Foreign students given extra time

Salisbury Journal: Genuine foreign students will have 60 days from October to make a new application or to arrange to leave the UK Genuine foreign students will have 60 days from October to make a new application or to arrange to leave the UK

More than 2,000 students left in limbo after a university was stripped of its right to admit foreigners will get three months to find an alternative course, officials have said.

Genuine students have 60 days to make a new application or to arrange to leave the UK, but the countdown starts only when the UK Border Agency (UKBA) writes to them and no letters will be sent out until October 1.

The Government revoked London Metropolitan University's highly-trusted status (HTS) for sponsoring international students after it found more than a quarter of a sample of students studying at the university did not even have permission to stay in the country.

The decision to remove the university's licence threatens Britain's reputation as home to one of the world's thriving higher education sectors, sending a damaging message to all corners of the globe that the UK deports foreign students, critics have said.

Criticism focused on the UKBA's handling of the row, with Labour saying that efforts to tackle bogus colleges were undermined "when ministers brief against a university on Saturday, deny the status is being revoked on Sunday and proceed to revoke on Thursday".

A task force - led by the Higher Education Funding Council for England and Universities UK - has started working to help overseas students affected by the decision and guidance has been published on the UKBA website.

London Metropolitan University's HTS status was suspended last month while the UKBA examined alleged failings.

Of 101 sample cases, 26 students were studying between December last year and May despite the fact they held no leave to remain in the UK, UKBA figures showed. A lack of required monitoring meant there was no proof students were turning up to lectures in 142 of 250 (57%) sampled records.

And 20 of 50 files checked since May for evidence of mandatory English language testing and academic qualifications showed poor assessment where documents were either not verified or not held.

Professor Malcolm Gillies, the university's vice chancellor, described the claims as "not particularly cogent" and said it would be disputing them. "I would go so far as to say that UKBA has been rewriting its own guidelines on this issue and this is something which should cause concern to all universities in the UK," he said.

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