Campaigning for scholarships for refugees – and free education for all

Portsmouth: Campaigning for scholarships for refugees – and free education for all

Refugees in Calais, photo by Paul Mattsson

Refugees in Calais, photo by Paul Mattsson   (Click to enlarge: opens in new window)

Vladimir Bortun, Portsmouth Socialist Students

One of the issues getting students most angry and active recently has been the refugee crisis.

Portsmouth Socialist Students, together with activists from other student societies, have launched a petition asking the University of Portsmouth to offer 20 scholarships to refugees. 26 British universities have already done this.

We already have over 1,000 signatures and our petition has been endorsed by the student union. We are preparing an open letter to the governing body of the university to support the petition.

However, not all of our fellow students have lived up to this display of solidarity.

Some have launched an online counter-petition asking the university not to grant any scholarships to refugees. Their argument (which they refused to defend in an open debate) is that refugees should not get scholarships as long as domestic students have to pay for their education.

We replied to them – both in the local press and on the student union website – that we support free education for all and are also actively campaigning against fees, cuts and privatisation of education. Education should be a fundamental right rather than a privilege reserved to fewer and fewer people.

Our support for refugees goes hand in hand with opposing cuts in public services and putting forward a real alternative to austerity. All these issues are connected to one another as they ultimately have the same root cause – capitalism.

So it is us – socialists – who support refugees while also genuinely fighting for people’s needs in this country on a daily basis and not only when it fits a petty, xenophobic agenda.