In a huge relief for some 350 Indian students of the London Metropolitan University, as also to hundreds of other scholars from non-EU countries, the high court of England and Wales acting on the university’s application for interim relief allowed them to continue their studies while also allowing LMU authorities to challenge the recent revocation of its license to admit non-EU students.
LMU had moved the court seeking a reversal of a ban imposed on it by the United Kingdom Border Agency (UKBA) – a division of the British home office – to admit and teach students from outside the EU, including India. Indian students with valid visas were affected by the ban; and faced deportation if they couldn’t find places at alternative universities.
The vice-chancellor, Professor Malcolm Gillies, said UKBA’s decision was based on “a highly flawed report by the UKBA”. The UK’s National Union of Students may give evidence at the ensuing hearing, outlining the case has huge implications for international students coming to Britain.
Lawyers representing the university while applying for the ban to be lifted have appealed for a judicial review of the matter. The university claims the UKBA ban could cost it up to £30 million in income per year. The UKBA has insisted the decision to revoke do Met’s sponsor licence was correct.
A task force set up by the British government is attempting to find the concerned students places at other institutions. It has also set aside a fund of £2 million to ensure these as well as students of other nationalities do not suffer any financial losses as a result of the restrictions imposed on London Met by UKBA.
India has, in fact, been at the forefront of pressurizing British authorities on protecting the interests of genuine students. The proactive role played by the Indian high commission in London in this respect has fetched dividends.
A diplomatic source said the Indian mission was the first to forcefully take up the matter with the British government, together with sending a diplomat to London Met to ascertain the facts. Following such moves, representatives of UK Universities and UKBA came scurrying to the high commission to assure it that bona fide Indian students will not endure any inconvenience and announce the £2 million assistance package.
It was also at such meetings that the figure of around 350 Indian students facing turmoil was admitted by UKBA; and the 60 day deadline earlier given to them to register with other universities extended.
It is reliably learned the Indian high commission expressed concern to the UK government, including the foreign office, that Indian students were being discriminated against as compared to their counterparts from the European Union. It is understood India did not stand up for those whose visas had either expired or were not valid for the purpose of enrolment at London Metropolitan University.
Last month the UKBA withdrew the university’s “highly trusted status” which entitled it to sponsor students for UK visas in a crackdown on alleged abuse of the student visa system. Apparently, an investigation had discovered that London Met was not making proper checks on students.
UKBA said the university had failed to address “serious failings” which had been pointed out more than six months ago. In a survey of 101 students, more than one-fourth had no permission to be in the UK. Another check revealed a significant number of students did not speak good enough English to be granted a student visa. Besides, the attendance records of many were found wanting.
About 2,600 people hitherto admitted as non-EU students at London Met could be evicted from Britain if they do not get admission elsewhere. (The Times of India)