The Home Office has been accused of damaging the credibility abroad of UK universities by dragging its heels over whether to strip a London university of the right to teach thousands of foreign students.
According to a report in the Sunday Times, the Home Office is to revoke London Metropolitan University’s higher trusted status, which has been suspended while the UK Border Agency investigates its foreign student enrolment practices.
The vice-chancellor, Malcolm Gillies, said this would leave the university with a 15% shortfall in funding and unable to teach thousands of non-EU students – including those who have completed parts of their degrees and diplomas – who would have to be deported.
Gillies denied the university was an “immigration threat”. London Metropolitan had restored its reputation after a £36.5m fine in 2009 for over-inflating student numbers and was now “as diligent as any [institution] in the country” when it came to reporting enrolment data, checking foreign student attendance and meeting Home Office requirements on English language for higher learning.
The minister of state for immigration, Damian Green, denied that a decision had been taken, but Gillies said the lack of clarity had created “apprehension of the highest order” for thousands of students. He urged the Home Office to make a decision quickly in the interests of the entire sector.
He said to have the decision hanging over the university’s head weeks before the start of the academic year in September was hugely damaging and added that it brought the whole system of “having a commitment to come and study in the UK” into question.
“We are really exhorting the Home Office and UK Border Agency to come up with their appraisal of f the immigration system.”