International students SOS
19 September 2012 | By Helen Crane
31 August 2012
1 March 2012
13 December 2012
10 April 2013
24 January 2011
With the immigration status of international students at London Metropolitan University in doubt, Lawyer2B looks at some of the course providers involved in a rescue plan
The plight of international students at London Metropolitan University, which has had its highly trusted status revoked by the UK Border Agency (UKBA) and can no longer sponsor international students to study in Britain, has dominated the world of education since its announcement at the end of August.
The university’s first High Court hearing over the UKBA’s decision is on 21 September, and although an order could be issued allowing London Met to continue teaching overseas students whilst a judicial review is pursued, many students are not prepared to wait for this decision.
An online clearing process for those with no alternative course of study began on Monday, with fifteen UK institutions chosen by the Higher Education Funding Council of England and Wales (Hefce) to offer up places.
There are nine London-based Hefce-funded institutions taking part in the clearing house, Brunel University, City University, University of East London (UEL), University of Greenwich, London South Bank University (LSBU), Middlesex University, Roehampton University, University of West London and Westminster University.
Alongside these are six private institutions, BPP University College (BPP), College of Law (CoL), Greenwich School of Management, ifs School of Finance, London School of Business and Finance, and Regent’s College.
All but three of the institutions offer at least one undergraduate LLB programme.
With two specialist legal education providers involved, alongside several other institutions which provide law programmes, it seems that law students are amongst the better-off in terms of finding a suitable place to continue their studies. However, there are some concerns over the suitability of the courses offered in terms of content, location, and price.
LSBU are accepting applications for all years of their LLB course until 5 October. A spokesperson said that extra staff have been brought in to assist with UKBA visa compliance. He added that the courses at LSBU and London Met are similar, but that the university “is making adjustments to ensure that all students can study the modules which will provide them with the foundation subjects required for a qualifying law degree.”
There have been questions surrounding the consequences of a transition between a public and a private institution in the case of London Met students. Mark Stephens, partner at Finers Stephen Innocent and Chair of Governors at UEL, said that, although in the case of law there was often little to differentiate between the two, “the breadth and quality of teaching is better” at public universities because of the academic research conducted by tutors.
Privately owned BPP has places available on its LLB Law and LLB in Business Law across all years of study. BPP has so far offered 15 places across its law and business programmes to London Met students since the clearing process began, and will be accepting applications until 1 October.
There have been concerns that students transferring from London Met mid-way through their course will be at a disadvantage due to differences in subject matter and available modules, but a spokesperson for BPP claims that this will not be the case.
“The LLB Programmes have a common core across all providers with a variety of elective modules,” he said. “All transferring students are subject to the usual JASB rules on LLB credit transfer.”
One advantage of attending a private college for an undergraduate law degree is that the fees can be cheaper. In this case, BPP charge £7000 per year for international students, whilst London Met would have charged £10,000.
However, some are worried that the quality of education in non-Hefce-funded institutions will not meet the expectations of students who had hoped to study at London Met. Sally Hunt, UCU General Secretary, has said that: “We have real concerns that private operators will have easy access to taxpayers’ money, without facing the requisite quality checks.”
For those students who were planning to study the post-graduate LPC - a course which is commonly provided by private institutions - the outlook is positive. Sarah Hutchinson, Director of Business Development at CoL, that students “need not panic” and “should not give up” as there are many more places than are currently filled.
“We are validated by the SRA for significantly more places than we have students,” she said. “This means that we are able to offer up to 15,000 places on the LPC across all of our centres, only 6,000 of which are currently filled.”
So far the CoL has not accepted any London Met students on to its LLB course but it has accepted one LPC student.
However, moving to a centre in Birmingham or Chester may be impractical for a student who enrolled on a course in London with their sights set on vacation placements at a City firm. In addition, many will already have paid accommodation deposits, and moving to a new city could be a financial challenge.
Universities Minister David Willetts has claimed that £2m of public funding will be made available to help the students with costs, but the NUS have warned that this may not be sufficient.
The impact of the High Court decision on the diversity of the law department at London Met is also an important consideration. David Barraclough, chair of the university’s Mansfield Law Society, said: “International students are important in many dimensions, not simply financial, and losing them involves a loss to all concerned; including the government.”
With the fate of London Met still pending, this is an uncertain time for its international students. Fortunately for those studying law, there are a multitude of alternative institutions and courses available, both publicly-funded and private. However, despite the time constraints and emotional pressure, it is still important for the students to thoroughly research all of their options and decide which course of action is best for them.