A government university has been banned from recruiting overseas after failing to inform the Home Office when overseas students failed to turn up for their courses.
In a rare move the London Metropolitan University has become only the second Highly Trusted university to have its licence to recruit international students suspended by the UK Border Agency.
The university announced that it had been suspended from the UK Border Agency’s list of Tier 4 Highly Trusted Sponsors while it worked to ‘clarify issues’ (usually known as breaches) over its handling of non-EU students, the Times reports.
Concerns were raised during two recent Border Agency audits on the way data on non-EU students is collected and stored, said Malcolm Gillies, vice-chancellor of the university.
In addition, issues regarding attendance monitoring and English-language testing data also needed to be resolved, he said.
The university said it will ‘continue to accept applications from international students over the summer’, despite the fact that it will not be able to issue them a CAS (Confirmation of Acceptance of Studies), which students need to apply for a visa, until the suspension is lifted.
International students already enrolled at London Met are not affected, while students granted visas for study in 2012 are also able to take up their places this autumn.
“London Met has worked hard over the last year to rectify previous inadequacies, conducting three of its own audits,” Professor Gillies said. “It will instantly rectify any residual deficits in its current practice.”
“The university remains a Highly Trusted Sponsor, but its licence is suspended while we resolve remaining issues. In fact, the response to UKBA is being drafted today.
“This is a peak time [for recruitment], and we are keen to make sure the suspension is lifted.”
London Met is only the second university known to have been suspended from the Highly Trusted Sponsor register since new visa rules were introduced by the coalition government last year.
Teesside University was suspended from the list in early February after concerns over “administrative processes”, but it was reinstated in May.
Professor Gillies said: “London Met and its partners have over 10,000 international students, around 10 per cent of London’s total.
“We applaud UKBA’s mission to stamp out visa or compliance abuse, and so to support the integrity of British higher education.
“London Met advocates higher education for all those with the qualifications and experience to succeed, whether domestic or international students.”
London Metropolitan is no stranger to controversy. In 2010 Immigration Matters reported that it was among a number of British universities which had wrongly claimed tens of millions of pounds from the taxpayer for students who never complete a course.
The Higher Education Funding Council for England (Hefce) ordered London Metropolitan University to pay back £36.5 million after it submitted inaccurate data on dropout rates.
An inquiry found that senior officials knew that the university was using too wide a definition of student “completion rates” to exclude those who had changed to other courses or postponed their studies.
The then Vice Chancellor and governing body were ‘forced to resign’ (not even fired) as the scandal was quietly swept under the carpet.
Private colleges are used to stringent action by the UKBA and many have suffered the consequences. Some have taken the UKBA to the High Court to fight for their licence for similar ‘concerns’ over issues such as record keeping.
Whilst large numbers of private colleges have lost their licence and been closed down (leaving thousands of students stranded) not one UK university has had its licence revoked, despite appearing to display a more relaxed attitude to Tier 4 compliance.
Last year Glasgow Caledonian were suspended after a clear breach of the guidance, but had its licence back in just two weeks.
The university had approximately 140 non-EU Tier 4 students studying on a nursing course, most of whom are Filipinos. What appeared to be the crux of the UKBA’s original complaint had been that the students were breaching the hours they are permitted to undertake paid employment as part of their tuition process.
The situation was resolved after UKBA compliance officers worked with the university to remedy their ‘concerns’. But many private colleges in similar situations have reported receiving no help from the UKBA and affectively been hung out to dry.
In the process thousands of students have been left to sink or swim.
Immigration Matters has reported on hundreds of how students enrolled on degree courses at private colleges were being left penniless and stranded as institutions closed because visa restrictions made their businesses unprofitable or impossible to run.
Tier 4 students whose college closes down find that they have just 60 days from UKBA’s notification to find an alternative college or to leave the UK.
Even when an alternative provider is found students have to apply and pay out for another visa – and show available funds having just lost most of their money.
The Rules or guidance do not give any consideration for lost funds, and if you are a penny short of the required amount you will be refused.
Geoffrey Alderman writing for the Guardian says high fees plus the prohibition of any part-time working by international students at private colleges have ensured the dramatic contraction of the multi-billion pound industry.
A cross-party group of British Members of Parliament (MPs) this week said that overseas students should be excluded from net migration figures which the government has pledged to slash.
Last week Immigration Matters reported that UK Immigration Rules, under which the UK Border Agency has been operating for four years, were rushed from the Home Office to the House of Lords yesterday, in an attempt to save the entire system from collapse.
Emergency action had to be taken by the beleaguered Home Secretary, Theresa May, after a unanimous ruling by Britain’s most senior Supreme Court judges that the Labour government broke the law by changing the rules without first allowing Parliament to scrutinise them.
The Supreme Court said ministers were wrong to refuse foreign workers, students and other migrants from the UK under criteria or guidance that had not been laid before Parliament or had not become law.
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 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 and access to fully funded courses with NO UPFRONT FEES. They also have a number of employers looking for staff right now and are willing to employ Bulgarians and Romanians.
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