London Met’s lips sealed on abrupt end to visa dispute

Reasons for withdrawal of legal action on eve of hearing remain unclear

October 17, 2013

Source: Rex Features

Privacy settings: London Met refers to ‘terms of settlement’ in its statement

London Metropolitan University has refused to disclose whether or not it won a financial settlement from the Home Office after ending its year-long legal pursuit of the department shortly before a hearing.

The university has also refused to disclose the size of its bill for the legal action, which – as revealed online by Times Higher Education – was ended just days before a scheduled judicial review hearing at the High Court on 17 October.

However, minutes from a London Met board of governors’ meeting in September last year show that an “initial budget” of £250,000 was approved for the legal action.

If London Met has incurred a significant legal bill without any financial settlement from the Home Office, questions are likely to be raised over its decision to press its case in the courts.

The university won permission to take the government to a judicial review in September 2012, a month after the Home Office revoked its licence to recruit overseas students.

As part of that initial High Court judgment, London Met’s existing non-European Union students were granted permission to continue with their studies, although the institution was still unable to recruit new international students.

Then in April this year, the university’s licence to sponsor overseas students was reinstated, allowing it once again to recruit from outside the EU. But despite the reinstatement, the university continued with the judicial review in an attempt to show that the original decision to revoke its licence was unlawful.

Since the revocation of the licence, London Met has suffered a number of financial blows.

The university projected that its income would drop by £37 million for the academic year following the Home Office’s decision. The loss of the licence also derailed a major project to outsource support services at the university and was partly behind the collapse of a partnership with the London School of Business and Finance, which led to the university writing off £2 million.

A statement issued by London Met after it ended the legal action referred to “terms of settlement” with the Home Office but did not disclose any details.

The Home Office did not use the word “settlement” in its statement, saying it was pleased that London Met had “decided to withdraw the judicial review”.

“We acknowledge the improvements they have made to their systems and procedures, and will continue to offer them any necessary support,” the Home Office added.

Asked to state whether the Home Office paid any money in a settlement, a London Met spokesman and a Home Office spokeswoman both declined to answer.

It is thought that the terms of the statements were carefully negotiated between the two parties, with neither willing to add any further public statement that might reignite tensions.

The terms of the agreement have been kept a closely guarded secret within London Met, along with the reasons why the university ended the legal action so close to the hearing.

john.morgan@tsleducation.com

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