International students at London Metropolitan University have described their devastation at having to abandon their degrees and return home after the UKBA stripped the university of the right to recruit students overseas.
A group of about 40 students sat in silence in front of the gates No 10 Downing St on Wednesday to protest the decision, some taping their mouths and others carrying signs reading: “International Students Not Welcome Here”.
Tunde, a 28-year-old Nigerian, is studying a masters in Information Technology and has already shelled out £17,000 in fees, told The Huffington Post UK he could not face returning home and telling his elderly mother what had happened.
“I have to go back to my country with nothing to show for this,” he said.
“My dad is dead and my mother is old. How can I go home and tell her what’s happened? How can I say all our money has been wasted?”
“No-one has said anything about refunding fees. They’ve left us in the dark.
“So many people are out of the country and it is completely unfair to expect them to sort out going to another university while they’re still in their home country.
“The government is just kicking us around like a football.
“This is not just my education. This is my life, my future.”
“I can find the university in 60 days. But I can’t find the money again. For the past six months we have been living in fear of this happening. Even if I go to another university, what’s to say it won’t happen again?
“My message to other people back home is do not come here. Go to the US or Canada instead.”
More than 2,000 students could face deportation, the NUS has warned, after the landmark ruling by the UK Border Agency which was announced on Tuesday evening.
UKBA has cited failure to “address serious and systemic failings” as the reason for its decision, something which Professor Malcolm Gillies, vice chancellor of LMU, said the university would fight.
“I am not going to say that we accept what is stated in the letter sent to us revoking our licence,” he told ITV news.
“We are currently doing a full analysis, working together with the best lawyers in the country.
“I would go so far as to say that UKBA has been rewriting its own guidelines on this issue and this is something which should cause concern to all universities in the UK.”
Student Cecil Ezeja, also from Nigeria, said the decision had changed his attitude towards Britain.
“When I go back home I will tell everyone: don’t come to the UK,” he said. “I’ve completely lost all faith in the British system.
“I don’t know what to do, I’m so confused about everything. This is the worst thing of my life,” he said.
“I’ve spent £10,080 on my first year. I’ve spent £400 per month on rent plus bills, food, everything. How am I going to get that back?”
Immigration minister Damian Green has suggested the university was stripped of its powers to authorise visas because a “significant proportion” of students did not have a good standard of English and do not turn up to lectures.
In response to this claim, Tunde added: “They should look for the people who cannot speak English and don’t attend lectures. They should punish those people. Do not punish us.”
Labour’s shadow immigration minister Chris Bryant MP raised concerns genuine students were suffering because of so-called “bogus students”.
“This announcement leaves thousands of genuine international students in an impossible situation of finding a new place to study, just days before the beginning of a new university term,” he said.
“But beyond the immediate scramble to find new places, the way in which the Immigration Minister has drawn out the decision will make many think again about whether to come to the UK to study and will cause lasting damage to the international reputation of the UK university system which brings billions into the UK economy every year.
“Labour supports tackling bogus colleges and students but this must be done robustly and fairly as UK universities are vital to our economy.”