This paper explores how the hostile environment manifests in UK higher education. Our findings highlight the specific challenges encountered by asylum seekers in negotiating access to, and participating fully in, higher education. This group are categorised as international students, rendering them ineligible for student finance to meet the cost of living and university tuition fees in addition to exclusion from mainstream benefits and the labour market. The empirical data generated through a survey of universities, students and support organisations is explored first through the concept of universities as sites of bordering and the original framing of the higher education border. Second, the data is used to picture the state of solidarity at this border, arguing that redistributive solidarity and solidarity as ‘standing up beside’ are needed, but both require further investment from HEIs. In conclusion, we argue that the hostile environment creates overlapping and intersecting restrictions on these students and that this, amplified by the complex relationship between HEIs and the state, causes a conflict of solidarity between, on the one hand, supporting students and, on the other, officiously complying with the Home Office.

DOI: 10.1080/1369183X.2020.1816814
ISSN: 1369-183X