More than 2,000 students are facing potential deportation from the UK after the Government stripped a university of its rights to admit foreigners.
The London Metropolitan University has had its Highly Trusted Status (HTS) for sponsoring international students revoked. The university issued a statement on their website following the UK Border Agency's decision:
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, Higher Education Funding Council for England, the NUS and its own Students' Union.
Our absolute priority is to our students, both current and prospective, and the University will meet all its obligations to them.
The move could mean more than 2,000 students being deported within 60 days unless they find another sponsor, according to the National Union of Students.
Following the decision, the NUS contacted the Prime Minister and Home Secretary Theresa May yesterday regarding the situation of foreign students. NUS president Liam Burns said today:
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.
Immigration minister Damian Green defended the decision, saying that the university had shown "serious breaches" of its visa licence.
The chairman of the Home Affairs Select Committee Keith Vaz said the UKBA has "badly handled" the process of revoking London Metropolitan University's visa licence:
@standardnews governmnet may have best motives but this has not been handled well.I feel very sorry for the students who are now in limbo.
Process has been badly handled. Ukba may have best motives but students left in limbo. Could not have happened at a worse time #london met
However, the UKBA said that "systemic failings" had been identified six months ago, and that there were continuing problems with the university. The UKBA defended universities as a whole and said that it would be assisting 'genuine students':
These are problems with one university, not the whole sector. British universities are among the best in the world - and Britain remains a top class destination for top class international students.
[The taskforce] will work with London Metropolitan to support those affected and enable appropriately qualified genuine students to find another institution where they can continue their studies in the UK.
The executive officer at the London Metropolitan University Student Union has said that news of more than 2,000 foreign students being deported after the university's visa licence was revoked is "devastating".
Syed Rumman said that the decision could put the university at further financial risk.
Even "genuine students" are facing the prospect of having to find another course within 60 days or being deported.
ITV News' Alex Forrest talks to students potentially facing deportation:
The vice chancellor at London Metropolitan University has described claims that led to the institution losing its visa licence as "not particularly cogent" and said it would be disputing them.
– PROFESSOR MALCOLM GILLIES, LONDON METROPOLITAN UNIVERSITY VICE CHANCELLOR
I am not going to say that we accept what is stated in the letter sent to us revoking our licence.
We only received it at 8pm last night and are currently doing a full analysis, working together with the best lawyers in the country.
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.
Professor Eric Thomas, president of Universities UK said there were other ways of addressing UKBA's concerns and the university's licence should have been revoked only as a last resort.
He added that the move would cause "anxiety and distress to legitimate international students" at the university.
Later on in the day, students from the university gathered outside of Downing Street to express their distress and anger at the UKBA's decision.
The students taped their mouths, carried signs which read "International Students Not Welcome Here" and gave out leaflets which asked if the UK is open for all.