UK university pursues legal action over visas

A London university said Monday it is pursuing legal action to reverse the British government's decision to strip it of its ability to sponsor visas for international students, a decision that has left more than 2,000 students facing deportation.

London Metropolitan University said it has told its lawyers to begin urgent action to challenge the decision so that its students can return to study.

Last week, immigration officials announced that the institution had lost its "highly trusted status" because a survey found problems with the qualifications of many of its foreign students. The Border Agency said samples of students found that "significant proportions" did not have a good English standard, had no permission to be in the country or did not attend classes.

"London Met will fight this revocation, which is based on a highly flawed report by the U.K. Border Agency," university Vice Chancellor Malcolm Gillies said. "The university will continue to give top priority to the interests of our international students who have been so distressed by this precipitate action."

It was not clear what kind of legal action was planned, but one possibility is a judicial review of the government's decision.

The decision means that around 2,600 students — including many with valid visas — could be deported from Britain if they do not find an alternative sponsor within 60 days.

Prime Minister David Cameron's Conservative government has vowed to crack down on immigration in multiple ways. It has pointed to student visas as a category ripe for abuse by those who may instead be looking for work.

But many in Britain, including the National Union of Students, were angered by the move against London Metropolitan. They argue that the move unfairly punishes legitimate foreign students who have paid large sums of tuition fees and are now barred from finishing their degrees.