I predict a riot! Talking young people’s politics in the UK

I’ve had so much interest from folks at Uni, around town, internet people, even the media about the Open Café about young people’s politics on Monday. People have been asking: what do you think about this?

nervous cat is nervous

Mostly I think: “Oh God what have I got myself into”

I haven’t blogged in a while, so I wanted to share a draft of some ideas with you. And if you like it, you could always come along Monday and buy me a pint…

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Alone in the UK this Christmas

In-country visa applications should take about 20 days. UKBA are holding onto them for more than three months; leaving thousands of students stranded alone in Britain this Christmas.

UKBA’s poor service has left thousands of students stranded this Christmas

Sure, Britain isn’t perfect. But we do have things we do well, and university education is one of them. Our universities are among the best in the world, and according to UNESCO, somewhere near 400,000 students and researchers come to Britain every year to study with us.

If you’re an international student here and want to extend your visa – for example, if you are a Masters student beginning a research degree – the UK Border Agency accepts an “in-country application” for visa extensions. The procedure costs £394 and crucially, the UKBA requires every student to send all original documentation as well as their passport with the application. Documents are returned when the process is complete.

UKBA’s own target for returning a successful visa is 20 days. But UKBA isn’t doing what they promise. According to the Border Agency’s own independent inspector, only 12% of applications meet this target. A freedom of information request made in September found the average time for processing such a visa is currently 108 days.

The National Union of Students reports that thousands of international students are at risk of being held in the UK, unable to go home this Christmas because UKBA are holding onto their passports for – according to the Financial Times – between “four and seven months” (FT article here – £). At the University of Bath, of 151 students who submitted applications within the prescribed time – and paid the £394 fee – only 11 have received timely service from UKBA. Another international office responded to the NUS that of 300 visa applications made in September and October, only 30 have been processed.

This means that, if you have a university in your city, you can expect hundreds of international students to be stuck here this year through no fault of their own, having paid £394 to UKBA in the autumn, and often hundreds of pounds out of pocket on a return flight they can’t take, because their passport is being held by the Border Agency.

So whatever your political views on the matter do please remember: there are thousands of students, here, unable to see their families at Christmas this year, even though they have followed the proper procedures for visa applications, simply because UKBA can’t get their act together.

If you are running an event over the holiday period please let your local University’s students union know. They can forward details to those who may be here alone this Christmas.

The NUS is urging people to write to their local MP. Let’s make sure this level of terrible service isn’t suffered by international students again.

On young political narratives of hopelessness, and Franz Kafka

Poverty

Poverty – a flashcard from my focus group methodology

The following is an adapted excerpt from a thematic literature review, following a pilot study, that I carried out last spring. I proposed the finding that young people’s experience during the contemporary transition to adulthood challenges researchers with a complex, dualistic relationship between narratives as young people make reflexive, self-narrative transitions to adulthood. The accepted narrative is something like Horatio Alger Jr.’s ‘bootstrap’ novelle about the heroic self-made man. I drew examples from Nayak and Kehily’s studies of young masculinity and femininity during the dual transition of individuals from childhood to independence, and, as a period effect, the transition of British society from an industrial one to a neo-liberalist economy (Nayak and Kehily, 2008) in which making one’s own way in the world represents both a newfound freedom and new post-industrial shackle.

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Hands up who likes bees?

One thing I really like about student life is the conferences, and the way ideas cross-pollinate when a conference is set up right. That is, when there are spaces at a conference to ignore the conference and just shoot the breeze with some other student you’ve never met, from wherever, doing whatever. It’s best not when you find someone doing a whatever that’s similar to yours, but one that’s totally different but using the same framework, or language, or technology for understanding. What can we do to promote this kind of productive collision between ideas?

My secret plan, which I’ve been cooking up for some time, is to set up a collaborative blog, primarily for postgraduate research students, but inviting others along for the ride too, so that people can share their ideas whether thought through or not, and get that oh-so-important “web presence”. Even if it’s just to copy out a couple of sections from a paper they’ve already published, even only to point to a seminar group to check out the blog. Sounds good so far, right? And everyone says: yes! A lovely idea. Yes! I’ll write for you and that sounds just terrific and yes, yes, yes…

We all like positivity, yes?

If I organize it, will you come along? (Actual turnout not shown)


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Young antipolitical identities, or crafting figureheads for stormy seas

One reason I would like to keep this blog going is to experiment with ideas that turn up in my uni work but that would be more fun without all the citations and wide interrogation that come with doing academic papers.

The big idea in my head right now is youthful antipolitics (from Rys Farthing, 2010) which you could say is a criticism of depicting young people’s political engagement vs. disengagement as a binary. Is young politics so simple, that some kids vote and are good citizens, and some are basically Beavis and Butthead, and don’t give a damn? Or, is there something in sitting at the computer, for example, that doesn’t fit the paradigm of engaged politics but is still useful to young people and the societies they live in?

heh-heh heh-heh-heh

“I see no hope for the future of our people if they are dependent on frivolous youth of today, for certainly all youth are reckless beyond words” – Hesiod of Greece, 8th Century

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Bristol 2050

Just a quick note to let you all know about Bristol 2050, an  “open space” meeting with an open invitation to all those who want to talk about Bristol and its surrounding area’s future. Here’s more from their website, bristol2050.org.uk …

Business West have organised a Bristol 2050 ‘consultation’ but have consulted only business leaders. Their plan focuses on business growth, not human happiness and community. It also takes no account of the reality that economic growth can’t be infinite on a finite planet, that the world economy has serious structural problems and risks widespread collapse, and that even supposing continued growth were possible, our economic model is dangerously destructive to the climate and natural world.

A group of people involved with Occupy Bristol are starting a rival (and better!) People’sBristol 2050. We believe that between us, the people of Bristol and the surrounding area have the knowledge, ingenuity and skills to come up with a far better plan, and start putting it into action. We also think the 40 year timescale frees people to think more imaginatively, and to propose creative and hopeful futures.

First event: Open Space meeting on how we do this and including as many voices as possible.
Where: The Trinity Centre, Trinity Rd, Bristol, BS2 0NW
When: Sat 21st Jan, 2pm onwards (prob til 4pm)

All welcome! If you’re interested, please come along. Bring your thoughts, ideas and enthusiasm, but also, please, a willingness to listen to others. We are strong together, but we must be prepared to recognise that all of us have a valid contribution to make, and none of us has all the answers.

Worth a look!