London Met wins reprieve in student visa row
Mr Justice Irwin at the High Court ruled yesterday that more than 1,000 international students could continue their courses on Monday, while London Metropolitan University (LMU) challenges the suspension of its licence.
The university has an arguable case against the UK Border Agency’s decision to revoke their licence to sponsor students from outside EEA (European Economic Area).
Last month, the university’s right to sponsor overseas students for UK visas was taken away by the UK Border Agency, who claimed the university was not making proper checks on overseas students. This measure affected over 1,000 students just weeks before the start of the new academic year.
Richard Gordon QC, the university’s counsel, defined this as a “strong prima facie case” and said to the High Court: “The financial impact on the university, and on its reputation and good will, are enormous. The impact on students’ education, financial position and the disruption to their lives is extremely significant.”
The UK Border Agency claimed its decision to revoke the licence was correct due to the fact the university had “serious failings” in its system. Their investigation found out that, in a sample of 101 students, more than a quarter had no permission to be in the country and there was no evidence their level of English was good enough to get a student visa.
In court for the Home Office was Lisa Giovannetti QC, who said London Met did not deliberately breach the regulations, but rather failed to implement them effectively.
The president of Universities UK, Professor Eric Thomas, said: “This decision should allow some students to be able to finish their courses prior to the main legal proceedings, which is good news. This is, however, an opportunity to reflect on how immigration compliance in relation to international students is handled.”
London Metropolitan University and the Home Office are trying to find the best ways to achieve the judge’s objectives of protecting students for the time being and, with this in mind, last week the government guaranteed £2 million to help the students affected.
After the ban, genuine LMU foreign students were initially faced with only two options: leaving the country within two months or making another university application. The latest ruling allows current students with full immigration status to continue with their degrees at London Metropolitan University.
Ashiqur Rahman, a third year student in computer science from Bangladesh, said: “I am very happy if it’s true that I can continue my studies at the university, but I am waiting for confirmation.”