The High Court could have the final say in a bitter dispute between immigration officials and a London university which has left 2,500 foreign students in fear of being deported, the Independent reports.
Legal experts are predicting that London Metropolitan University, which had its licence to sponsor non-EU students revoked by the UK Border Agency (UKBA), will have no choice but to fight the Government through the courts.
The decision to put the London Met’s 2,500 foreign students at risk of being deported came at a time when the Government is struggling to fulfil a promise to bring net immigration down to below 100,000 a year.
The Home Secretary Theresa May has resisted pressure from other ministers, including the Business Secretary Vince Cable and the Universities Minister David Willetts, not to include students within the Government’s cap. Foreign students add an estimated £12.5bn a year to the UK economy. The London Met is facing a £20m hole in its budget unless it can persuade the courts to over-rule the UKBA.
“London Met may have no choice but to dispute the decision, given the importance to it of fees from foreign students, and will probably have to seek a judicial review in the High Court,” Adam Chapman, head of public law at Kingsley Napley said.
He added: “Students who will be forced to leave the country may also seek to challenge the revocation of their right to study here. Only last year the court found that Burnley Training College was unfairly stripped of its sponsor licence”
A spokesman for London Met did not rule out a legal challenge. He said: “We dispute the basis of the decision. That’s as much as we can say at present.”
The university was also in talks with other universities about the possibility of finding places for the stranded students. Regent’s College, in London, has offered to take 200 students, and to make £800,000 worth of scholarships available to cover the difference in tuition fees. The principal of Regent’s College, Aldwyn Cooper, said: “This sends negative messages to the market which is damaging for UK higher education. We have put these scholarships in place to try and minimise the impact on students who, through no fault of their own, find themselves in this difficult situation.”
The university is looking into a £20m hole in the budget that the removal of foreign students creates.
The Sunday Times, which last week leaked the revocation plans three days before the university were informed of the news, revealed that 500 London Met students are already earmarked for deportation by the UK Border Agency.
Cynthia Barker of Immigration Advisers Bison Management UK, which advises students on visas and university placements, described the decision as a disaster:
‘The revocation by the UKBA is a disaster for the university, the international students and Britain’s reputation abroad.’
Immigration Matters has received hundreds of emails from distraught students, some of whom are still worried about money and unsure of when they will get their money back from London Met.
Some students have already lost fees when their private colleges were closed down by the UKBA and assumed they would be safe in a government institution.
Unlike private providers, government colleges and universities were handed Tier 4 sponsors licences and Highly Trusted Status on a plate. They did not have to jump through the many hoops to earn their licences, which is why many are now at risk of having them snatched back.
Owners of private colleges have long been envious of the way universities were allowed far more slack by regulators. Universities, it would appear, have been given enough rope on which to hang themselves.
The sector looks to be facing a dose of the same medicine force fed to private colleges in 2010 and 2011 when hundreds were put out of business by the UKBA.
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:
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