London Met Regains Foreign Student Rights

10 Apr 2013


Immigration News

London Metropolitan University regained the right to recruit foreign students on Tuesday after the seven-month suspension of its visa licence cost the institution £20m.

Malcolm Gillies, vice-chancellor, welcomed the government’s decision to reinstate its “trusted sponsor” status but raised the stakes in his legal battle with the Home Office by revealing the financial damage suffered by the university.

The UK Border agency revoked London Met’s visa rights in September, accusing the university of failing to monitor visa recipients closely enough. As a result, thousands of students from outside Europe who were due to join the university were given just 60 days to find a course at another institution or leave the UK.

Professor Gillies said London Met usually had about 4,000 foreign students enrolled each year, but had only managed to retain 1,000 after the licence suspension. “We have lost £20m of business . . . and forsaken income that traditionally comes from foreign students,” the vice-chancellor said. “That translates directly into educational opportunities and resources for staffing.”

He added that the consequences of the UKBA’s actions had spread beyond London Met to other universities, propagating a message that international students were unwelcome in the UK. “Although we may have been the example used in the sector, the damage went very wide,” Professor Gillies said.

The university is pursuing legal action against the Home Office and the UKBA which challenges the basis of their decision. The next hearing is expected in October.

Home Office ministers, who are battling to reduce net migration to Britain, have focused on preventing abuse of the student visa system.

Announcing London Met’s return to trusted status, Mark Harper, immigration minister, said it was in the interest of international students that all institutions should “take their immigration responsibilities seriously”.

“We have worked closely with university staff to ensure that London Met standards were improved,” Mr Harper said. “As a result the university now meets the required standards and we are able to grant a licence”.

Home Office policy dictates that the university will face 12 months’ probation when it must “build a track record of compliance”.

The university said 5,000 international students had made applications for September 2013 and staff were launching an intensive recruitment campaign in 25 countries.

Keith Vaz, a Labour MP who chairs the Commons’ home affairs committee, said Tuesday’s decision by the UKBA showed that its “hasty verdict” in September had been wrong. “It was poorly handled and has irreparably damaged the UK’s reputation abroad as the destination of choice for overseas students.”

Source: http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/3f70c992-a13c-11e2-990c-00144feabdc0.html#axzz2Q27J3Exx


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