London Met: ‘Hands off our students – Hands off our classmates’

Last night many of us have been made aware of the UKBA issue and of the gravity of the issue to LondonMetropolitanUniversity.

As of yesterday the Border Agency decided to suspend the sponsorship of international students.

This unfortunate event of the suspension means that UCU, UNISON and Students’ Unions will need to work with the governors to seek ways to lift it as soon as possible. This is not the time for reactive management. Whatever the next steps for the university, any future strategy and actions must be based on the fullest consultation with all affected groups and those most knowledgeable about the detailed situation.

However, we need to be clear that the UKBA investigation cannot be seen in isolation. This latest crisis comes less than six months after the HEFCE ‘over-recruitment’ fine and the debacle over Islamic students and alcohol. Both of these self-inflicted crises provoked highly undesirable national publicity alongside equally bad press arising from the s188 and the ‘shared services initiative’ and indeed from many of the other plethora of ‘initiatives’, including the ‘internationalising’ of the teaching programmes (for example LLM Human Rights becoming LLM International Human Rights) that have been pursued over the last eighteen months. The ‘shared services’ initiative in particular must surely now be abandoned. Any suggestion that anyone is going to ‘share services’ with London Met in the near future must now be counted as remote! One or a combination of these issues may in themselves have contributed to UKBA’s renewed interest in London Met

The UKBA investigation obviously represents a threat to all of us and a wake up call for some. Many members of staff were alive to the potential danger of attracting UKBA interest even assuming that our records were perfect. This was for example telegraphed to London Met when CroydonCollege lost its sponsorship rights earlier last academic year. As governors will be aware, London Met validates some degree programmes at CroydonCollege. Surely management should have factored this into any decisions regarding other external liaisons or joint ventures.

What we are concerned directly about here is the possibility that senior management have been preoccupied with ‘initiatives’ (and in some cases the apparent seductive attraction of the private sector) and thus distracted from what should be the concerns of all of us and the prime concern of management, namely safeguarding the normal business of London Met. This would include extra vigilance this year given the UKBA’s renewed interest in the awarding of student visas across the sector.

Obviously the results of the UKBA investigation may have profound implications for London Met and for the sector as a whole.

Both university managment and UKBA need to hear our message loud and clear: ‘Hands off our students – Hands off our classmates’. Future demonstrations, stunts and actions will be called by the respective unions on campus. We have to carry this message into this autumn’s TUC demonstration on October 20 and the NUS demonstration on November 21.


About educationactivistnetwork
The education activist network provides national coordination for trade unionists, academics, university workers and student campaigners fighting to defend jobs and education in the UK.

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