It’s been a long eight months (yes 8 months!) but finally, someone, somewhere within the UK Border Agency (UKBA) is satisfied that London Metropolitan University (London Met) has finally come up to scratch with its obligations as a Sponsor of international student migrants. London Met’s Tier 4 licence suspension nightmare is finally over. Well, almost.
The UKBA made the following announcement on its website:
“Following the revocation of London Metropolitan University’s licence, we undertook a series of detailed checks on their systems and processes for monitoring non-EEA students. As a result the university has made significant improvements, which is why we are now allowing the university to again sponsor students.
“The university now has appropriate checks and processes in place to monitor its international (non-EEA) students, which is why we have allowed the university to again sponsor students under the Tier 4 route.
“Over the next 12 months the university will have the opportunity to demonstrate that it can maintain these standards and work towards becoming a full Highly Trusted Sponsor. Over the past year our aim has been to support legitimate students choosing to study in the UK.
“It is in the interest of international students that all institutions take their immigration responsibilities seriously and demonstrate that they comply with the rules.”
In a statement from London Met, vice-chancellor Malcolm Gillies said:
“This is excellent news for our students and our university, which looks forward to welcoming students from around the world who want to study at one of London’s most diverse academic institutions.
“London Met has a long history of providing education to international students and we can now continue this long-term commitment to offer them quality education.
“Students can have total confidence that our processes are stronger than ever. I take this opportunity to thank all staff and students and, in particular, international students for their patience and support over the last nine months.”
London Met was previously a Highly Trusted Sponsor, and lost its status in August 2012. The right to remain and study in the UK was put at risk for some 2,600 students. The issue was temporarily sorted – giving a slight reprieve to the University’s students already in the UK – but London Met was still prevented from recruiting new students until their licence issue was fully resolved. As a result they could recruit no students for the January 2013 intake.
With the UK’s National Union of Students (NUS) joining what was an intense and fiery battle, London Metropolitan University took the case to the High Court last year. Despite the UKBA finding significant shortcomings within the University’s administration, Mr Justice Irwin – the Judge who heard the case – allowed London Met to seek a Judicial Review of the decision to revoke their licence, which will be heard in October 2013. Mr Justice Irwin refused, however, to quash the UKBA’s decision to withdraw.
The UKBA has subsequently confirmed that current students of London Metropolitan University who have leave to enter / remain in the UK will be allowed to finish their courses.
As expected, students of London Met are relieved with the news. Emmanuel Egwu, a final year student said:
“I am truly thrilled that London Met has finally got back its licence. I came from Nigeria, to study here in the UK and London Met has given me the opportunity to exercise and develop my academic knowledge.
“There isn’t another university who can give students a quality and affordable education, right here in the centre of London.
“My four years of studying at London Met have been fantastic and I encourage students to find a place here- it’s a great learning environment.”
The NUS responded to the news at its annual conference in Sheffield. President Liam Burns said:
“It is welcome news that students have greater stability and security now London Met is back on the road to regaining its HTS licence, and that existing students can finally have confidence that they can continue their studies at a university with a licence.
“We do however have some pressing concerns about restrictions on numbers, work placements, and re-sits in this transitional year and will be urgently seeking further clarification.”
The National Union of Students has joined other stakeholders in criticism of the UK’s Coalition Government over the way it treats international students, especially counting them in net migration figures. This argument has support from a wide-range of sources, including five parliamentary committees.
Burns went on to say:
“This whole saga has shown why the Home Office urgently needs to take responsibility for the damage it has caused to the reputation of the UK’s world class education system and change the way it treats international students to ensure full and proper protection for those studying in this country.
“It is deeply problematic for immigration policy to interfere with teaching and learning, both of which should be firmly in the hands of students and educators.”
A further statement surrounding the issue, from Professor Gillies, was made on London Met’s website:
“Many staff and students have been asking about the university’s progress in regaining its licence to sponsor international students.
“I am pleased to say that the University has now submitted its application for a Tier 4 licence to the UK Border Agency on 1 March 2013.
“We have recently learned that the dates for the High Court case with the UK Border Agency have been set for 17-18 October 2013.
“Although that might seem a long way away, the university and its lawyers Penningtons are already working hard on the case.”
Meanwhile, London Met is set for a bumper recruitment drive to recover from this sorry saga, with a planned four-month tour through 17 countries. Further, nearly 5,000 potential students have made applications for the September 2013.
I do not think that this will be the last we hear about London Metropolitan University and the UK Border Agency / Home Office.