On Friday 21 September a preliminary hearing took place at the Royal Courts of Justice about the UK Border Agency (UKBA)’s move to revoke London Metropolitan University’s license to bring in international students (Highly Trusted Status, HTS).
The revocation could have led to the expulsion and deportation of around 2,600 international students.
The hearing offered temporary relief to international students who had already started their courses. However, students who had been offered places at London Met this year and hadn’t started their courses yet are still in limbo.
A judicial review is underway. If London Met is successful, it could get its HTS back. According to left-wing education expert Andrew McGettigan, the Government has said that they will appeal if the UKBA’s actions are found to be unlawful.
Under the marketised, fee-paying regime, international students are important cash-cows for universities. If a university cannot attract enough international students, it cannot fund itself.
If the court upholds the UKBA’s decision, London Met will be unable to fund itself for long and a buy-out is likely, according to McGettigan. The bought-out institution would be able to re-apply for HTS six months down the line.
The hearing brought several facts to light about the way the government is acting. The decision to revoke London Met’s HTS was not a routine matter, but a decision taken personally by Theresa May, who is obsessed with reducing the figures for immigration. The decision appears to mark a U-turn by the UKBA. In April the UKBA said that London Met was good enough to sponsor 5,000 international students attending the London School of Business and Finance. A few weeks after that, London Met’s HTS was revoked.
This backdrop is a situation where all immigrants, including international students, are treated as semi-criminals. In Higher Education, international students are tightly monitored by university administrations, to the point where many are afraid to take a day off lectures if they fall sick.
These restrictions, on migrants and international students alike, must end!
Universities should not treat students like cash cows – they should be funded by taxing the rich and big business and seizing the wealth of the banks.
The student movement should campaign to stop the sell-off of London Met, and to protect international students at London Met and elsewhere from further crack downs and political game-playing.