In my family, I was a bit of trailblazer. I came to the United Kingdom as an EU student in 2014, to study at Middlesex University. My little sister has already visited London this February to see if she’d like to join me when she goes to university. She fell in love with London in a similar way to me – enamoured with its vibrancy and diversity.
But her dreams of studying here in England are now under threat.
Over the weekend, government plans to remove ‘home status’ from EU students such as myself and her were leaked. For the 150,000 learners from the EU who currently study here in England’s universities, colleges and apprenticeship providers, they broadly have access to similar opportunities as UK nationals.
But the government’s plans will significantly raise tuition fees for EU students, remove vital financial support and make it far harder for us to apply to study here in the United Kingdom.
This isn’t no-deal ‘Project Fear’ - this is government’s stated aim, no matter the Brexit outcome agreed.
It shuts off our world class education sector from the world, limits opportunities for young people like my sister and will ultimately means our universities and colleges are less diverse places, as EU students will rightly decide they are not welcome.
That’s why I’m proud to stand alongside over 100 elected student representatives from 55 students’ unions in writing to the education secretary, Damian Hinds, to demand that he and the government stop these regressive moves.
Students’ Unions see everyday the impact that Brexit is already having on all of our students. We’re watching our future’s being thrown away, before our eyes. For international students, it’s even worse than the economic insecurity and limiting of opportunities that others already feel. It’s a genuine fear that we are no longer welcome in this country.
It’s one of the many reasons why the overwhelming majority of students and young people across the United Kingdom, through groups like For our Future’s Sake, support a People’s Vote on any agreed Brexit deal.
For all of the government’s thinly veiled talk of ‘Global Britain’, we know that their agenda is ultimately about making this country smaller and inward looking.
These plans by the education secretary show how vacuous that agenda truly is.
Any government which wishes to be open to the outside world would surely not do everything in their power to make it as hard as humanly possible for international students to study and live here.
It makes little sense. Not just because our educational institutions thrive through internationalisation that is now under threat. Nor because it has been shown - time after time - that EU students are net contributors to local economies and communities.
But also because the positive feelings and relationships engendered by those coming from across the continent and the world, will be lost. A whole generation missing out feels like a backwards step in the Global Britain strategy.
Young people are the ones with open values and outward looking to the world. We know that our future’s, and that of the UK and the rest of the European Union, are best served by working together.
After Labour’s NEC meeting this week, let that be a word of warning to all major political parties. Anyone who doesn’t speak to those values will struggle to gain our votes.
Students and young people are united - the government’s plans are self-defeating and regressive.
And students’ unions will not stand idly by whilst they plan to take away opportunities from a whole generation of young people - my sister included.
Erica Ramos is the incoming vice-president for Union Development at NUS