Leading music college loses border licence

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Point Blanc Music School

Point Blanc Music School

A music college whose former pupils include Leona Lewis and Goldie has had its licence to sponsor non-EU students revoked by the UK Border Agency (UKBA).

International students on diploma courses at Point Blank Music School in north London must find a new sponsor for their studies or leave the country.

In a letter to students the college blamed “formalities and clerical issues on the side of UKBA”.

“We follow all the guidelines,” said managing director Jules Brookes.

The college, whose visiting tutors include BBC Radio 1 DJ Pete Tong, offers tuition ranging from weekend courses to two-year diplomas accredited by the University of Middlesex.

‘Bona fide’
It has been designated a “highly trusted” sponsor of international students on its courses for the past 10 years.

The letter, emailed to students last week, advises: “It is with great frustration and regret that we are writing to inform you of a change to the UK government’s immigration policies which affects Point Blank Music School and some of our students.

“The government has changed the basis of our sponsor status, due to various formalities and clerical issues on the side of the UKBA, and as a result we are no longer able to accept students studying on a visa for longer than six months.”

It adds that despite having explored all possible legal options, it had concluded the chances of a successful appeal were minimal.

“Unfortunately, this means that the UKBA will very likely write to you shortly to inform you that have until 27 April 2013 to find a new sponsor for your studies or leave the country.”

Mr Brookes said that only last month the Independent Schools Inspectorate had rated as “excellent” the teaching and learning at the privately owned college.

“We are not a bogus language school, we are a higher education college that teaches music production courses accredited by Middlesex University”, Mr Brookes told BBC News.

He said there was no question of the college’s students using their status as a front for illegal immigration.

“All our students attend well over the minimum hours,” he said.

He added that the latest inspection had noted the accuracy of the Hackney-based college’s admissions registers and attendance records.

Mandatory requirements
The college’s problems stem from a refusal by the UKBA to agree entry “clearance or leave to remain” in the UK for 14 prospective students accepted by Point Blank in the year to June 2012.

In a letter last December, the UKBA told the college that its application to renew its highly trusted sponsor status was being refused and action would commence to revoke its sponsor licence because these 14 students represented a refusal rate greater than 20%.

A Home Office spokeswoman told the BBC that the government regarded keeping the refusal rate below 20% as a mandatory requirement for highly trusted sponsor status.

The college had made 33 applications during the period, so 14 refusals was 42% of the total, according to the UKBA letter.

Mr Brookes said that the college had not been told why the 14 students had been turned down.

He said that the college was considering legal action against the UKBA

“The really painful part is that the current students are getting turfed out.

“Students who are here legally are being treated as if they are illegal immigrants,” said Mr Brookes.

The 40 students affected were “understandably very upset”, he added.

One student told BBC News he had only arrived in London in January to begin his course, had paid six months rent on his flat in advance and put his “full trust in the school that only three months ago was known as a highly trusted sponsor”.

The college is trying to find places at rival colleges for students affected by the change. It is also offering to discuss the possibility of them continuing their studies at Point Blank online from abroad.

BBC © 2013

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