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London Met update – ‘clearing’ begins on Monday

September 16, 2012

The story at London Metropolitan is still unfolding with the university taking its case against the UKBA to a judicial review hearing on Friday. It is seeking ‘urgent interim relief’ pending a review of the UKBA’s decision to revoke its licence to sponsor visas for non-EU students (see previous post on London Met). ‘Interim relief’ would mean that the UKBA’s decision would be temporally suspended allowing London Met to continue to engage with its international students if a full hearing goes ahead.

In the meantime, the ‘task force’ set up to move affected students into alternative institutions met at the end of last week and announced a ‘clearing house” operation that is to begin on Monday (17 September).

Fifteen London-based institutions have been nominated by London Met to participate in the endeavour.

“The task force’s key priority is helping genuine students affected by the revocation decision to continue their studies. With the beginning of the academic year imminent, the clearing house is working to tight timescales, and the process poses significant challenges. Limiting the number of institutions will help the University to manage the process efficiently and effectively, while giving students choice.”

The institutions include six ‘private providers’, two of which are charities: Regent’s College and ifs School of Finance. Two more of those are owned by private equity companies: BPP University College (owned by Apollo Global) and Greenwich School of Management (Sovereign Capital). A fifth, College of Law was a charity but is in the process of being sold to Montagu Private Equity. London School of Business and Finance (LSBF) is a not-for-profit company limited by guarantee, but is part of a broader group of private colleges.

Neither Greenwich School of Management nor LSBF has their own degree awarding powers. The ‘task force’ states that all 15 institutions are ‘well placed in terms of quality assurance’ but the Quality Assurance Agency has published critical reports regarding both institutions in recent months.

Earlier in September, the QAA published an institutional review into Greenwich School of Management which summarised two problems:

“The enhancement of student learning opportunities at the institution does not meet UK expectations. –

“The quality of student learning opportunities at the institution requires improvement to meet UK expectations.”

While in June LSBF was implicated in a damning QAA review into its partner institution, Finance and Business Training Limited, entitled ‘Concerns about standards and quality in higher education’.

Its conclusion:

“The report has identified a number of weaknesses which are attributable to a range of factors, including, on the part of FBT/LSBF, institutional immaturity and inadequate understanding of the expectations of a higher education provider in the United Kingdom. In the case of the University, it initially failed to recognise these weaknesses and exercise proper oversight of its programmes at FBT/LSBF. As a consequence, all parties bear responsibility for the issues identified in this report.”

LSBF and FBT shared the same ‘academic and operational control’.

Have the affected London Met international students been apprised of these issues? The task force has alerted them to the different visa statuses of private colleges:

“A number of the institutions, for example, are from the private sector, and students considering offers from these institutions will need to know that the conditions attaching to visas to study with private providers differ, in particular in respect of entitlement to undertake paid work while studying.  Students will also be offered academic guidance to help them in their decisions, as well as welfare advice and counselling.”

But ‘informed consumers’ also need to know about quality and where their fees might be going.

 

 

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