The task force was led by Sir Alan Langlands, HEFCE Chief Executive, and brought together representatives from the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, Universities UK, the UK Border Agency, London Metropolitan University and the National Union of Students.
Its initial focus was to assist London Metropolitan University in finding suitable alternative courses with other higher education providers for those students affected by the UK Border Agency’s decision to revoke the university’s licence to sponsor non-EEA students. To this end, it supported the university to set up a clearing house which offered students wishing to move to another institution a course or courses, comparable in cost and curriculum, to which they could apply (note 2).
Following judicial hearings at the High Court, London Metropolitan University and the UK Border Agency agreed that, subject to certain conditions, non-EEA students in the UK either currently enrolled at London Metropolitan University or with an offer of a place, and who already had a valid Tier 4 visa to study there, would be allowed to complete their course, or complete the 2012-13 academic year ending in summer 2013, whichever is the sooner.
The task force subsequently shifted its attention to the implementation of a £2 million Student Support Fund for students who have been financially disadvantaged by the revocation (note 3). The fund has to date received over 150 applications for assistance with visa reapplication costs, extra tuition fees, and additional expenses. It will continue to accept applications until the end of October.
Around 2,600 international students were affected by the revocation. Just over 1,000 have been able to complete their courses, or have graduated from the university. The UK Border Agency has written to the remaining students in the UK to ask them to confirm their plans for the future by 31 October 2012. Every student who has been contacted by the UK Border Agency needs to respond by this time, even if they have re-enrolled for their studies, to ensure that their intentions have been registered and acted on.
Of the remaining students, around half of those eligible to do so have re-enrolled at London Metropolitan University (note 4). The remainder have enrolled at another institution, or are still considering their options. London Metropolitan University and the UK Border Agency will continue to work closely together to help resolve any residual issues for these students. It has been agreed that the university and the UK Border Agency will report back to task force members on progress with this group.
Students who decide to leave the UK will be sent a 60-day curtailment notice but not until at least mid-November 2012. This will allow them ample time to make arrangements to leave.
At the end of this month, the task force will submit a summary of the main events relating to the revocation and the work of the task force to David Willetts. The report will be available on the HEFCE web-site.