With the dust finally settling after the London Met crisis, relive the whole journey with a blow by blow account of what actually happened, from the people who were there.
On Sunday 26 August, a leaked story was published by the Sunday Times which suggested that the United Kingdom Border Agency (UKBA) had made a decision to revoke its Highly Trusted Sponsor (HTS) license from London Metropolitan University (LMU).
Having been given no warning about this situation, international students at LMU were left feeling stunned as the prospect of deportation and the loss of their right to study in the United Kingdom gradually became apparent.
An official statement was released by the Home Office, specifying that a decision about LMU’s status was yet to be made, but officers and staff at NUS set to work immediately investigating the exact nature of the situation.
The process started on Tuesday 28 August, when NUS visited LMU Students’ Union to update them on their progress and to discuss next steps.. The general feeling was one of confusion and anxiety and students demanded to know what was going to happen to them.
The next morning, Keith Vaz, M.P. for Leicester East and Chairman of the Home Affairs Select Committee, sent a letter to Immigration Minister Damian Green to raise concerns about the case surrounding LMU. NUS was hopeful that this support would result in the Home Office choosing in favour of LMU and eagerly awaited their final word.
This hope was rapidly extinguished as LMU were informed on the evening of Wednesday 29 August that their HTS license had been formally revoked. Two thousand five hundred international students were now being denied the right to study in the United Kingdom and were being asked to leave the country.
In spite of reassuring LMU that their students would be informed of the decision before it was made public, NUS discovered that the UKBA had published a statement only an hour after the decision had been made explaining the full story.
Students and student officers at LMU were outraged. With full support from NUS, they decided to hold a silent protest outside Downing Street on Thursday 30 August, gaining significant media coverage in the process.
An interesting twist of fate saw the national press reporting, on the same day, that immigration had fallen by 36,000 in 2012 and student visas had fallen by 75,000 - a drop of 21 per cent.
This was significant because it meant that, had there been no change to international student visa applications/acceptances, immigration statistics would have gone up by 39,000. This served as further evidence toward the government’s continued drive in its unprecedented attack on international students in order to satisfy their targets of reducing net migration.
It was becoming increasingly clear that a simple protest would not be sufficient to arrest the situation. NUS International Students’ Officer Daniel Stevens met with the Vice-chancellor of LMU and London Metropolitan Students’ Union and NUS President Liam Burns met with Head of Immigration at the UKBA to discuss the issue and state NUS’s position.
A ‘task force’ led by Sir Alan Langlandswas set up during the week, bringing together representatives from the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, Universities UK, the UKBA, London Metropolitan University and the National Union of Students. The first meeting was held on Friday 31 August and as a result NUS began considering legal action.
On Monday 3 September a number of MPs launched an Early Day Motion (EDM), which NUS encouraged students to sign. Liam Burns also sent out a call for support to students’ unions and students, inviting them to attend a demonstration on Wednesday 5 September.
Students from across London gathered outside the Home Office to protest against the decision. To supplement this demonstration, NUS provided international students at LMU with a draft letter to send to their MP highlighting their concerns.
A second taskforce meeting was held to discuss the idea of a ‘clearing house’. It detailed courses and institutions that were as similar as possible, to ensure that students would feel comfortable and supported if transferring to a different institution became necessary.
On Thursday 6 September NUS launched a survey for international students at London Metropolitan University to find out how they were being advised. The results of the survey were presented at the third meeting of the task force on Wednesday 12 September.
By now, some weeks had passed and students were becoming even more disconcerted and anxious. There was still no clarity around what was going to happen and it was at this point that LMU submitted their appeal for a Judicial Review. Shortly after, the UKBA submitted their defence against this.
At the fourth task force meeting, held on Wednesday 19 September, a report on the progress of the clearing house was delivered. By this point, NUS had decided to take legal action and the High Court had agreed to allow NUS to intervene in the review.
The hearing was held on Friday 21 September. NUS presented written evidence in the form of a witness statement from Liam Burns describing the impact the UKBA’s decision would have on students at LMU and future international students who chose to study in the United Kingdom. The statement was also informed by the survey of international students undertaken the previous week.
After a long day in court, the UKBA eventually agreed to guarantee the position of international students until the end of their course or up until the end of the academic year (2012/13), whichever is sooner. LMU were also given permission to attend a full hearing, the date of which is not yet set but is likely to be early in the New Year.
Although a massive win for NUS and the students they represent, NUS is fully aware that it is not likely to be the end of the story for LMU or even other higher education institutions who may find themselves at the centre of a similar attack. Liam Burns states, “The future for international students at London Met after July 2013 is still uncertain and we need clarity as soon as possible”.
The ramifications of NUS’ actions will gradually unfold over time but one thing is clear: the face of higher education and its relationship with immigration will never be the same again. The government is waging a war to cut down its immigration statistics and international students are likely to be hard hit casualties. However, NUS has now helped set a precedent that will hopefully serve to protect future international students and higher education institutions.
Because of NUS’ direct intervention, the future is set to be brighter for international students and we invite you to join us on Wednesday 21 November in central London as we continue to fight for a fair and supported world for students throughout the United Kingdom. www.demo2012.org.uk
 Sir Alan Langlands is Chief Executive of the HEFCE
 A clearing house is a list of institutions that students could transfer to if necessary .