Students take legal action over withdrawal of visa sponsorships

Overseas recruits on LSBF-taught course seek damages over treatment by university sponsor

February 13, 2014

Sixty international students have undertaken legal action against Glyndwr University after it threatened to withdraw sponsorship of their visas.

It is understood that the Home Office has had concerns about arrangements for the students’ course, where Glyndwr sponsored them for immigration purposes so they could work but a private college provided teaching and collected tuition fees.

At the end of January, the university wrote to all 323 students on the accountancy course telling them that teaching would no longer take place at the London School of Business and Finance and that they were being moved instead to the Wrexham-based university’s London campus.

To remain on the two- to three-year course, students were told that they had to have an 80 per cent attendance record and to have registered for at least three subjects each term. Even students who met these criteria would have to attend an interview carried out by immigration lawyers Fragomen to ensure that they met visa requirements, the letter – seen by Times Higher Education – said.

A number of students have been told that their sponsorship will end but Glyndwr has not said how many as the vetting process is ongoing.

Syed Ahmed, of Capital Solicitors, said his firm is representing 60 students who say they have been told their sponsorship will be withdrawn, although he added that “many more” could join the claim.

He said the students were demanding the reinstatement of their sponsorship and for teaching to resume. They were also seeking damages over their treatment by Glyndwr.

“They have been treated so badly,” Mr Ahmed said.

Some students had suffered stress as a result of the episode and medical evidence could be collected as part of the case, he said.

The students had already paid their tuition fees for the entire course to LSBF, he added.

After the claim was taken to the High Court last week, Glyndwr was served with a court order preventing it from revoking the students’ sponsorship ahead of another hearing later this month.

The partnership between Glyndwr and the LSBF was originally struck in March last year. Recruitment was subsequently suspended at the end of May, although the two institutions agreed to continue the course for those students who had already signed up.

Following THE’s revelation in August 2013 that recruitment to the course had been suspended, the Home Office said it was looking into the matter.

It is understood to have had concerns about the fact that the arrangement allowed the students to work despite their being taught by a private college (under immigration rules if the students had been sponsored by a private college they would not be allowed to work) and about attendance monitoring procedures.

The LSBF has said previously that the arrangement on work rights allowed students to fulfil the “practical experience” needs of the course.

A Home Office spokeswoman said that her department “works with institutions to ensure their processes are up to standards” but added that “any decision to end the sponsorship is for Glyndwr”.

A Glyndwr spokesman said: “As with all universities, as a Tier 4 [student visa] sponsor we are required to check all of our sponsored students periodically to ensure they meet with Tier 4 requirements.”

He said that the university “can confirm it has had an injunction placed upon it and is vigorously defending its actions”.

An LSBF spokesman said: “LSBF continues to work closely with Glyndwr University and looks forward to future collaboration on projects.”

david.matthews@tsleducation.com

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