London Met Foreign Students Under Threat Of Deportation Will Have 'Mini Clearing' System

'Mini-Clearing' System For Deportation Threat Students

A mini clearing system for students caught up in the decision to strip London Metropolitan University of its right to sponsor international student visas will be up and running later this month, the Universities and Science Minister said on Thursday.

London Metropolitan University has vowed to "defend its reputation" after launching legal action against a decision to revoke its licence to sponsor international students.

Earlier this week, the institution announced it is challenging evidence gathered by the UK Border Agency (UKBA) so thousands of students left in limbo can return to study "as a matter of urgency".

The Government revoked London Met's highly-trusted status (HTS) for sponsoring international students last week after it found more than a quarter of a sample of students studying at the university did not even have permission to stay in the country.

Speaking during Commons Business questions, David Willetts told MPs the decision to revoke the licence was a matter for the UKBA.

He said: "Our priority now is to ensure that the university's legitimate overseas students are given the help and advice they need to continue their studies.

"To deliver this I set up a taskforce within hours of UKBA's decision which has already started work."

Labour's Heidi Alexander (Lewisham East) said the direct experience of one of her constituents was that the taskforce "is anything but useful".

She added: "She went as far as saying that it told her nothing that couldn't be found on the UKBA website.

"What steps is the minister going to take to ensure that the help and advice that is given from that taskforce really enables legitimate students to access alternative courses?"

Mr Willetts replied: "The crucial task which the university is engaged in now is preparing a kind of mini clearing system in which there will be firm information about places available at specific universities in specific courses that would be available for suitably-qualified overseas students at London Met.

"I can tell her and the House today that that matching process will be open and starting on the 17th September and we also, of course, know that the UKBA will not be sending out any letters to the overseas students affected about their 60-day limit applying until October 1."

Former Labour home secretary David Blunkett said that while enforcement was critical, "the message that needs to go out from this Government now is that Britain is open for business in higher education".

Mr Willetts replied there was no cap on the number of overseas students coming to study in Britain.

Shadow business minister Shabana Mahmood said: "The attitude of the Minister and his Government to the international reputation of the UK's higher education sector and its importance to our economic growth is shockingly complacent."

She asked for a guarantee that no affected student would be "financially worse off as a result of the licence revocation".

Mr Willetts replied: "I understand that one feature of the offers of places in the new matching process being launched in 10 days' time will be that many of those universities will be offering courses at the same or lower fees than the students might have experienced at London Met."


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