British Prime Minister David Cameron on Wednesday assured foreign students that they were welcome to “come here and study [in] and use our universities” even as he defended the decision to strip the London Metropolitan University (LMU) of its right to sponsor international student visas affecting more than 2,000 foreign students, including several hundred from India.
His remarks, during the Prime Minister’s Questions in the House of Commons, came in response to criticism by MPs who were concerned that genuine students, who had paid full fee and complied with all the rules, faced deportation.
“You need to tackle visa fraud but will you lift the threat to deport students who have paid their fees and complied fully with all the rules? Why are you so damaging the standing of British universities around the world?” asked Labour’s Stephen Timms.
Mr. Cameron said: “What I want to see is Britain open to students and let’s be clear: anyone who can speak English and who has a university place is able to come here and study and use our universities. But, quite rightly, the Immigration Minister has been very hard in terms of closing down bogus colleges and making sure good universities like this one, if they are not meeting the rules, they have to take action. That must be right if we are going to control immigration.”
The university has launched legal action against the UK Border Agency (UKBA) for taking away its licence to sponsor and teach non-European foreign students on the ground that it was sheltering illegal immigrants in the guise of students.
The border agency claimed that checks revealed that many students had no right to stay in Britain and some had the wrong kind of visas that did not allow them to study.