Thousands of students face deportation after UKBA ruling.

Posted: September 2, 2012 in Education, UK

Up to 3,000 international students at London Metropolitan University face possible deportation after the UK Border Agency (UKBA) revoked the university’s licence to teach them.

Students have 60 days to make a new application or to arrange to leave the UK, but the countdown starts only when the UK Border Agency (UKBA) writes to them and no letters will be sent out until 1 October.

The decision to remove the university’s licence threatens Britain’s reputation as home to one of the world’s thriving higher education sectors, sending a damaging message to all corners of the globe that the UK deports foreign students, critics have said.

Sally Hunt, general secretary of the University and College Union, said: “No matter how this is dressed up, the damaging message that the UK deports foreign students studying at UK universities will reach all corners of the globe. The last thing we can afford to do is send a message that international students are no longer welcome here. Yet Government efforts to impress a domestic audience by sounding tough on immigration, coupled with the chaotic handling of this affair, risk doing exactly that.”

The government has also set up a taskforce consisting of the UKBA, the Department of Business, Universities UK, the higher education funding body HEFCE, and the National Union of Students to deal with the situation. It is expected to have its first meeting on Friday to attempt to go through every London Met international student file to identify legitimate cases and help them enrol at other universities.

About 290,000 students and dependent visas are issued by the UKBA each year, and 110,000 extensions to such visas.

Dean Idumwonyi is studying for an MSc in computing at London Met. “It’s really terrible news,” he said in an interview. “My head is all over the place and I couldn’t sleep last night. My dad in Nigeria had a heart attack after he heard about all this. I don’t know how he is.”

Dean says he has paid £15,700 to study a number of courses at London Met. “After paying all this they are telling me to go,” he said. “I’m halfway through my course and they want to push me to another university. But I want to stay with lecturers I already know. It’s such a shock.”

Liam Burns, president of the National Union of Students, said it had expressed “anger at the way in which decisions had been made” by the Home Secretary Theresa May and the Immigration minister Damian Green. He added that it would have a “potentially catasthrophic” impact.

This news comes at a time when London Metropolitan University looks set to become the first British university taken over by a private company. Private contractors BT, Capita and Wipro are all bidding for a £74 million contract to run IT, libraries, student services, consultancy and careers advice.

A group of students went to Downing Street to protest against the UKBA’s decision. Workers and students have called further action, which will take place at 1pm on Wednesday 5th Sept outside the Home Office’s headquarters in Marsham Street. It is backed by London Met’s UCU and Unison union branches.

Mark Campbell, chair of the London Met UCU union, said, “We’ve called this lobby to defend our students. We need as many students as possible to join us, from London Met and elsewhere.”

Anger at the UKBA decision has spread quickly. In less that 24 hours over 2,500 people have signed a petition defending London Met students and calling for an amnesty for them. Support has also been coming in the form of a photo campaign.Image

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