Exeter faces criticism from its own student body after instating a new EU-only hiring policy for junior deans, which some students have described as “discriminatory”.
The policy, which took effect in Trinity 2013, states that applicants “must be eligible to work in the UK, within the confines of the EU Working Time Directive”. According to UK Border Agency regulations, non-EU international students can only work a maximum of 20 hours a week in the UK.
However, some students have challenged the necessity of this restriction, given that it excludes the roughly 40% of graduate students who live outside the EU.
“To have a citizenship criteria imposed on applications eliminates a lot of opportunities for internationals, given that many might not be fully funded for their degree,” said Esther Kwan, a Canadian Development Studies graduate student at Exeter. “I think that the college should give more assistance to international students who have more restrictions placed on them.”
Nikita Kaushal, president of Exeter House, a graduate accommodation building, cited Oxford and Exeter’s reputations for cultural diversity. “Having positions such as the Junior Dean available to all students irrespective of citizenship emphasises that every student has an equal opportunity to be a part of larger college life,” she said.
Exeter’s Rector Frances Caincross defended the college’s position, as well as the non-renewal of an Indian junior dean’s contract last Trinity term. “There is no case to answer about non-renewal because the junior dean at Exeter College was not due to have her contract renewed or continued,” Caincross stated.
“However, the UK Border Agency restrictions stipulating that international students work no more than 20 hours a week would apply to any future appointments.”
A 2013 Exeter HR study of junior deans’ work hours reveals that colleges do not share a standardised hiring policy, making Exeter’s citizenship requirements unique. Only one college in the study, Green Templeton, explicitly stated that their junior deans worked over 20 hours a week.
Exeter MCR President Challenger Mishra has questioned the validity of the hiring policy due to its basis in a 20-hour week work restriction. He acknowledged Exeter’s obligation to adhere to border regulations, but told Cherwell that the college currently only employs a Junior Dean and Assistant Junior Dean, which would raise the likelihood of junior deans working over 20 hours a week.
“Exeter should reopen these positions to international students and also look into the welfare of its Junior Deans by employing more people in such roles,” Mishra said.
Exeter’s restrictions appear to contradict the University of Oxford’s Policies and Guidance recommendation that full-time graduates on taught courses “do not undertake more than 8 hours’ paid work each week whilst studying”, and that working research candidates still be able to maintain 40 hours of academic work a week.
A 2012 study circulated with the consent of the Magdalen Dean of Arts surveying 89 junior deans further concluded that “it is estimated that the average role of a student dean demands 7.3 hours a week”.
The University declined to comment on Exeter’s specific case. “The role of junior dean and the hours they are expected to work varies across the different colleges,” a University of Oxford spokesperson told Cherwell. “The regulations introduced by the UK Border Agency will restrict employment opportunities offered to all non-EU students.”
Nevertheless, international graduate students in particular continue to oppose the new policy. Mishra told Cherwell that his MCR had voted against the “discriminatory” policy, but would continue communicating with Exeter to negotiate the restrictions.
“Lobbying in the University has not yielded tangible outcome because the University is not keen on meddling in a single college’s policy,” Mishra said in a statement to the MCR Presidents’ Committee last term.
“But this issue has the potential to escalate and could result in other colleges making similar policy changes, which would be far from ideal for international students.”