LMU could lose its licence to admit foreign students, say reports

Several hundred Indian students face an uncertain future amid unconfirmed reports that the London Metropolitan University, which heavily recruits from India, could lose its licence to admit foreign students from outside the European Union because of allegations of abuse of student visas.

A university spokesman told The Hindu that the Home Office had denied that a decision had been taken.

“The Home Office has now denied that a decision has been made in regard to our Highly Trusted Sponsor status. We are working with them to resolve the issue,” he said, adding that the university expected the confusion to clear up before the start of the new academic session next month.

An official said there were an estimated 300 Indian students.

The university’s Highly Trusted Sponsor status, which allowed it to sponsor non-EU foreign students, was suspended by the U.K. Border Agency (UKBA) in July after identifying several “failings,” suggesting that foreign students were using the university as a cover to enter Britain. It was reported to have failed to ensure that foreign students did not end up as illegal immigrants.

Sponsorship powers cut

A report in The Sunday Times claimed that the Home Office had already taken a decision to strip it of its sponsorship powers. This meant that “about 2,600 students from outside the European Union will have 60 days to find places on courses at other institutions or be ordered out of the country.”

“Theresa May, the Home Secretary, is notifying [Prime Minister] David Cameron of her decision this weekend. Her officials have identified so many failings at LMU that the authorities no longer trust it to ensure that its foreign students do not become illegal immigrants,” it said.

After Ministers denied the report, University Vice-Chancellor Malcolm Gillies said: “As far as we are officially aware, the UKBA is still working through an analysis of our case.”

The university had “repeatedly tried to liaise with the UKBA to understand further their concerns,” he said.

“Disappointingly, the UKBA has been unwilling to communicate with the University, despite the growing £10 million-plus hole their action has already left on our balance sheet,” he said in a statement.