BY CHRIS ATKINSON
DARWIN NT University's international students are the latest victims of the government and corporate media's racist scaremongering campaign. The pass grade on an English language subject compulsory for international students wishing to study science has been increased from 55% to 60%, putting many students in danger of failing.
The NTU Student Union says the 5% increase will force many international students to repeat the English course and pay twice as much before they can even apply to enter the course they want to study.
In the 2001-2002 financial year, more than 6000 international students were expelled from tertiary study in Australia for visa infringements. In the same space of time, the federal government closed 100 English language colleges.
Yet, instead of protesting this persecution of overseas students, on July 1, the Ninemsn (the most widely accessed news source in Australia) web site reported that "the [education] department and the government were taking the issue seriously as part of a broader agenda for border protection".
The June 25 Northern Territory News front page reported that a death threat sent to NTU science dean Greg Hill, was "presumed to have been written by overseas students" because an accompanying anonymous letter said NTU "took our money and cheated us". On June 21, NT education minister Syd Stirling ordered an investigation into the teaching of English language at NTU.
Overseas students have a rough deal in Australian universities. Although in the mid-1970s the government set up a scheme to educate Third World students at Australian universities for free, by the late 1970s the government led by Liberal Malcolm Fraser had abolished this and replaced it with a fee-based entry program.
In most states, international students cannot get concession cards, yet working may breach their visa conditions. Although many come from wealthy backgrounds, others do not, and may be here because an entire community or extended family are putting all their savings towards the student's education. It is these students that the government is most worried will want to stay in Australia after their study is finished.
The academic pressure on such students is intense, as failing subjects can result in being forced to leave the country.
In Darwin in March, immigration officials raided the house of seven international students at 6am. After searching the students' possessions, they told the students that their visas were revoked and instructed them to leave the country immediately. Six of these students have since been deported. The remaining student is still appealing the deportation notice.
"It's quite clear that the corporate media is preparing the community for more attacks on international students", NTU Student Union representative and Resistance member Ryk Molon told Green Left Weekly. Pointing out that anti-Third World racism has increased in Australia, Molon argued that all students must actively combat this.
Resistance's campaign to have campuses listed as "refugee sanctuaries" will help, Molon argued. "Imagine students all over the country voting to declare their university a refugee sanctuary in defiance of the government and their corporate media mouthpieces. It would say we will not let you divide us. I think that would be very empowering, especially for international students who need our support more than ever."
From Green Left Weekly, July 10, 2002.
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