While we all start a new academic year, why, as humans, are we obsessed with separation and categorisation?

Border (n):
1) an outer part or edge
2) boundary
(Merriam Webster Online Dictionary)

While we all start our courses for the new academic year and relish fresher’s or refresher’s week, we need to ask ourselves an important question: why, as humans, are we obsessed with separation and categorisation? In our personal lives, we sometimes feel it necessary to give people labels, and group ourselves with people that we share attributes with. This always comes to prevalence when meeting new people, such as starting at university. This seems natural, but when these same things are applied in politics, is it right?

This question is especially important when considering what happened with the UK Border Agency and London Metropolitan University. The Home Office and UKBA say that they can prove that London Met has been letting in students that do not meet Visa and English language requirements for higher education level. However, it will not be a universal problem throughout the university– this is a personal, student by student priority. Depriving students that meet requirements because their peers do not is unfair. A judge has since revoked the ruling partially, but this has still caused personal and emotional upheaval. We may feel that this is better than doing nothing, but the circumstances are still unacceptable, and the ruling should not be believed to “settle the matter”. This is especially pertinent when it is only one group of students that have been affected – those outside the EU. Many these are also parts of the former British Empire, such as India. Many sent men to fight in the World Wars for our country, and had an alliance with Britain before the EU was created.

Is it right in our culture for former alliances from less than a hundred years ago to be abandoned, because of so much sway held by a current one? Fiction is a representation of life, and on a basic level, shows categorisation, as all the arts do – it is impossible to represent everything at once so a topic must be chosen. To choose one thing, borders must be physically or mentally set up, and block everything else out. When done well, it makes a brilliant piece of writing, that is focussed and coherent and able of connecting with a reader on a visceral level – in the words of Alan Bennett, reading “is as if a hand has come out, and taken yours.” Therefore, fiction, because of this categorisation, can only take in a small amount of “life”.

Politics is different though, especially in an age where we have an open internet with sites such as Tumblr and Twitter, which allow worldwide communication regardless of language. This means in all our human interactions we need to consider the idea of being global, not selective. In a time when our economy is struggling, we should turn to countries, like India. They are growing as a nation, so they can help us, by sending their students to our universities. Conversely, we can help them, so their next generations have an academic future without going abroad. Especially when the EU and its currency with the recession has its failings, such as the IMF intervening with austerity packages and most countries heavily in debt. Why judge those outside the European Union with these things on our mind?

Political thinking should be more human – messy, and individual. Otherwise we risk alienating others. As a second year non-EU student at the University of York said “The high percentage of international students is something the university system in Britain should take pride in, rather than punish innocent students with eviction.” Our reputation may be tarnished already internationally, but despite whether another university loses trusted status like London Metropolitan, the government and the Border Agency has to bear in mind that people are not pieces of paper, and are not categories either – we, and they, should reach out to them.

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