The writer is a human rights lawyer

You can visit for updates on this and other matters.


The revocation of London Metropolitan University’s license to sponsor students from outside the EU has sent shock waves across the education sector as well as thousands of international students studying in other UK universities.

The Home Office said that the attendance at the university in question was not monitored to the standards required by the UK Border Agency (UKBA) and many students were not attending the classes according to the results of the sample taken. The Home Office further noted that many students do not have a right to be in the UK and speak little or poor English.

Interestingly, the university has not challenged the observations of the Home Office. All it has challenged, so far, is the proportionality of the penalty they face – revocation of the sponsor license.

The immigration lawyers and pressure groups have been warning against the implications of the student visa / sponsorship rules since their inception. It is indeed the first university to have been stripped off its ability to sponsor students from outside the EU. However, many colleges have fallen victim of the UKBA sponsorship rules which all of a sudden are viewed as ‘strict’ and condemned as damning for economy in leading newspaper articles. The economic and psychological impact on students from those other colleges was no different from those affected by the latest revocation.

The hue and cry splashed across the national media seems to be flowing from the concern for profit-making rather than the suffering of international students. The government seems to be targetting international students after failing to achieve their promised lowering of net migration figures. From universities’ point of view, its a worrying situation since no one knows who could be the next target despite assurances from the ministers that this is not a general problem of the entire sector but only limited to one university. But indeed the predicament of London Metropolitan University could potentially be the future of any other university. And above all, the recent revocation has sent a message across the world that its not just the colleges – even universities could become victim of the UKBA rules.

The rules themselves are also unfair and discouraging. The affected third year students in their final semesters, for example, have nowhere to go to complete their degree courses. They have only two options remaining: either find a new university and redo the whole third year again (which is an economic uphill struggle besides a psychological disaster) or voluntarily return to their home countries without obtaining their degrees! The failure of a university to abide by the UKBA rules should be dealt with between the university and the UKBA but the present rules penalise the students much more the universities since they lose their dreams.

The latest application of the rules has already damaged the UK brand of higher education. The government should repeal the current set of sponsorship rules and replace them with those which focus on penalising the failed universities rather than students who are neither fully aware of the laws nor the operations of the university. Punishing genuine, law abiding students for the shortfall of university and immigration offences of a small proportion of students is not just against the principles of natural justice but also ethically abhorrent.

The writer is a human rights lawyer

You can visit for updates on this and other matters.

The revocation …