THE NUS, UCU and Unison yesterday condemned the Home Office attack on London Metropolitan University and its international students, and demanded that not a single student be deported.
London Met Vice-Chancellor Malcolm Gillies said in a statement: ‘The University regrets to announce that as at 8pm on Wednesday 29th August 2012, the UK Border Agency (UKBA) has revoked its Highly Trusted Status for sponsoring international students.’
The decision means around 2,000 current international students at the institution will now receive notification that they have 60 days to find another sponsor or face deportation and being unable to complete their degrees.
London Met Unison branch chair Max Watson said: ‘Management’s attempt to privatise London Met University is the cause of this current crisis.
‘We will resist any attempt to make students and staff pay the price.’
Unison branch secretary Alan Price told News Line: ‘This comes as highly distressing news. We are considering the impact on staff and students.
‘We have to consider what we can do to protect the best interests of staff and students.
‘We are already in dispute about the university’s outsourcing of services.
‘We have to look at the possibility of the university being closed and mass redundancies.’
UCU general secretary, Sally Hunt, said: ‘No matter how this is dressed up, the damaging message that the UK deports foreign students studying at UK universities will reach all corners of the globe.
‘Foreign students bring in billions of pounds every year, but the benefits are not merely financial. UK students profit enormously from exchange programmes with foreign universities and also through mixing with, and working alongside, students studying here.
‘The last thing we can afford to do is send a message that international students are no longer welcome here. Yet government efforts to impress a domestic audience by sounding tough on immigration, coupled with the chaotic handling of this affair, risk doing exactly that.’
The National Union of Students (NUS) said the government had treated international students like a political football.
It added: ‘NUS have today contacted David Cameron and Theresa May to express anger at the way that decisions have been made in recent weeks and to reiterate the potentially catastrophic effects on higher education as a £12.5bn per year export industry for the UK.’
Liam Burns, NUS President, said: ‘It is disgusting that international students continue to be used as a political football by politicians who seem either incapable of understanding, or are simply uncaring about the impact of their decisions on individuals, universities and the UK economy.
‘This decision will create panic and potential heartbreak for students not just at London Met but also all around the country.
‘The needs of students must be at the heart of any process to find new places of study and NUS will be working with UUK and HEFCE to support affected students and ensure as far as possible that they can continue studying in the UK.’
Burns added: ‘This heavy-handed decision makes no sense for students, no sense for institutions and no sense for the country.’
Martin Freedman, head of pay, conditions and pensions at the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL), said: ‘The government’s obsession with students abusing immigration regulations is sending a message to foreign students that they aren’t welcome here, and risks UK universities missing out on the top overseas students with all the damage that could do to academic research and sharing of ideas.’