A British Government decision that could see more than 2,000 foreign students including Nigerians being deported was yesterday met with outrage by MPs and academics and sparked a sit-in protest outside Downing Street in London.
Anger erupted after the London Metropolitan University had its right to sponsor visas revoked after Immigration Minister Damian Green said the institution had been 'very deficient in regulating the process'. He claimed that a quarter of students there did not have permission to stay in the country and many had a poor grasp of English.
London Metropolitan University has had its Highly Trusted Status (HTS) for sponsoring international students revoked and will no longer be allowed to authorise visas, according to the institution's website.
The action by the UK Border Agency prompted a sit-in protest outside Downing Street by LMU students who taped their mouths shut - apparently to symbolise losing their right to learn.
They also carried signs which read 'International Students Not Welcome Here' and gave out leaflets with a design showing broken Olympic rings before police moved them to the other side of the street.
Forensic science student Emmanuel Egwu, from Nigeria, was told that he would not be able to do his third and final year at the university. The 24-year-old said he had paid £30,000 into his education after forking out for a foundation course and two years at university.
'I have been paying loads of tuition fees, my parents have been spending a lot of money, selling properties back home to make sure my tuition fees have been paid. It's like flushing money down the toilet,' he said. "I pay a lot of money. I've spent £30,000 to 40,000 in tuition fees - my parents sell properties and land to make sure they can pay my fees so what's going to happen to people like me," he told Sky News. Emmanuel Egwu is the international students' officer at the university. He was granted a visa to study at the university in 2009 and is in the final year of his course.
The move could mean more than 2,000 students being deported within 60 days unless they find another sponsor, according to the National Union of Students (NUS) .
Immigration minister Damian Green said there had been a "serious systematic failure" at the university. He said it proved to be a "very, very deficient" sponsor because more than a quarter of students sampled were studying there when they did not have permission to stay in the country.
A "significant proportion" of students did not have a good standard of English and there was no proof that half of those sampled were turning up to lectures, he added.
Professor Malcolm Gillies, vice chancellor at London Metropolitan University, said the claims were not "particularly cogent" and said it would be disputing them. As foreign students were thrown into panic over the announcement, Universities Minister David Willetts announced the formation of a task force to help those affected by the decision.
Some 290,000 international students and their dependents are granted visas each year on average, according to statistics from the National Audit Office. They contribute over £5bn to the UK economy, Universities UK says. Source: Skynews.