of its value against the pound in less than a year. For Nigerian students in the UK, this means a 300% increase in the cost of tuition fees, rent, and other living costs.

Disgracefully, universities across the UK are moving to exclude Nigerian students who can no longer pay their tuition fees. This would effectively mean deportation, as students would no longer have a sponsoring institution for their visas.

In response to this threat, Socialist Students members at the University of Surrey approached the university’s Nigerian Society, and helped launch a campaign to stop the expulsions.

The campaign began with a joint meeting, which agreed a set of demands aimed at university management:

Ensure no exclusions for Nigerian students who are unable to pay their tuition fees

Extend the payment period for Nigerian students struggling to pay their tuition fees

Allow students to pay their tuition fees at the pre-floatation naira rate of N584.20

As a way to galvanise support for these demands, and put pressure on management, the meeting also agreed an emergency protest for the following week. We decided to march through campus on 22 April, and deliver a joint letter to the vice-chancellor’s office, to put forward our demands, and request an in-person meeting between the vice-chancellor and representatives of the campaign.

Protesting works

Our campaign has shown that protesting wins! The university management has now said that it will allow Nigerian students to stay on at the university, if they pay 50% of their originally agreed fee instalment for this term. This is a welcome concession, and importantly gives us time to regroup, and plan the next steps for the campaign.

However, for any student who cannot afford 50% of their instalment, we must continue to demand no exclusions, while also continuing to raise the demand for students to pay fees at the old rate of naira. If necessary, we will organise future protests to back up these demands.

Spread to other unis

Another crucial way to strengthen our campaign at the University of Surrey is to spread these demands to other campuses. This crisis is affecting Nigerian students at universities around the UK. That’s why Socialist Students groups will be reaching out to Nigerian societies around the country to initiate similar campaigns on their campus.

As part of our campaign, Socialist Students members in Surrey have also contacted campus trade unions which, like students, are in battle against management – in their case, over the threat of up to 140 job cuts.

Vice-chancellors cut jobs for the same reason that they charge international students ridiculously high tuition fees – to make up for a broken higher education funding model. That’s why Socialist Students calls for a united movement of students and staff nationally to win fully funded, free education for all.

Read more about the situation in Nigeria at ‘Fighting the Nigeria cost-of-living crisis’