A large number of universities, colleges and other higher education institutions have expressed interest in taking students, and the task force is grateful for these offers of support. London Metropolitan University has invited 15 of these institutions to be part of the clearing house (note 6), although the University may also be in touch with other institutions on a case by case basis.
The University has taken a pragmatic decision to limit the number of institutions at this stage. The task force’s key priority is helping genuine students affected by the revocation decision to continue their studies. With the beginning of the academic year imminent, the clearing house is working to tight timescales, and the process poses significant challenges. Limiting the number of institutions will help the University to manage the process efficiently and effectively, while giving students choice.
One of the task force’s key presumptions has been that students should, as far as possible, be given a choice of broadly comparable courses and fee levels, and that there should be a recognition of the study they have already undertaken, and the credits they have accumulated, at London Metropolitan University. We also know that many students are keen to remain in London. The 15 institutions are well placed in terms of curriculum match, cost comparability, location, and quality assurance to take London Metropolitan University students.
The clearing house has been developed by London Metropolitan University. It will provide a speedy application and admissions process for both students and institutions through an easy-to-navigate, web-based system, backed by information, advice and guidance from London Metropolitan staff. It will show details of courses provided by the 15 institutions which meet the comparability and other criteria. The University will then ask students to select those courses they wish to apply to, notify the institution, and give them the information and support they need to make a decision which is right for them. The University thanks UCAS for their role in communicating with the institutions involved in this process.
The UK Border Agency has now agreed that just under 400 postgraduate students who have submitted or are about to submit their dissertations can be assessed by London Metropolitan University, and will therefore not need to transfer. The clearing house will be aiming to support the majority – around 1,000 – of other undergraduate and postgraduate students. In parallel, the task force is working with the UK Border Agency to look at options to enable some smaller groups of students to continue their studies in other ways.
London Metropolitan University is putting in place a support package for students wishing to transfer to another institution. This will provide students with information about the institutions that are offering places, so that they are clear about the type of provider and the quality of the offer. A number of the institutions, for example, are from the private sector, and students considering offers from these institutions will need to know that the conditions attaching to visas to study with private providers differ, in particular in respect of entitlement to undertake paid work while studying. Students will also be offered academic guidance to help them in their decisions, as well as welfare advice and counselling.
London Metropolitan University will be emailing students on Monday with details of how they can access the clearing house. Students are asked to wait for this email, and not to contact any of the participating institutions directly, as this is likely to cause delay.
The task force recognises the need to align clearing house and immigration processes, and the UK Border Agency has again confirmed that it will be advised by the task force as to when notice for curtailment should be triggered. The UK Border Agency has already said that it will not be taking action to curtail the leave of legitimate students for at least one month from the date of revocation (29 August 2012), so students will not receive a curtailment letter until the beginning of October at the earliest.
The task force will continue to work with the UK Border Agency to provide clarity on a range of visa-related questions posed by students and institutions. The UK Border Agency yesterday confirmed that there would be some flexibility in relation to maintenance fund requirements, and that existing students with dependants would be allowed to keep them with them.
A number of students are continuing to make their own arrangements to transfer to another higher education provider, and we understand the desire to secure a place elsewhere ahead of the new academic year. We would ask any institution that is in contact with a London Metropolitan University student to let them know that the clearing house will be operating from this Monday, so that they are aware of this option. Students who decide not to use the clearing house will still be able to access the academic and welfare support package.
In response to concerns raised by the task force, Universities Minister David Willetts has today announced a fund to help London Metropolitan University students affected by the revocation decision. The fund will cover repeat visa application costs and help legitimate students who are in hardship to meet additional costs they may incur by moving to another institution to finish their studies. These will include discretionary payments to cover, for example, lost deposits on accommodation if students have to move somewhere else to study. The fund is worth up to £2million. The details are being finalised, and we will provide further information as soon as it is available.