Last night I was happily watching the opening ceremony of the Paralympics, a great celebration of diversity in every form, when some disturbing news began filtering through on my twitterfeed. The UKBA had told London Metropolitan University that it had revoked its Trusted Sponsor Status for overseas students. Well, actually, they'd leaked it to a Sunday Newspaper a few days before. Apparently a press release had been issued, people had seen it, then it disappeared from the UKBA site. But, people had screenshots. Eventually the news was confirmed by a short press release on London Met's page.
This is an appalling decision by the UKBA, appallingly mishandled. It threatens not just London Met, but UK Higher Education as a whole. This decision, taken just weeks before the start of term, means that not only can London Met not admit any overseas students this year, (even those who have already been offerred places and may have accommodation booked, flights arranged etc,) but international students who are already studying there who may have done 2 or 3 years of a course, have 60 days to find another course, or face deportation. This will affect over 2000 students.
If you were a friend or relative of one of those students, or a teacher at a school overseas where one of them came from, would you care that it was just London Met, or would it affect your decision to apply or recommend applying to any University in the UK? Bearing in mind that two other Universities have had their status suspended temporarily.
The money this is going to cost London Met is many tens of millions, it will threaten jobs and courses, and possibly the University's future. And let's not forget the real losers in this. The students who have either got places, or are already studying there. They have perfectly valid visas, but now face financial hardship, uncertainty over where they can study, and possible deportation.
I don't know the details of the problem at London Met, and undoubtedly there are some. But the UKBA itself admitted that it was a "small minority" of students they audited who hadn't got the correct documentation or leave to stay. The UKBA flexing its muscles in this way - presumably to send a message to the rest of us that it can - is unacceptable and an overreaction which will have far reaching effects on all of us unless action is taken to curb them soon.