A London university’s licence to sponsor and teach overseas students has been revoked by the UK Border Agency, leaving more than 2,000 undergraduates potentially facing deportation.
London Metropolitan University has had its ability to sponsor students from outside the EU revoked, and will no longer be allowed to authorise visas or retain thousands of Tier 4 students already studying at the university.
The UK Border Agency said it had “failed to address serious and systemic failings” identified six months ago.
A task force has been set up to help students affected by the decision.
As well as stopping the university, which has 30,000 students in total, from accepting new applications, losing the licence could also affect thousands of existing overseas students at the university.
The National Union of Students (NUS) said it could mean more than 2,000 students being deported within 60 days unless they find another sponsor.
The university’s Highly Trusted Status (HTS) was suspended last month while the UKBA examined alleged failing, preventing it from being allowed to recruit overseas students.
The UKBA’s decision comes a day after Keith Vaz, chairman of the home affairs select committee, called on the Home Office to clarify the situation.
Last night an announcement posted on the university’s website:
The University regrets to announce that as at 8pm on Wednesday 29th August 2012, the UK Border Agency (UKBA) has revoked its Highly Trusted Status for sponsoring international students. Please see the earlier press statements on this page (below) for the context of this decision.
A statement read: “The implications of the revocation are hugely significant and far-reaching, and the university has already started to deal with these.
“It will be working very closely with the UKBA, Higher Education Funding Council for England, the NUS and its own students’ union.
“Our absolute priority is to our students, both current and prospective, and the University will meet all its obligations to them.”
Whilst there have been suspensions, no other UK university has been fully shot down and denied the ability to recruit overseas students.
The NUS has contacted Prime Minister David Cameron and Home Secretary Theresa May to “express anger at the way that decisions have been made in recent weeks and to reiterate the potentially catastrophic effects on higher education as a £12.5bn per year export industry for the UK”.
NUS president Liam Burns said: “This decision will create panic and potential heartbreak for students not just at London Met but also all around the country.
“Politicians need to realise that a continued attitude of suspicion towards international students could endanger the continuation of higher education as a successful export industry.
“This heavy-handed decision makes no sense for students, no sense for institutions and no sense for the country. This situation and the botched process by which the decision was arrived at could be avoided if international students were not included in statistics of permanent migrants.”
Help for students at London Met
Universities Minister David Willetts has announced a task force to help overseas students affected by the decision.
He said: “It is important that genuine students who are affected through no fault of their own are offered prompt advice and help, including, if necessary, with finding other institutions at which to finish their studies.
“We are tonight asking HEFCE [Higher Education Funding Council for England] and Universities UK to lead a task force, which will include UKBA and the NUS, to work with London Metropolitan University to support affected students and enable them to continue their studies in the UK. The task force will start work immediately.”
The UKBA posted the following announcement today on its website:
We understand that international students at London Metropolitan University may be concerned.UK visa do not need to do anything immediately.London Metropolitan University student with a current, valid visa is on holiday outside the UK, they can return to the UK to start studying with London Metropolitan University should not travel.
Interestingly, no such help has been offered to the tens of thousands of students affected by the closure of private colleges.
A UKBA spokesman said: “London Metropolitan University’s licence to sponsor non-EU students has been revoked after it failed to address serious and systemic failings that were identified by the UK Border Agency six months ago.
“We have been working with them since then, but the latest audit revealed problems with 61% of files randomly sampled. Allowing London Metropolitan University to continue to sponsor and teach international students was not an option.
“These are problems with one university, not the whole sector. British universities are among the best in the world – and Britain remains a top class destination for top class international students.
“We are doing everything possible, working with Universities UK, to assist genuine students that have been affected.” Source: BBC and London Metropolitan University.
Ironically, the UK Border Agency has this month launched a new pilot scheme offering universities a range of specialist immigration services, ‘recognising the importance of universities within the higher education sector’.
Immigration Minister Damian Green said: ‘British universities are among the greatest in the world – and we want to continue helping them to recruit the brightest and the best students from overseas.
‘We have listened to feedback from the sector and acted, which is why we are bringing forward these improvements. At the same time we are committed to radically reforming the student visa system to weed out abuse and protect the UK from those looking to play the system.’
However, the reality is that the UKBA have scored another massive ‘own goal’ for Britain.
The decison to revoke the licence of a government owned university beggars belief.
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.’
Cynthia urges students to act quickly as the time bomb is ticking.
‘Existing Tier 4 students will have their visas cancelled by the UKBA and now have just over 60 days to find another provider at a time when many universities will have filled their places and apply for a new visa, assuming they still qualify.’
London Met appear to be accepting the UKBA’s decision and have not announced any legal challenge to stop the revocation, which would at least secure existing students for the time being.
Commenting on Immigration Matters, Syed Rumman, VP Education at London Metropolitan University, called on the Government to ‘immediately reinstate London Metropolitan’s HTS status, and stop jeopardizing the futures of thousands of international students who have chosen to study in the UK and are now instead faced with the prospect of deportation.’
‘This decision will violate our right to education and human rights as students will be forced to choose an Institution against their will.’
Are you an overseas student who will be affected by this decision? You can send us your experiences in the comments section below.
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.