- Tower Hamlets
Students and lecturers in east London are in uproar over the government’s decision to revoke London Metropolitan University’s right to sponsor foreign students.
Over 2500 international students at London Met, which has campuses in Tower Hamlets, could be deported unless they can enroll at another university within six months.
The UK Border Agency pulled the University’s ‘Highly Trusted Status’ after it reportedly discovered more than a quarter of students sampled throughout investigations did not have permission to live in the UK.
This will prevent students from outside the European Union from studying at the university – including those who are midway through degrees and others who are due to start this year.
President of the National Union of Students Liam Burns said: “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.
“This decision will create panic and potential heartbreak for students not just at London Met but also all around the country.”
But Aashti Bawa, International Students’ Officer at Goldsmiths Students’ Union, who is also an international student from Oman, approved of the UKBA’s decision.
She said: “I’m not saying it is right that there are so many international students looking for help and a place to go and finish their studies, but, as a sponsor, it was the university’s responsibility to ensure that they had students with visas as well as ensuring that those international students were attending classes.
“This irresponsibility has put all international students in danger of becoming victims of deportation and immigration changes not only in London, but in all of the UK.
Universities UK, the higher education membership group, meanwhile voiced their concern for “legitimate international students.”
UUK President Eric Thomas said: “Our first priority is to support the international students affected by this action to ensure that, wherever possible, they can stay in the UK and continue their studies.
“Universities UK will be working closely, via a taskforce, with London Metropolitan University, the Higher Education Funding Council for England and the NUS as we seek to mitigate the impact of this decision on students.
“This action by the UKBA against London Metropolitan University will not affect international students registered with other UK institutions.”
The decision could cost London Met as much as £30m, according to the Guardian. Universities are becoming increasingly dependent on international students, who can be charged higher prices, after massive cuts to their government teaching grants.
Queen Mary’s University in Mile End could not comment on the matter, but have been assured of their Highly Trusted Status following a recent visit from the UKBA.
But Kathryn Denyer, a solicitor at LexisPSL Immigration, said many more universities could see their right to sponsor revoked.
Denyer said: “The criteria for Highly Trusted Sponsors have become more stringent over time and the UK Border Agency no longer issues sponsor action plans to these sponsors as an alternative to revocation. Revocation action is therefore more likely to be taken now than in the past.
“The sponsorship regime focuses almost exclusively on preventing or addressing abuse of immigration laws, with issues such as financial losses to individual students and damage to the UK’s export market for international students being out of scope.”
“Unless the UKBA softens its approach, it is likely that other universities will have their licences revoked in the coming months.”
Des Freedman, a lecturer at Goldsmiths and president of the Goldsmiths branch of the University and College Union, told EastLondonLines that the decision would be devastating for students.
He said: “This is an unprecedented decision from the UKBA which will devastate students and staff at an institution that is already facing an uncertain future.
“It sends out a message that, far from us welcoming international students and recognising their huge contribution to UK higher education, they are instead to be seen as a threat and to be treated with suspicion.
“I hope that all those involved in higher education will join together to demand an amnesty for all current international students at London Met and that the UKBA look again at their decision.”
Written by Jo Abbas and Alan Dymock