London Metropolitan University banned from teaching foreign students

The United Kingdom Border Agency (UKBA) has stripped London Metropolitan University (LMU) of its Highly Trusted Sponsor Status (HTS). This means that it can no longer provide overseas students with Confirmation of Acceptance of Studies (CAS) certificates. Overseas students need a CAS certificate to obtain a UK Tier 4 student visa. LMU cannot, therefore, accept new students from outside the European Union and all those non-EU students currently studying at LMU will have to leave the United Kingdom within 60 days unless they can find an alternative university that can provide them with a place. If they fail to leave, they will be eligible to be deported. It is not clear how many students are affected. The Daily Mail and the BBC have given the figure of 2,000 students but the figure may be higher.

Even if existing students can find a university at this stage, they will have to apply for a new Tier 4 student visa. This will cost them £716 if they apply in person in the UK or £394 if they apply from within the UK by post. It will cost £289 if they make their application from outside the UK.

The UKBA said, in a statement, that LMU had 'failed to address serious and systemic failings' in its systems. The UKBA carried out audits of LMU six months ago and found inadequacies in its systems. In its statement it said 'We have been working with them (LMU) since then, but the latest audit revealed problems with 61% of files randomly sampled. Allowing LMU to continue to sponsor and teach international students was not an option.'

Damian Green, the UK's Immigration Minister, appeared on the BBC's Today programme this morning, 30th August 2012, to justify the decision. He said that there had been 'serious systemic failures' at LMU. He said that it appeared that 'the university didn't have the capacity to enforce the rules.' He said that LMU had failed to adequately monitor the English language capabilities of overseas students, had taught some students who were not entitled to study in the UK because they did not have Tier 4 student visas and did not carry out adequate checks on students to ensure that they were attending courses.

The university had its HTS status suspended on July 16th 2012. The Sunday Times reported on Sunday 26th August that the UKBA intended to strip LMU of its HTS status. On Sunday, Malcolm Gillies, the vice-chancellor of LMU, put a statement on the university's website saying that it was 'outrageous' that he should learn of the loss of HTS status from a newspaper when the loss would cause 'panic for thousands of students'.

A second statement appeared on the LMU website last night saying 'The University regrets to announce that as at 8pm on Wednesday 29th August 2012, the UK Border Agency (UKBA) has revoked its Highly Trusted Status for sponsoring international students. The implications of the revocation are hugely significant and far-reaching, and the University has already started to deal with these. It will be working very closely with the UKBA, HEFCE (The Higher Education Funding Council for England), the National Union of Students and its own Students' Union.'

The National Union of Students (NUS) has objected vehemently to the revocation of LMU's HTS status. The NUS president, Liam Burns wrote letters last night to the Prime Minister, David Cameron and the Home Secretary, Theresa May, to protest against the decision which, he said, could have 'potentially catastrophic effects on higher education as a £12.5bn per year export industry for the UK'.

Mr Burns said 'This decision will create panic and potential heartbreak for students not just at London Met but also all around the country. Politicians need to realise that a continued attitude of suspicion towards international students could endanger the continuation of higher education as a successful export industry.'

Mr Green has said that the government will do all it can to ensure that those genuine students who have been adversely affected will be able to find new courses. Universities Minister, David Willetts MP said 'it is important that genuine students who are affected through no fault of their own are offered prompt advice and help, including, if necessary, with finding other institutions at which to finish their studies.'

The NUS carried out a survey earlier this year and found that 40% of international students would not recommend attending education courses in Britain.

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