As expected, London Metropolitan University has been granted leave in the High Court this afternoon to challenge the controversial ban on its recruitment of non-EU international students.
The Court also ruled that existing international students on Tier 4 visas with full immigration status should be allowed to continue their studies for now, throwing them a lifeline and a temporary stay of execution.
Last month the UK Border Agency revoked the university’s right to sponsor students for UK visas, leaving the UK studies of over 2000 in jeopardy.
The agency said the university was not making proper checks and claimed that some students were in the UK without permission.
Students were told they had to find alternative courses at other universities or leave the UK within 60 days of receiving a ‘visa cancellation’ letter due to be sent next month. Many were about to begin the second or third year of their courses and had spent up to £20,000 in fees alone.
The UK Border Agency is cracking down on alleged abuse of the student visa system and, following a purge of private colleges, London Met was the first university to lose its right to sponsor students from outside of the European Union for their Tier 4 student visas.
At the High Court in London, Richard Gordon for London Met had said the issue “came down to fairness”.
He said there was a strong case that the UKBA’s decision was unlawful and a temporary injunction (suspension of the ban) should be granted, given the impact of the decision on the university and its students.
Mr Justice Irwin refused that request but did give the university permission to mount a full legal challenge in the form of a judicial review and made temporary orders protecting some students.
He said that existing overseas students and ones who are due to start this term would be allowed to start or continue as long as they were already in the UK and had full immigration status, pending a resolution of the issue.
Mr Justice Irwin had earlier told the court the interests of the students needed to be taken in to account.
Referring to students whose visa status was in order, he had said: “I would be interested in respect of such students whether a concession could be made”.
The UK Border Agency (UKBA) took away the university’s “highly trusted status” at the end of August – meaning it can no longer recruit students from outside the European Union – in a crackdown on alleged abuse of the student visa system.
Last week the government pledged £2m to help students affected. A “task force” had been set up to help them find alternative courses.
Donna Marie Winstanley, a third year London Met student from Hong Kong, told the BBC News website she was pleased by the ruling.
“It’s really good,” she said.
“I have not applied to any other universities. I had a feeling that the university was going to win the case. Most of my classmates have already applied. I didn’t want to pay any more money. I had already paid £16,000 in fees for my first two years.”
Ashiqur Rahman, a third year computer science student from Bangladesh said: “I am very happy if it’s true that I can continue my studies at the university, but I am waiting for confirmation”.
The National Union of Students, which is about to lodge their own third party action on behalf of students, welcomed the ruling. It says the case has huge implications for international students in the UK and others thinking about coming to Britain to study and had asked to give evidence in the case.
Professor Eric Thomas, president of Universities UK (which represents university leaders), said: “This decision should allow some students to be able to finish their courses prior to the main legal proceedings, which is good news.
“This is, however, an opportunity to reflect on how immigration compliance in relation to international students is handled. We must remind ourselves of our duties to international students and ensure that, in future, legitimate individuals who have come to the UK in good faith are not forced to suffer the distress and uncertainty endured by many in recent weeks.” Source: BBC.
The legal arguments, and lawyers fees, will go on for weeks if not months. But the important thing for their current students is that their visas should not now be cancelled on 1 October, thus allowing them to continue the studies for which they have paid many thousands of pounds in advance.
The legal action could cost the university between £50,000 and £100,000, but that’s a drop in the ocean compared to the millions of pounds they would lose if their licence is permanently revoked.
If you need any immigration advice or are worried about the new immigration rules or need help with Sponsorship or Tier 2, Tier 4, applying for university if your college has closed down, Visa, ILR, Settlement, Citizenship, Dependant Visa or an appeal against a UK Border Agency or British Embassy refusal, or if you have been waiting for a reply from the Home Office for longer than a year, please email:
Majestic College offer special packages for EU students. They also have a number of employers looking for staff right now and are willing to employ Bulgarians and Romanians.
For more information call Joanna on 0208 207 1020 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
It doesn’t matter where you come from – UK, Europe or anywhere else in the world, it is important to ensure that your qualifications are recognised. In the UK there is a national agency that carries out this service, they are called UK NARIC.