London Metropolitan University has had its Highly Trusted Status (HTS) for sponsoring international students revoked and will no longer be allowed to authorise visas, according to the institution’s website.
More than 2,000 students potentially face removal after a university had its licence to teach and recruit students from outside the EU revoked.
As foreign students were thrown into panic over the announcement, Universities Minister David Willetts last night announced the formation of a task force to help those affected by the decision.
He 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 government says it wants to assess how many students will be successfully reallocated to alternative institutions before the UKBA sends out notices giving them 60 days to leave. At this stage, the Home Office is unable to say when those notices will be issued.
The UKBA says London Metropolitan University had “failed to address serious and systemic failings” identified six months ago.
Immigration Minister Damian Green said London Metropolitan University had failed in three particular areas:
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 of 50 checked files found “no proper evidence” that the students’ mandatory English levels had been reached
And some 142 of 250 (57%) sampled records had attendance monitoring issues, which meant it was impossible for the university to know whether students were turning up for classes or not.
Professor Malcolm Gillies, the university’s vice chancellor, described the claims made against the institution as “not particularly cogent” and said it would be disputing them.
“I would go so far as to say that UKBA has been rewriting its own guidelines on this issue and this is something which should cause concern to all universities in the UK,” he said.
It is imperative that the move to tighten visa rules will hit UK universities’ ability to recruit foreign students.
The NUS and academics’ union UCU also fear that taking such a tough stance will send a damaging message to bona fide potential foreign students.
The National Union of Students (NUS) has contacted Prime Minister David Cameron and Home Secretary Theresa May to “express anger at the way that decisions have been made in recent weeks and to reiterate the potentially catastrophic effects on higher education as a £12.5bn per year export industry for the UK”.
NUS president Liam Burns added that the decision could have been limited to future students rather than covering existing ones.
Meanwhile, a group of London Metropolitan University students have held a protest outside Downing Street. Dozens of students and supporters sat in silence in front of the gates to Number 10, with tape over their mouths, before police moved them across the street.
Universities Minister David Willetts has announced a task force to help overseas students affected by the decision, which will include UKBA and the NUS.