More than 2,000 foreign students face possible deportation from Britain after their university was stripped of its right to authorize visas.
London Metropolitan University lost its "highly trusted status" because a survey found more than a quarter of its foreign students did not have permission to be in the country, Immigration Minister Damian Green said Thursday.
A "significant proportion" of students did not have a good standard of English, Green said, and there was no proof that half of those sampled were turning up to lectures.
"Any one of those breaches would be serious," Green said in a BBC radio interview. "We found all three of those breaches at London Metropolitan.
The students have 60 days to find a new sponsor, or they could find themselves at risk of deportation.
Educators expressed fears that the episode could damage Britain's success in attracting foreign students.
Malcolm Gillies, vice chancellor of London Metropolitan University, said it was "working with the best lawyers in the country" to challenge the ruling by the U.K. Border Agency.
"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 U.K.," Gillie said.
Universities Minister David Willetts said a task force has been set up to help genuine students who are affected through no fault of their own.
"No matter how this is dressed up, the damaging message that the U.K. deports foreign students studying at U.K. universities will reach all corners of the globe," said Sally Hunt, general secretary of the University and College Union. "The last thing we can afford to do is send a message that international students are no longer welcome here."
Liam Burns, president of the National Union of Students, said the government's "heavy-handed decision makes no sense for students, no sense for institutions and no sense for the country."