Immigration minister Damian Green has suggested London Metropolitan university was stripped of its powers to authorise visas because a "significant proportion" did not have a good standard of English and do not turn up to lectures.
His comments came as students reacted angrily to the decision to revoke the university's of its its Highly Trusted Sponsor (HTS) status, which gives it the right to teach overseas students, meaning more than 2,000 foreign students are facing deportation.
Students now have 60 days to find another college or university to sponsor them to stay in the country, or they will be sent back home, after the UKBA cited failure to "address serious and systemic failings" as the reason for the withdrawal. They told The Huffington Post UK the decision would harm Britain's reputation as a hub for international students and questioned what would happen to the thousands of pounds they had spent on their degrees.
Damian Green has suggested London Metropolitan university was stripped of its powers to authorise visas because its students cannot speak a good level of English
Asked about the decision on Thursday morning, Green told BBC Radio 4's Today programme a "significant proportion" of students did not have a good standard of English and there was no proof that half of those sampled were turning up to lectures.
“Obviously one of the things we require is a decent standard of English, and again, a significant proportion of the files we checked, there was no proper evidence that the mandatory English levels had been reached," he said.
"We require the university to know that the students are turning up at the course, so that they’re not just using a student visa to come here to work. We found that more than half of the records we sampled showed that the university couldn’t show, they just didn’t know whether students were turning up or not."
"Any one of those breaches would be serious," he said. "What we found here is a serious systemic failure where it appears that the university doesn't have the capacity to be a proper sponsor and to have confidence that the students coming have the right to be here in the first place."
Syed Rumman, Vice-President education officer and former law student at London Met told The Huffington Post UK "the whole world is watching and they will learn Britain isn't the place to come for an education."
He said he wanted the government to reconsider, saying: "It's so late in the day, I really doubt whether any students will be able to find another university.
"We understand and respect the legal procedure but where are the government and UKBA's morals? This is about morality, these are real people. The government is throwing student's lives into the bin. There is no justification for this. Everyone has the right to education, this is against human rights."
Student Cecil Ezeja from Nigeria, is 21 and just completed his first year in engineering. He told The Huffington Post UK he had not been given any advice. "I don't know what to do, I'm so confused about everything. This is the worst thing of my life.
"I've spent £10,080 on my first year. I've spent £400 per month on rent plus bills, food, everything. How am I going to get that back?
"The timing is so bad, if they said in June, or July, maybe I couldve found another uni, but now... I'm absolutely devastated. This is my whole life. When I go back home my message to everyone will be: don't come to the UK. I've completely lost all faith in the British system."
American graduate Arianna Reiche, 26, is scheduled to begin her master's degree at London Met this September. She told The Huffington Post UK she had spent around £5,000.
"I was sent several emails from the university alerting us there was an audit. But I was specifically told in an email we had nothing to worry about. In this return to academia I've been told I'm part of a systemic failure of the border agency."
London Metropolitan University's international officer, Emmanuel Egwi, said he attended all of his classes.
"I attend my classes, I submit my coursework, I obey the rules and regulations. Why should people like me get affected? There are many people like me," he told the BBC.
"How am I going to have the time now to apply for another course and get a visa to complete my study in the UK? A lot of students are getting in contact with me. I've spent about £10,000 on this degree. All that money cannot just go to waste."
Research from the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills from June 2011 estimated that international tuition fees' in 2008-9 were worth more than £4bn to the UK.
Home Affairs Select Committee chairman Keith Vaz said in a statement on Thursday that the government may have the "best intentions" but "the process must be much better handled in the future."
"It has left thousands of students in limbo and I am afraid it may damage the reputation of our country as the best place in the world for overseas students," he said.
"This is the worst possible time, at the start of the new academic year to do something like this.
"We are welcoming the world to the Olympics and at the same time closing the educational door to some who have in good faith paid a small fortune to get here and through no fault of their own cannot study at their university of choice. I feel very sorry for these students. If there are any more Universities in the same position could UKBA please tell them now".
Sally Hunt, general secretary of the University and College Union, said: "Foreign students bring in billions of pounds every year, but the benefits are not merely financial.
"UK students profit enormously from exchange programmes with foreign universities and also through mixing with, and working alongside, students studying here."
A statement posted on LMU's website shortly after the decision was made public read:
"The University regrets to announce that as at 8pm on Wednesday 29th August 2012, the UK Border Agency (UKBA) has revoked its Highly Trusted Status for sponsoring international students.
The implications of the revocation are hugely significant and far-reaching, and the University has already started to deal with these. It will be working very closely with the UKBA, HEFCE, the National Union of Students and its own Students' Union.
Our ABSOLUTE PRIORITY is to our students, both current and prospective, and the University will meet all its obligations to them."
A UKBA spokesman said: "London Metropolitan University's licence to sponsor non-EU students has been revoked after it failed to address serious and systemic failings that were identified by the UK Border Agency six months ago.
"We have been working with them since then, but the latest audit revealed problems with 61% of files randomly sampled. Allowing London Metropolitan University to continue to sponsor and teach international students was not an option."
- I'm So Confused,' Says Nigerian Student Waiting For LMU Decision
- BLOG: Unjustifiable Treatment Of London Met Students
- BLOG: New Visa Rules Hurt Foreigners And Britons Alike
- Immigration Figures Show 21% Decline In Student Visas
The University has set up a Help Centre to support and advise students. The number is: +44 (0) 20 7133 4141