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The task force made further progress with the ‘clearing house’ which London Metropolitan University is setting up to support students wishing to transfer from London Metropolitan University to an alternative education provider or institution. The clearing house will be operating from Monday 17 September 2012.  It will offer every London Metropolitan University international undergraduate student affected by the revocation decision a course or courses to which they can apply. These courses will be comparable in cost and curriculum, and the providers will be quality assured so that students can be confident that their learning experience will continue to meet high standards.  Providers will be based in London wherever possible in order to minimise disruption to students’ accommodation and transport arrangements. 

Postgraduate students have different and varying requirements and timescales, and the task force is exploring a range of options to ensure that these students are also able to complete their courses. The UK Border Agency has today confirmed that postgraduate students just about to hand in final dissertations, or those who have just done so before the University’s licence was revoked, will be able to have those dissertations marked either through written material or orally, and degrees awarded. 

London Metropolitan University is putting in place a full support package, including academic and welfare advice, to help students looking to transfer to another provider.  The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) and the Home Office are considering issues arising from the need for transferring students to reapply for a visa. 

As reported after the first meeting, the UK Border Agency has confirmed that no legitimate student will be sent a curtailment letter, which imposes a 60-day deadline within which to find another sponsor, or leave the UK, until the beginning of October at the earliest, two weeks after the clearing house has become fully operational. 

The timing for the start of the clearing house has been amended in the light of London Metropolitan University’s decision to initiate legal action in response to the revocation. If this action succeeds in its initial stage, the revocation will be set aside until a further hearing can consider the issues in more detail. In these circumstances, the University will be able, and will want, to continue to teach its current international students. 

However, there is a possibility that any subsequent legal hearings may lead to reinstatement of the revocation, thereby creating a risk that students could have their studies disrupted in the course of the academic year. The task force thinks that this level of continuing uncertainty for students would be unreasonable and has agreed the following way forward:

  • If the University’s legal action is unsuccessful at the initial hearing, the support package will be available, and the clearing house fully functioning, from Monday 17 September. 
  • If the initial stage of the legal action succeeds, and the revocation is set aside pending a further hearing which cannot take place immediately, the task force will seek an immediate agreement from the UK Border Agency, the Home Office and BIS that protects the interests of all overseas students at London Metropolitan University.  This might involve a guarantee that these students will be allowed to complete their programmes at the University for the whole of the academic year 2012-13.  Any decision then taken to confirm revocation would be implemented in full only from 1 August 2013. Individual cases of abuse of the immigration system would be dealt with by the UK Border Agency in the normal way. 
  • If no agreement can be reached that protects the position of students, and the risk of in-year disruption persists, students will be given the option of moving to another provider. To enable this choice, the support package and clearing house facility will be made available to all affected international students from Monday 17 September.

Some London Metropolitan University students are continuing to explore options for transferring to a new institution, and we welcome the support that institutions are offering them. London Metropolitan University is contacting all its affected international students to let them know about the clearing house and support package, and the implications of its legal action, so that students are taking their decisions with as much information as possible. 

We will provide institutions with further detail about the operation of the clearing house by the middle of next week. If London Metropolitan University students approach an institution directly, we would expect the institution to advise those students of the clearing house arrangements before they take any decisions to transfer. 

Notes

  1. Following the UK Border Agency’s decision on 29 August to revoke London Metropolitan University’s licence to sponsor non-EU students, the Universities Minister, David Willetts, announced the formation of a task force to support students affected by the decision.
  2. The task force is led by Sir Alan Langlands, Chief Executive of the Higher Education Funding Council for England, and brings together representatives from the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS), Universities UK, the UK Border Agency, London Metropolitan University and the National Union of Students.
  3. The aim of the task force is to support London Metropolitan University to find suitable alternative courses with other higher education providers for legitimate and appropriately qualified students, so that they can continue their studies in the UK.
  4. More information about the task force is available. Students affected by the revocation decision who need advice are asked to contact the London Metropolitan University helpline on 0207 133 4141 or email international@londonmet.ac.uk. UK Border Agency staff are on site at the University to provide advice via the helpline and student support team. The UK Border Agency Contact Centre number is 0870 606 7766. 
  5. For enquiries about the task force, please contact Liz McCarty, Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) (l.mccarty@hefce.ac.uk; 0117 931 7431). 

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