Tuesday, April 09, 2013

Ban on UK varsity enrolling foreign students lifted

In a relief to foreign students including many from India, the British government today lifted last year's ban on a London university enrolling overseas pupils. The UK Home Office in a statement said the London Metropolitan University has made improvements since criticism over its 'systemic failure' to monitor overseas students.

Reacting to the decision, Indian-origin Labour MP and Chairman of the Home Affairs Committee Keith Vaz said, "Today's decision shows that the hasty verdict by the UK Border Agency to revoke the licence at the start of the new academic year in September, which left thousands of genuine students including around 350 Indian students, in limbo and at risk of deportation, was the wrong choice."

"It was poorly handled and has irreparably damaged the UK's reputation abroad as the destination of choice for overseas students," he said. "The Home Office must also be fully transparent about the number of London Met students deported or those who have left voluntarily. No doubt they will be issuing an apology to the university," Vaz said.

London Metropolitan University will be able to admit students from outside the EU again, but numbers will be restricted. Last August, the university became the first in the UK to be stripped of its right to sponsor students from outside the European economic area.

Universities across the country were anxious that the decision would damage the UK's reputation for higher education and deter applications from overseas students. Many UK universities rely on income from international students' fees.

An investigation by the UK Border Agency found that in more than a quarter of the cases it sampled at the university, students did not have permission to stay in the country and a significant proportion did not have sufficient English. It described the university as having a "serious systemic failure" in its monitoring of overseas students. The decision left more than 2,000 international students in limbo.

Immigration minister Mark Harper said, a series of inspections over the last six months had shown the university had made the necessary improvements to its systems and administration. The university will be on probation for a year "to build a track record of compliance", but can admit international students again, he said. "We have worked closely with university staff to ensure that London Met standards were improved," he said.

There are about 300,000 non-EU students at university in Britain at any one time, worth an estimated 5 billion pounds a year to the economy.

Source: The Economic Times (Online Edition), April 9, 2013

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