London Met students could get temporary reprieve
International students at London Metropolitan University could be given a year to continue their course if the institution is given a chance to challenge its recent student visa ban.
London Met has announced it will take legal action against the decision by the UK Border Agency to remove its licence to sponsor visas for non-EU students.
The border agency claimed London Met had "failed to address serious, systemic failings" in its monitoring of foreign students, which were identified by an investigation six months ago.
The decision means about its 2,600 foreign students must find a course at different university or leave the UK by the start of December.
However, an independent taskforce set up by universities and science minister David Willetts to help relocate students has said they could have more time if the initial stage of London Met's legal action is successful.
Minutes of its second meeting, held on 4 September, confirm that "if the initial stage of the legal action succeeds, and the revocation is set aside pending a further hearing which cannot take place immediately, the task force will seek an immediate agreement from the UK Border Agency, the Home Office and [the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills] that protects the interests of all overseas students at London Metropolitan University.
"This might involve a guarantee that these students will be allowed to complete their programmes at the university for the whole of the academic year 2012-13.
"Any decision then taken to confirm revocation would be implemented in full only from 1 August 2013. Individual cases of abuse of the immigration system would be dealt with by the UK Border Agency in the normal way."
The taskforce, which is led by Sir Alan Langlands, chief executive of the Higher Education Funding Council for England, also said a "clearing house" offering alternative courses to London Met students would be operational by 17 September.
It means foreign students will have two weeks to find an alternative course via the clearing house before the first letters are sent by the UKBA asking students to leave the country within 60 days.
Postgraduate students close to handing in dissertations will also be allowed to complete their courses, the UKBA has confirmed.