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London Met not a “ghost college”, says VC

The vice chancellor of London Metropolitan University has denied suggestions of widespread visa fraud after its licence to enrol non-EU students was suspended last week. While accepting the university could have reported matters such as student absence more promptly to the UK Border Agency, Professor Malcolm Gillies told The Telegraph: “I don’t believe there’s evidence of London Met being a ‘ghost college’ or giving visas to people who are going to disappear.

London Met caters to 10,000 students – some 10% of international students in London

“We are, however, going to have some students who don’t show up and we have to make sure that we are doing all that’s required on that within the timescales.”

London Met, which caters to 10,000 international students – some 10% of London’s international student population – was removed from the government’s list of Tier 4 “highly trusted sponsors” after UKBA took issue with how it stored and collected data on non-EU students.

This concerned the way the university recorded overseas students’ ability to speak English and their attendance – both of which require minimum levels to qualify for a student visas. UKBA has been scrutinising universities more closely over the last year due to new government rules to stamp out visa fraud.

“We are going to have some students who don’t show up”

In a statement last week Gilles said the university was working to clarify the issues with UKBA and remained a highly trusted sponsor. “London Met has worked hard over the last year to rectify previous inadequacies… It will instantly rectify any residual deficits in its current practice,” he said.

International students currently enrolled at London Met will not be affected by the suspension, nor those already holding a student visa for entry into the UK.

London Met also said it would continue to receive applications from international students, including for entry in August and September 2012.

London Met partner colleges distanced themselves from the suspension. London School of Business and Finance (LSBF), which offers London Met degrees at its colleges, said the University continued to accept applications for partner institutions and expected it “to resume sponsorship of new visa applications within days”.

LSBF expects the university “to resume sponsorship of new visa applications within days”

However it said: “The UKBA audit did not relate to LSBF students and does not affect in any way LSBF’s highly trusted sponsor license.”

London Metropolitan is only the second UK university to be suspended from the government’s list of Tier 4 highly trusted sponsors. Teesside University was suspended in early February but reinstated in May.

However, the UK’s private HE providers have been hit hard with new student immigration rules said to have caused a spike in closures and insolvencies in the sector.

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