University wins right of review in student visa row

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London Metropolitan University has won the right to bring a judicial review over the dispute about visas for overseas students.

Mr Justice Irwin at the High Court said the university had an arguable case relating to the UK Border Agency’s (UKBA) decision to revoke its licence to sponsor students from outside the European Economic Area (EEA).

But he refused to grant an injunction restoring the position “pro tem” – by suspending the revocation pending the outcome of the review – as the balance of convenience favoured the matter being resolved one way or another before fresh students were invited to commit themselves to study.

The judge did make temporary orders protecting the position of those students currently in the UK with full proper immigration status.

The university’s counsel, Richard Gordon QC, said there was a strong prima facie case that the UKBA’s decision was unlawful.

He told the High Court: “The financial impact on the university, and on its reputation and good will, are enormous. The impact on students’ education, financial position and the disruption to their lives is extremely significant.”

The university’s licence was cancelled at the end of August after the UKBA examined alleged failings. Of 101 sample cases, 26 students were studying between last December and May even though they had no leave to remain in the UK, UKBA figures showed.

A lack of required monitoring meant there was no proof that students were turning up to lectures in 142 of 250 (57 per cent) sampled records.

More than 2,000 students left in limbo will get three months to find an alternative course, officials have said.

Genuine students have 60 days to make a new application or to arrange to leave the UK, but the countdown starts when UKBA writes to them and no letters will be sent out until October 1.

Lisa Giovannetti QC, for the Home Office, said yesterday that LMU had been aware for “months and months” that its systems simply did not comply with sponsor requirements.

It was not suggested that it had deliberately breached the regulations, and it had made attempts to put things right, but had been unable to do that effectively.