London Metropolitan University loses licence for foreign students

About 2,500 non-EU students at London Metropolitan University must now find a new institution of higher education to sponsor them for study visas or face having to return home in the next two months.

The British Border Agency has revoked the university’s licence to sponsor foreign students’ applications for study visas, on the grounds that the university has not been vigilant enough in its control of the students’ academic requirements. These include English language proficiency, attendance at lectures and completing courses within the time granted on their visas.

According to British Border Agency figures published in The Independent newspaper 26 out of a sample of 101 students did not have valid visas, 142 out of 250 had attendance problems and 20 out of the 50 interviewed had difficulties with English. The university has a total of 6,045 foreign students.

The decision comes just when hundreds of thousands of British, EU and international students are all competing for places at British universities before the academic year starts in October.

According to the UK Council for International Student Affairs some 428,225 international students (both EU and non-EU) were registered at UK universities in the 2010-2011 academic year, over half from non-EU countries. Most of these students came from China, followed by India and then Nigeria.

The decision on London Metropolitan University by the British Border Agency is said to be a one-off case but it will add to uncertainty among overseas students in the UK even though the university is not top of their popularity list. Manchester comes first with 10,490 foreign students (both EU and non-EU), followed by University College London (9,350) and then Nottingham (8,590). London Metropolitan is 17th on the list with 6,045 foreign students.

Students from outside the EU are greatly sought-after by universities in the United Kingdom because they pay much higher fees than either British or EU students.

Foreign students are estimated to be worth £12.5 billion to the economy each year. The vice-chancellor of London Metropolitan University has said that the Border Agency decision to revoke its “Highly Trusted Sponsor” licence could cost the university £30 million.

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