UKBA pulls London Met sponsorship licence

31 Aug 2012 | Posted by Carl Thomas

The UK immigration authorities have pulled the London Metropolitan University's sponsorship licence, preventing the higher education establishment from accepting students from outside of the European Union.

Rumours began earlier this week when home secretary Theresa May suggested that the university may lose its right to sponsor UK visas for overseas students, prompting panic amid the 3,000 international students currently attending the university.

Now the UK Border Agency (UKBA) has confirmed the news, stating that the decision has come down to a judgement in government that the institution could not be trusted to help prevent illegal immigration.

The coalition government has made a reduction in illegal and legal immigration one of its key policies since entering government two years ago. The decision to revoke London Met's status as a Highly Trusted Sponsor marks the latest stage in this effort.

However, while the decision comes as part of a wider movement to lower UK immigration levels, the university's HTS status was ultimately removed because it failed three key tests set by the UKBA.

In sampling files from the London Met to assess how rigorously it was monitoring its foreign students, the immigration authority found that 26 out of 101 sampled students had no valid UK visa. Secondly, it found that of 142 out of 250 students had attendance problems; and finally, 20 out of 50 sampled English language certificates suggested that the evidence of the students' English had not been properly tested.

However, Professor Malcolm Gillies, vice-chancellor at the establishment, disputed the results and claimed that the UKBA's decision was "not particularly cogent". He added: "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."

There is now some concern about what will happen to the students who have found themselves caught in the middle of the debate.