The UK's Home Office has issued a new Tier 4 sponsorship licence to London Metropolitan University (LMU). The Home Office made the announcement on 9th April 2013 and said the licence would be effective immediately. LMU's previous Tier 4 sponsorship licence was revoked on 29th August 2012.
A Tier 4 sponsorship licence allows a UK educational institution to sponsor potential students from outside the European Economic Area to apply for a UK Tier 4 student visa. You cannot obtain a Tier 4 visa unless you are sponsored by a licenced UK educational establishment.
On 29th August 2012, the UK Border Agency, which was until 1st April 2013 in charge of UK immigration control, revoked LMU's sponsorship licence. The UKBA claimed that it had done so because LMU had not put systems in place to ensure that international students
- Spoke university-standard English
- Attended lectures while at LMU and
- Had valid Tier 4 visas entitling them to study at LMU.
Over 2,000 students told to leaveThe UKBA decision meant that LMU was no longer allowed to teach international students. Over 2,000 international students already studying at LMU were told that they would have to find new courses elsewhere, obtain sponsorship from the new university and apply for a new Tier 4 visa (costing £716) from the UKBA if they wanted to continue their study in the UK, otherwise they would have to leave the country.
The decision caused considerable controversy. The National Union of Students condemned the decision as did Universities UK, the umbrella body for UK universities. It was rumoured that the decision caused a cabinet rift between Home Secretary Theresa May who supported the UKBA on the one side and Chancellor George Osborne and Business Secretary Vince Cable who opposed it on the other.
The vice chancellor of LMU, Malcolm Gillies, said that the UKBA decision was 'outrageous'. He said that LMU had made every effort to comply with the UKBA rules but said that UKBA rules were self-contradictory and almost impossible to comply with.
Judge allowed students to continue their studiesLMU immediately issued a statement saying that it would challenge the UKBA's decision in court. At an initial hearing in September 2012, the judge, Mr Justice Irwin, made an order that those students who were already studying at LMU should be allowed to continue with their studies for the time being, until the case was heard.
He also ordered that 1,000 students who were about to start courses in October should be allowed to do so, providing they had the correct visa. He barred LMU from sponsoring any further international students until the case was heard. The case is expected to come to court soon.
The UKBA was abolished on 1st April 2013 at the order of the Home Secretary, Theresa May. Mrs May announced her decision on 26th March 2013 and said she had decided to abolish it because it was 'not good enough'. Many people agreed with Mrs May. A committee of MPs, The Home Affairs Committee, whose job it was to scrutinise the work of the Home Office and the UKBA, issued many damning reports about the agency.
The chairman of the committee, Keith Vaz, a Labour MP, welcomed Mrs May's decision saying that it would enable the UK to gain control of its immigration system which has been out-of-control for years.
UKBA dismantled after scathing criticismLast month, the committee released a highly critical report about the running of the UKBA which said that between July and September 2012, the UKBA processed just 14% of postal applications for Tier 4 visas within its target time of four weeks and just 18% of Tier 1 visa applications. Mrs May announced that it would be abolished it the next day.
The Home Office issued a statement on 9th April saying that it was now satisfied that LMU had put right all the flaws in its systems and so could have a new licence.
The statement read 'Home Office inspection teams looked at areas of concern that led to the revocation of the university's licence last year and have worked with university staff to ensure they have appropriate processes for recruiting and monitoring their international students'.
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