Picking Up The Pieces – London Met

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Thousands are left contemplating their futures as the UK Border Agency (UKBA), backed by the government, made a series of statements yesterday defending why the government decided to revoke London Metropolitan University’s licence to sponsor Visas.

Under the current law, any international student that resides outside of Europe and desires to study within the UK is required to have a sponsor in order to obtain their Visa for studying, which is usually their University. However, after this new decision comes into effect, around 2000 current international students studying at London Met will be left with 60 days to either find another sponsor (which will mean going to another university to finish their course) or face deportation back to their country of origin, leaving them unable to complete their university degrees. The NUS President Liam Burns stated:

It is disgusting that international students continue to be used as a political football by politicians who seem either incapable of understanding, or are simply uncaring, about the impact of their decisions on individuals, universities and the UK economy.

Liam Burns
NUS President

The NUS also stepped forward to defend international students, contacting both David Cameron and Theresa May, stating that the effects of this decision could have a significant impact on higher education and the economy. International students represent a £12.5bn per year export for the UK, as well international fees accounting for £30m of London Met’s, approximately 1/5th.

So why has the university been stripped of its Highly Trusted Status (awarded by the UKBA)? The UKBA has been auditing London Met for months, suspending their right to sponsor in July. Various reasons have been circulating as to the reasons why, so in order to provide clarity, Immigration Minister Damian Green stated that:

  • More than a quarter of the 101 students sampled were studying at the university when they had no leave to remain in this country.
  • Some 20 or 50 checked files found “no proper evidence” that the students’ mandatory English levels had been reached.
  • 142 of 250 (57%) sampled records had attendance monitoring issues, meaning that it was impossible for the university to know whether the students were turning up for classes or not.

UKBA have been accused of using international students in order to meet their targets of reducing immigration, which they have vehemently denied, stating that they are upholding the law. London Met University has been told that they don’t have the capacity to be a proper sponsor – although if that was the case why not make the decision a lot sooner?

Photo: Søren Goard

International students invest a large amount of time and money in order to attend and live in the UK, so after going through the correct procedures, why should the students get punished because of the failings of their university? Within the short time frame students have they are required to find new sponsors, which could prove difficult after universities have already handed out confirmation of places to students who have received their A-Levels. I would imagine though that other universities will be shuffling away and rubbing their wallets at the thought of extra cash cows ripe for the picking (bearing in mind that all universities have a limited number of international students they can cater for – otherwise they get fined).

The UK Border Agency will be writing to international students from October 1st ensuring they have 60 days to either sort their new student application of leave the UK. There are fears that imposing this rule will have serious consequences on the reputation of the UK being the central hub of higher education for international students. Only time will tell what these changes will mean and ultimately what the consequences will be, but in the meantime, all this decision has succeeded in is causing panic.

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