April 30, 2013

Petition: Vice Chancellor, University of Leeds - Stop Treating International Students Like 2nd Class Citizens!

My name is Sanaz Raji and until recently I was a PhD candidate at the Institute of Communications Studies (ICS) at the University of Leeds in the UK. In September 2009, I was awarded an ICS 3-year full tuition fee and maintenance scholarship. My scholarship was wrongfully revoked by the ICS on the 15 August 2011, without following rules and regulations set forth in the University of Leeds Research Student Handbook. For most of the past year I have been embroiled in an internal dispute with the University of Leeds because they refuse to follow their own written procedures as indicated in the Research Student Handbook. 

In short, the message that the ICS sends to international students is that their education, their wellbeing, even their health is of lesser importance than that of home students.

Please sign and join us in fighting this outrageous decision collectively. Let us make sure that the ICS (University of Leeds) is held accountable for their wrongdoings.

Key points:

1. My PhD supervisors at the ICS (University of Leeds) failed to provide for two consecutive years the minimum required 10 supervision meetings as indicated in the Research Student Handbook.

2. I was repeatedly denied on three occasions a change of supervisors, and I was bullied by the Postgraduate Research Tutor to continue with an unworkable supervisory arrangement. This violates the rules and procedures set forth in the Research Student Handbook.

3. I was not provided sick leave from the ICS when I suffered a broken right ankle. The ICS failed to meet their required pastoral role in this matter.

4. I was racially discriminated at a supervision meeting on the 23 March 2011, when my co-supervisor asked if English was my first language. I was perplexed why I was asked such a question given that English is my native language. Likewise, this co-supervisor had never taken issue with my writing style before this date or when I contributed a chapter for her co-edited book. None of my other PhD colleagues who come from South America, North America, Europe or Asia were asked about their English language skills. This ridiculous question was brought up in order to undermine my confidence and make me feel incompetent because I am a minority student in this country.

5. The ICS Research Scholarship (fees plus maintenance) was withdrawn without the ICS abiding by the rules and procedures set forth in the Research Student Handbook. Specifically, the Research Student Handbook states:

"It is essential that the student should be given clear information in writing on the assessment of progress. Where progress is deemed to be unsatisfactory, the student should be interviewed by the Postgraduate Research Tutor and the supervisor and specific instructions and objectives given. The student should be advised that failure to meet those requirements may lead to a recommendation for the termination of the candidature.” (2009/2010: 74)

In fact, my supervisory meeting notes from 2009-2010 and 2010-2011 do not indicate any issue with my progress.

6. The committee overseeing my appeal against the ICS has conducted a kangaroo court by not allowing a proper hearing between myself and the ICS. On the 12th October 2012, I was informed via e-mail by the Secretariat, Mr. David Wardle that I would by denied a hearing with the committee overseeing my appeal because the evidence I had sent was deemed "comprehensive" and therefore I would not be needed to make any additional comments. This violates my human rights and the law of the land. I am entitled to a hearing in order to (a) present my evidence, (b) hear what evidence the other party, i.e. the ICS has presented to appeal committees, and (c) be able to defend myself against any accusations.

After much delay, on the 16th April 2013, I received a final decision from the university, which was negative and did not address the finer points of the arguments I  made. Despite the ample evidence that I  provided, the University of Leeds does not wish to remedy the situation, but prefer to exhaust me  to such a manner that I am forced to leave academia altogether and give up the research and teaching that I enjoy.

Let us teach the ICS (University of Leeds) that they are not a law onto themselves. They must respect the rules and regulations as indicated in the Research Student Handbook as well as the law of this country.

Please sign the petition.

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