‘London Met will fight this revocation’

The crisis-hit London Metropolitan University (LMU) on Tuesday announced that it was taking legal action against the U.K. Border Agency (UKBA) for stripping it of 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 university said it had instructed its lawyers to “commence urgent legal action to challenge the revocation of its highly trusted status for sponsoring international students, so that its students can return to study as a matter of urgency.”

Rejecting the UKBA’s claim that the university suffered from “significant systemic problems,” its Vice-Chancellor Malcolm Gillies said: “London Met will fight this revocation, which is based on a highly flawed report by the UKBA. The University will continue to give top priority to the interests of our international students who have been so distressed by this precipitate action.”

The UKBA insisted that it had taken “the correct course of action.”

“We will strongly contest any legal challenge,” it said.

About 2,600 students, including 300 from India, have been affected by the UKBA’s decision. They have three months — until December 1 — to find places in other universities or return home, failing which they will be deported.

In a detailed rebuttal of the UKBA’s claims, the university said: “The evidence that we provided to the UKBA clearly shows on file-after-file that we were taking every reasonable measure we could to be compliant. The UKBA’s claim that London Met did not address serious and systemic failings that we identified 6 months ago is simply not true.’’

The university staff had been “diligently performing stringent checks to try and ensure that all individuals who are studying at the university are legally entitled to do so.” It said it had practices in place to monitor its international students in a manner which it believed complied with the UKBA’s guidance.

According to the UKBA, many students had no legal right to stay in Britain, while some lacked adequate knowledge of English. The university also failed to monitor the attendance of its overseas students as required under the terms of its licence. Up to 500 foreign students could be deported because of problems with their visas.

Keith Vaz, Labour MP and chairman of the Commons Home Affairs Committee, who visited the university said the decision had left a large number genuine students in a limbo.

“This cannot be right or fair to them. I hope the legal issues are resolved speedily,” he said.

In a scathing report, the Commons Public Accounts Committee said flawed implementation of student visa rules by the UKBA had allowed nearly 50,000 “bogus” foreign students to enter the country.

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