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‘Deportation’ facing thousands of London Met students

More than 2,000 London Metropolitan students could be forced to leave the country after the university’s right to sponsor international students was revoked

The 30,000 student-strong institution last night (29 August) announced the UK Border Agency (UKBA) had cancelled its ‘Highly Trusted Status’ which allows it to issue student visas to foreigners from outside the European Union.

The status revoke comes after a UKBA investigation found problems with 61 per cent of randomly sampled files at the university.

While halting new international applications, the move may also have an impact on existing students with the National Union of Students estimating more than 2,000 current students could face deportation within 60 days.

Architecture faculty dean Robert Mull confirmed some incoming and current architecture students would be affected but stressed the school’s ‘strength in home and European Union recruitment’ meant the impact ‘was not a level where it would be catastrophic’.

He said: ‘The issue does not relate directly to architecture but we are obviously [working] as a priority to support as many students in architecture who require a visa.

He added: ‘Generally the diploma school is 95 per cent home and EU students and the undergraduate is 85 per cent home and EU.

‘We do not expect we will be cutting studios in fact new studios with Peter St John, David Kohn and Deborah Saunt will be submitting their programmes this Friday.

‘We are moving into our new studio [in Whitechapel] by Florian Beigel’ Architecture Research Unit at the end of September.’

He went on to explain the decision would not impact on the school’s recently launched architecture school in Moscow.

In a statement, university vice-chancellor Malcolm Gillies described the UKBA’s decision as ‘hugely significant and far-reaching’.

He said: ‘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, HEFCE, the National Union of Students 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.’

Liam Burns, NUS president, said: ‘This decision will create panic and potential heartbreak for students not just at London Met but also all around the country. The needs of students must be at the heart of any process to find new places of study and NUS will be working with UUK and HEFCE to support affected students and ensure as far as possible that they can continue studying in the UK.’

A UK Border Agency spokesperson said: ‘London Metropolitan University’s licence to sponsor non-EU students has been revoked after it failed to address serious and systemic failings that were identified by the UK Border Agency six months ago.

‘We have been working with them since then, but the latest audit revealed problems with 61 per cent of files randomly sampled. Allowing London Met to continue to sponsor and teach international students was not an option.

‘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.

‘We are doing everything possible, working with Universities UK, to assist genuine students that have been affected.’

Chris Williamson of Weston Williamson said: ‘We need to ensure legitimate students are encouraged to study here. They are vital to enrich the life of our universities like the best foreign footballers, they help raise the standard. It shouldn’t be beyond us to ensure the system is not abused.’

Philip Fawkner-Corbett, regional director at Stride Treglown, said: ‘Through decades of careful strategy, GB has established itself as a prime player in the global education market as a trusted and  exhilarating contributor – and this is particularly reflected in the Architectural sector.  The power house of future international marketplaces is forged around the formative educational relationships created at University.

‘The removal of London Metropolitan University’s right to sponsor international students at any time, but particularly when GB is at a level of focus in  global perception  in the midst of the most brilliant festival of sport, has to be recognised as a  wrong move and needs to be addressed instantly to maintain GB’s global image as the educational and Architectural centre of excellence to relate to .’                          

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