Beleaguered London Metropolitan University officials have set up a help-line for anxious international applicants – as doubts still hangs over its Tier 4 licence and the right to sponsor overseas students.
With only weeks before term, the currently suspended London Metropolitan University still does not know whether it will be allowed to recruit new or hold on to existing non-EU students on Tier 4 visas.
The university says this lack of certainty has already cost £10m and risks “panic” among students.
The UK Border Agency (UKBA) said: “We have not made a decision yet.”
London Metropolitan had its status as a “highly trusted sponsor” suspended in July – which prevented it from being allowed to recruit overseas students.
But with the new term approaching, there has been no decision on whether the licence will be revoked or reinstated.
The university’s vice chancellor Malcolm Gillies said the continuing doubt was “hugely worrying” for the university students and staff.
Professor Gillies also warned of the damage to the wider UK higher education sector as it competed with other countries to recruit overseas students.
“What message will it send abroad?” he said.
Although there have been other suspensions, so far no UK university has been fully stripped of its ability to recruit overseas students.
As well as stopping the university from accepting new applications, losing the licence could also affect thousands of existing overseas students at the university, who might be in their second or third years.
According to the information published by the UKBA, if a university has its licence withdrawn, overseas students would only have permission to stay in the UK for 60 days.
During this time, students would have to find another university or college to sponsor them.
In the case of London Metropolitan this would affect about 2,700 current overseas students, who will have already paid for one or more years of a degree course.
Overseas students have become an important income for universities – and blocking their recruitment will have considerable financial implications.
The university has warned of a “growing £10m-plus hole” from the delay, which is continuing through the peak of the clearing process, when empty places are allocated.
Professor Gillies says that the viability of many courses – both at London Metropolitan and other universities – depended on overseas students.
The withdrawal of overseas students would mean a considerable “re-configuring” of courses, he said.
There have been newspaper reports claiming that the licence was going to be withdrawn – but the UKBA says a final decision has not been made.
In response, Prof Gillies had said: “To learn that we might have our highly trusted sponsor status revoked via a newspaper, with the panic that this can cause for thousands of students, is outrageous.”
A statement for the university said its priority was to provide advice to students and applicants “who have put their faith in our institution”.
“They will need clear information on their options for future study and timelines for securing those options,” it said.
The National Union of Students called for immediate clarification about the consequences for students “plunged into disarray” by reports the licence would be withdrawn.
“This situation is already costing real students, real money and real distress,” said NUS president Liam Burns.
A statement from the UKBA said: “Any education provider has to meet strict standards, ensuring they provide high quality education, and take their immigration responsibilities seriously. We will not tolerate any abuse of the immigration system.”
There has been a long-standing balancing act between financial pressures to recruit more overseas students and concerns student visas were being misused as a way of entering the UK.
Cross party MP’s and University leaders have called for overseas students not to be included in the target to reduce migration figures, but this was rejected by ministers. Source: BBC.
Many prospective students have already a visa for London Met, having received a CAS from the university prior to the suspension, and are ready to travel.
If the university’s licence had been reinstated, their student’s would be safe. But if the licence is revoked all their Tier 4 student’s visas will be cancelled by the UKBA, which will give them 60 days to find another provider or get out of the UK.
A student visa is no longer transferable to another college or university, following one of the raft of UKBA restrictions designed to deter so called ‘bogus’ students.
This means that, like thousands of others studying at private colleges effectively put out of business by the UKBA, London Met students will have to apply for a new student visa, which will only be granted if they continue to qualify.
Should the UKBA press ahead with a Tier 4 revocation of a government UK university it will send out an extremely negative message to the multi-billion pound international student market. The damage to Britain’s reputation abroad will be incalculable as no institution will be safe.
London Metropolitan’s website, which despite the suspension still appears to be advertising places to international students and barely mentions their Tier 4 suspension, made the following announcement:
We are aware of information in today’s Sunday Times newspaper about London Metropolitan University and UKBA. We will be making an announcement once the facts are known on Tuesday. We will be providing advice and support to those affected from Tuesday.
We have opened a hotline to answer any questions you might have:
+44 (0) 20 7133 4141
Their ‘Latest News’ section leads with the story:
‘London Met has been ranked among the best universities in the UK in terms of giving students the best “added-value”, in helping them to secure well-paid jobs.’
The article goes on to state that:
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.