Some international students at London Metropolitan University have been left without passports for nine months because of problems processing their visa applications.
London Met’s vice-chancellor Malcolm Gillies told a conference in London on 20 June that the students “having been threatened with deportation last August…now can’t go home because they don’t have their passports”.
The university’s licence to sponsor overseas students was revoked last summer and reinstated in April, although it is not thought that the delays are connected to the revocation.
Explaining the delays, a spokeswoman for the Home Office said: “Some…have made applications under other immigration categories; some…have been rejected due to incorrect fees being submitted; and for some…we are awaiting biometrics.”
She added that the Home Office was talking with London Met and Professor Gillies to resolve the cases.
Last Christmas, it was reported that students in the capital were unable to return home because their passports were being kept by the Home Office, but now it seems that some have been stuck in limbo for another six months.
Australian-born Professor Gillies also told the conference, Immigration – Next Steps for Policy, that he had become a British citizen earlier that week, and so “as one of you” now felt he had more of a right to comment on UK immigration policy.
Under a policy that came into force in April, at least 100,000 international students will be quizzed annually to check they are not travelling to the UK for any reason other than education.
Professor Gillies welcomed this development because he believed that identity and document fraud by overseas students were major problems. He cited a Times Higher Education article that examined rising fears among US universities that a huge number of Chinese applicants are falsifying examination results or personal statements.
Fraudulent Chinese Undergraduate Student Applications, a report by Nafsa, the Association of International Educators and US firm Zinch China, found that 90 per cent of recommendation letters for Chinese applicants to Western universities had been falsified.
“Why are we giving a light touch to China, other than perhaps for particularly obvious economic reasons?” Professor Gillies asked.
He provoked audience laughter by suggesting that British students should take the same English language tests as their overseas peers.
“I think we’d come up with some very sad results,” he said.