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Recently, London Metropolitan University was stripped of its license to sponsor visa applications for students from outside of the EU, as the university’s “Highly Trusted” status with the UK Border Agency was suspended. The agency found London Met to be failing to monitor the status of students, with more than a quarter of those sampled in audits were found to have no leave to stay in Britain. This means that up to 2700 Non-EU International students currently face their study being suspended and the threat of deportation.
Of course, one can’t blame the UKBA for doing their jobs and clamping down on illegal immigration, but this decision comes at the expense of those students who have really come to the UK to study, who have to prematurely finish their studies and leave the country. Furthermore, this could have repercussions for other universities, as the United Kingdom becomes considered a nation in which foreign students aren’t welcome, and that, despite paying tuition fees that range from £4000 to £18000 per year, they may be expelled from the country at any time. This perceived risk could discourage foreign students from studying in the UK, and could affect Lancaster, which charges international students fees from £12000 to £15000 per year. At the same time, this could lead to an influx of foreign students to other UK universities, as those students left stranded find places at other institutions. However, students considering studying in the UK may reconsider, as it may no longer be considered a safe investment, leading to an overall decrease in the number of international students at British universities.
In my opinion, this is a completely unacceptable situation, in which those suffering are students who are actually in the UK to study. They are being left with tens of thousands of pounds of debt and nothing in return. Although the UKBA must attempt to prevent “fake students” from abusing the system, the blanket way in which the trusted status of London Met has been revoked simply affects far too many students that are innocent of any wrongdoing. Furthermore, very little support has been offered to those students attempting to find alternate universities, meaning that a large majority of them will face deportation.
The impacts that the decision will have on university financing must also be considered. International students are known to be charged incredibly large fees, which are viewed as a major source of income for universities. These students being taken away from London Met leaves it in greater financial difficulty than it was in previously, as one of their major sources of income is cut off. As the number of international students in the UK may decrease after this controversy, so too could other universities face financial troubles from losing their international population.
International students are, in my opinion, an essential part of the university experience. It is through the interaction between international and UK students that we help to place our own experiences into context, and learn more about the wider world. Having been on both sides of this relationship between international and home students, I understand that international students can already feel alienated in campus society, and how easy it can be to find yourself socialising only with other international students. If this situation demonstrates anything to prospective international students, it is that they will continue to be segregated, treated as prospective criminals and illegal immigrants.
London Metropolitan University has pledged to fight the ruling in whatever way it can, and has launched legal challenges against the revocation of their license. Unfortunately, it is unlikely that the majority of these students abandoned in the UK will be allowed to remain in the UK. As this government attempts to tighten border controls, in a society that sees immigrants in such a negative way, I believe that university life will find itself with a reduced international atmosphere. In my opinion, this decision is a great shame, and one from which not only international students will suffer.