LMU 'to commence urgent legal action' against UK immigration

London Metropolitan University (LMU) has stated that it intends 'to commence urgent legal action to challenge the revocation of its Highly Trusted status for sponsoring international students'. Last Wednesday, 29th August 2012, the UK's immigration authority, The United Kingdom Border Agency (UKBA) revoked the University's Highly Trusted Sponsor status, thereby preventing it from teaching students from outside the European Economic Area.

A student from outside the European Economic Area must find a UK education provider to sponsor him before he can apply for a UK Tier 4 student visa. LMU's loss of HTS status means that it can enrol no new international students and that those already studying at LMU, who number about 2,600, will have to find an alternative course or leave the UK within 60 days of receiving notification from the UKBA.

The UKBA stated last week that it had made its decision because of problems in LMU's systems for dealing with international students. In particular it alleged that it
• Had no proper systems in place to check that students had a Tier 4 student visa before accepting them as students
• Had no proper checks in place to ensure that students spoke adequate English.
• Had no adequate systems in place to check that students attended lectures

Yesterday, 3rd September 2012, Clive Jones CBE, the Chair of the LMU's board of governors placed a statement on the LMU website in which he announced the University's intention to fight the UKBA decision. Mr Jones said that the UKBA's decision could cost LMU up to £30m. He said 'the UK has a long-standing reputation of educational excellence'. He continued, saying that, as the first UK university to lose its HTS status, LMU had 'a duty to the [further education] sector to try to bring an end to the damage arising from UKBA's decision'.

Mr Jones's statement laid out his complaints about the UKBA decision making process. He said that
• LMU had been carrying out 'stringent' checks to ensure that international students were entitled to study. He said that the UKBA had provided no guidance on what was required 'despite being asked to do so on numerous occasions'
• LMU had been checking international students' English 'that not only meet UKBA's published requirements, but also exceed those requirements in a number of key areas'
• LMU had put procedures in place to monitor international students 'in a manner which we believe complies with UKBA's guidance'. He said that universities had 'consistently asked UKBA for more clarity in relation to the monitoring requirements' but had failed to get any
• UKBA officers ignored information provided by LMU during their investigation
• UKBA had changed their compliance criteria 'substantially at least 14 times in the last three years.

It is not yet clear what form the legal action will take though some experts expect a judicial review to be launched in the High Court. Mr Jones's statement said only that LMU had instructed Penningtons Solicitors to start the action 'so that its students can return to study as a matter of urgency'.

A UKBA spokeswoman told the BBC, 'the revocation of LMUs licence was the correct course of action and we will strongly contest any legal challenge.'

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