Government announces fund for London Met students as lecturers prepare for ‘day of action’

Demonstrators at the Home Office last week. Pic: EastLondonLines

A government fund will be set up to help international students from London Metropolitan University move to other institutions, it was announced today.

Universities Minister David Willets pledged two million pounds to cover the expenses of LMU students facing deportation after the University was stripped of its right to sponsor overseas students.

The funds will go to a task group set up by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills and be used to help students pay for repeat visa applications or moving residence.

The announcement came as students and lecturers across east London prepared for a day of protest against the UK Border Agency’s decision to revoke LMU’s ‘highly trusted’ status, having already demanded a full amnesty for the 2,700 students at risk.

Mark Campbell, branch chair of the University and College Union at LMU, pledged at a protest last week that any international students who turn up at the start of term will be taught in spite of the ban.

The UK Border Agency’s decision means that thousands of students already enrolled could be deported, unless another university agrees to take them on.

In a speech at the Universities UK confference at Keel University, Staffordshire, Willets said: “We are setting up a £2 million fund to help legitimate overseas students at London Met who face extra costs through no fault of their own as a result of transferring to another institution.

“This will provide certainty to London Met students at what is a stressful and unsettling time.”

Willets thanked the National Union of Students and universities for their part in setting up a “mini clearing operation” which will begin on Monday.

But he also delivered a warning to other institutions that contingency plans should be put in place in case the UK Border Agency decide to remove their own sponsor licenses.

Since London Met lost its highly trusted status the UCU has been trying to rally support, with the Trades Union Congress also joining calls for an amnesty.

In letters to several institutions the UCU have made pleas for support as they try to secure international students’ rights to complete their studies in the UK.

Patrick Loughry, warden of Goldsmiths, University of London, wrote in a letter to student union president Samson Osun that the institution would be working closely with the task group and treating applications from LMU students “sympathetically”.

He said the UKBA’s decision had “caused immense anxiety and distress to ail involved” and reassured students that Goldsmiths has retained its highly trusted status.

A spokesperson for Queen Mary, University of London reassured students that it has retained its status, and said: “We take our responsibilities very seriously and we are careful to ensure we work to the UKBA’s requirements.”

Marlon Gomes, Head of Admissions and Recruitment at QM, said: “Visa refusals for international students are at the same levels as last year. We have seen no evidence of an increase.”

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