The Vice Chancellor of the London university banned from enrolling foreign students from outside the EU has claimed the decision will have a “profound impact” on international confidence in the entire British higher education sector.

After days of uncertainty, the UK Border Agency confirmed on 29 August that London Metropolitan University was losing its “highly trusted status” for sponsoring international students. The announcement came after a draft letter from the UK’s Home Office to Downing Street  was leaked to The Sunday Times, causing days of anguish for staff and students.

The letter said London Metropolitan University had failed to comply with its sponsorship duties, threatening immigration controls.

Malcolm Gillies, the University’s Vice Chancellor, said revoking London Met’s licence –  essentially barring it from enrolling non-EU students – could damage the reputation of UK universities worldwide.

London Met has opened a telephone hotline for international students worried that they may be deported unless they can find an alternative British university to continue their studies within 60 days. The ban involves both new recruits and existing students – and it  comes just weeks before the start of the new academic year in England.

“Getting this news is terrible. I’m petrified”, one Brazilian student told the BBC. She has only a semester left on her degree.

The move follows a clampdown by the UK’s Home Office on immigration for foreign students, which led to another university – Teesside in the north of England – having its licence to recruit non-EU students suspended for a few months before resolving concerns about its student record-keeping.

The UK’s Immigration Minister Damian Green has defended the decision.

But Universities Minister David Willetts struck a different tone, saying it was important that genuine students who are affected through no fault of their own are protected.

Main photo: Silent protest over foreign student ban at London Met

Also see:

* Critical Education blog.

* Guardian round table.