London Metropolitan University is about to apply for a new licence to recruit overseas students, while also planning for a court case in October to overturn home secretary Theresa May’s original decision to withdraw its highly trusted sponsor status.
The university’s licence was dramatically revoked by the government on 30 August last year, meaning it no longer had permission to bring in students from outside the European Union.
That left about 2,000 London Met students with their courses in jeopardy. The university later won a partial reprieve in the High Court when current students were given permission to carry on their studies at London Met or elsewhere within the UK. The university also gained the right to seek judicial review of the revocation decision.
Many in the sector believe the episode seriously damaged the reputation of UK universities overseas.
A London Met spokeswoman said the university was planning to submit its new application for highly trusted sponsor status “on the first possible day, 1 March 2013”. The UK Border Agency bars institutions from reapplying for sponsor status for six months after their licence is revoked.
Ministers have said that the licence was revoked because the UKBA found that London Met was failing to meet requirements on ensuring that students had leave to remain in the UK, on monitoring language standards and on checking attendance.
The date of London Met’s judicial review against Ms May has been set for 17 and 18 October.
The university appears to be planning to go ahead with the court case even it wins a new licence beforehand.
Asked what the university would gain from such a move, London Met’s spokeswoman said: “That would depend upon the basis of the university’s case, on which it is still working.”
Cliff Snaith, secretary of the London Met branch of the University and College Union, said the university’s plan to go ahead with judicial review was “the right position to have” as a court win was needed to restore the institution’s reputation.
“We need a [court] case and we need a victory,” he said. “A lot of our losses are reputational losses.”
Dr Snaith also suggested that there was some uncertainty among staff as to whether the university would be able to win back its full licence or would have to settle for a probationary status that might still limit its ability to recruit overseas students. In that case, a win in the judicial review might still be needed to secure the full licence, he said.