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London Met students granted reprieve

A high court judge has granted London Metropolitan University the right to take legal action against the government for revoking its right to recruit non-EU students—allowing thousands of displaced students to continue their studies in the process.

The decision was implemented “at the most disruptive time, just before the new term is to begin”

Those about to start at LMU will also be able to take up their courses as long as they are already in the UK and have appropriate immigration status.

However, the reprieve will only last until the judicial review is decided and the university has not had its highly trusted sponsor status reinstated, meaning it will not be able to recruit overseas for next autumn.

Mr Justice Irwin said the reprieve was in the interest of students, and noted that the government had already made a concession for 400 postgraduates to remain in the UK to complete their dissertations last week.

“From what I can glean it seems that the huge inconvenience to students might be avoided. I don’t myself see why it would create difficulties for the secretary of state in other cases,” he said.

Some 2,600 non-EU students were told last month to find alternative university places within 60 days or risk deportation after the decision by the UK Border Agency.

In a sample of 101 students UKBA found more than a quarter to have no right to be in the UK. It also found irregularities in the way LMU recorded students’ attendance and English ability.

However, the university’s lawyer Richard Gordon QC argued today that there was a strong case that the decision was unlawful and had been unfairly implemented “at the most disruptive time, just before the new term is to begin”.

He also said UKBA gave LMU inadequate guidance on how to rectify its problems, and revealed that no current students were without leave to remain.

UKBA could not find one LMU student currently without leave to remain

“It is not easy to see how, when the UKBA can’t point to any [current] student who is in breach of immigration control requirements…the threat to immigration control has justified so draconian a decision as revocation or indeed suspension,” he said.

Responding, lawyer for the Home Office, Lisa Giovanetti QC said LMU had been aware of the concerns “for months and months” and had “made attempts to put things right but been unable to do it effectively”.

Professor Eric Thomas, president of Universities UK, said the decision was “good news” for students but called for a broader discussion on immigration compliance.

“This is…an opportunity to reflect on how immigration compliance in relation to international students is handled. We must remind ourselves of our duties to international students and ensure that, in future, legitimate individuals who have come to the UK in good faith are not forced to suffer the distress and uncertainty endured by many in recent weeks.”

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