Bucks New University’s licence to recruit students from outside the European Union has been suspended after it fell foul of rules on visa refusals.
The university said its visa refusal rate for international students it was recruiting had exceeded the maximum allowed by the government.
The limit was lowered to 10 per cent from 20 per cent in November. Bucks New said due to the timing of its application to renew its licence it was judged on the old limit, which it missed by 1.16 percentage points, equivalent to just three students.
Current students and staff are unaffected by the refusal of Bucks New’s application to renew the university’s tier 4 and tier 2 licences, but it cannot sponsor any new candidates.
The institution now has 20 days to make representations to UK Visas and Immigration and, if it still fails to meet the criteria after this period, the licence will be permanently revoked.
Rebecca Bunting, Bucks New University’s vice-chancellor, said the primary concern was the welfare and wellbeing of staff and students.
“We are continually working, as are all other UK universities, to improve our systems and processes in order to meet a challenging set of sponsorship rules and our senior management team will be cooperating fully with UKVI,” Professor Bunting said.
“We have been granted time to check our data against UKVI’s information and that work is already under way.”
The new lower threshold has attracted criticism because, while universities grant Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies letters to non-EU students whom they have accepted for entry, which are then used in visa applications, it is not within the power of universities to entirely control visa refusal rates.
Student errors in documentation and Home Office judgements in credibility interviews are among the factors that can lead to rejections.
A Home Office spokeswoman said universities “must ensure they have robust compliance systems in place or risk losing their privilege to sponsor foreign students”.
“All institutions holding a Tier 4 sponsor licence must pass an annual assessment in order to retain the ability to recruit international students,” the spokeswoman said. “Bucks New University failed to pass this assessment so we have suspended its licence.”
Glyndwr University currently faces continuing restrictions on its licence to recruit international students following allegations that hundreds of its students held “invalid” or “questionable” English language qualifications.
However, the University of Bedfordshire and the University of West London, which were both told that they could not recruit new international students in June last year, have since been allowed to resume recruitment.