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UK University visa crisis hurts Saudi students

A high court judge has granted permission to international students at London Metropolitan University (LMU) to continue their studies as long as they are already in the United Kingdom and have appropriate immigration status.

Students heaved a collective sigh of relief after they were told to find alternative universities or leave the UK following a ban on London Metropolitan University’s recruitment of overseas student. The LMU also has been allowed to challenge the UK border agency for taking away its license to sponsor Non EU students for UK visas.

The High Court’s decision means that while the LMU will not be able to recruit new international students, pending a judicial review, current students, many of whom are from Arab countries like Saudi Arabia, will be able to continue their studies.

Malcolm Gillis, vice chancellor of the London metropolitan university said, “Some of the details [are] still being worked out…but it does give the university and its students really good protection for them to study with us or with other institutions they may choose. We think that is very good but the details of it have to be worked out so now no one is further misled.”

The high court stepped into the dispute after the UK Border Agency (UKBA) suspended the university’s highly trusted status to admit and teach non-EU students, due to what it called serious and systemic failures by the University for not monitoring students attendance and many of them had no right to be in the country. The decision has put the academic future of over 2,600 non-EU students in disarray and under the threat of deportation. About 250 foreign students at the university are from Saudi Arabia.

The Saudi culture bureau in London moved swiftly to address the issue of the students by seeking alternative institutions to continue their studies.

Faisal AbalKhail, head of the Saudi culture in Britain and Ireland, said, “Our focus was on universities providing similar courses our students were enrolled in at the London metropolitan university; we were able to achieve relative success in this regard. Many of our students were placed in other universities, and we are in the process of registering more.”

The ban on foreign students has done a huge damage to London Metropolitan University and to the credibility of the UK higher education, which earns more than 5 billion pound annually from international students.

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