A UK university’s licence to recruit and teach overseas students has been revoked because two prospective students had their visa applications rejected by officials.
Birmingham-based Newman University has lost its Tier 4 visa licence because the failed applications by a pair of non-European Union students pushed the institution past the 10 per cent refusal threshold set by the Home Office.
Scott Davidson, the Catholic university’s vice-chancellor, said that the decision left “a suspicion that there’s some kind of…drive to limit the number of institutions that are able to recruit and teach international students”.
Amber Rudd, the home secretary, last year pledged to introduce tougher rules for overseas students coming to the UK to study “low-quality” courses, instead prioritising the “best” universities. However, a promised consultation on those plans is yet to emerge.
The Newman decision means that the university cannot recruit any more non-EU students and that those currently enrolled will have to complete their courses by 31 August or move to new institutions.
London Metropolitan University had its Tier 4 licence revoked in 2012, although it later won it back, while other institutions have previously seen their licences suspended.
For smaller institutions recruiting relatively few overseas students, a tiny number of rejected visas can easily push them over the 10 per cent threshold, leaving them at risk of losing their right to recruit non-EU students.
“The basis for the revocation was that we had exceeded the 10 per cent,” Professor Davidson told Times Higher Education. “We’d issued 18 CASs [Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies], and two had been refused.”
Newman currently has 16 non-EU students. Professor Davidson said that he was hopeful that the majority could be “taught out”, with perhaps two having to complete their courses elsewhere.
His “main concern” about the impact of the revocation decision, he said, was the “profound effect on students who are already here”. But he also added: “There is the fear that there is reputational damage [for the university] associated with a decision like this.”
Professor Davidson said: “I recognise how politically difficult this area is, but I think we really have been the victim of a kind of inflexibility around the application of the rules. When it relies on percentages [of] very small numbers of students, then that really does have a disproportionate effect.”