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Sep 03, 2012 at 07:54pm IST

London varsity crisis hits 'Brand Britain' abroad

London: Amidst much hand-wringing, the revocation of London Metropolitan University's licence to admit and teach Indian and other non-EU students has caused a "high level of concern" in various countries from where students come to study in the UK.

LMU's board of governors were scheduled to meet later on Monday to discuss the situation, while student and other unions expressed support to the international students affected by the licence revocation by the UK Border Agency due to "serious and systemic errors".

The British Council, which has presence in various countries and is usually the first port of call for students keen to study in the UK, has reported a "high level of concern" after the LMU crisis hit international headlines.

London varsity crisis hits 'Brand Britain' abroad

London Metropolitan University's licence was revoced by the UK Border Agency due to 'serious and systemic errors'.

Martin Davidson, Chief Executive of the British Council, told PTI: "This situation at London Met could be hugely damaging to the UK's excellent reputation overseas."

"Our offices around the world are receiving a high level of concern and we are doing our best to explain the position and reassure students that the UK welcomes and values them," he said.

"We are making clear that this will not affect people with places in the UK's other universities...Genuine international students make a huge contribution to the UK, academically, economically, and culturally. The UK is the second most popular study destination in the world for ambitious young people," he added.

In China, from where the largest numbers of non-EU students come to the UK, a translation error by Chinese news agencies has reportedly dragged another London university, City University, into the LMU controversy.

City University has reportedly been wrongly named by China's national state broadcaster as the university affected by the UK Border Agency's decision to withdraw LMU's licence.

The error has also been made in newspapers and magazines, reports here said.

There are fears that the error may already have damaged the City University's reputation in China.

Meanwhile, protests have been planned and petitions launched online to support Indian and other international students affected by LMU's licence revocation.

Nearly 30 universities across the UK are in touch with LMU to offer alternative places to the affected students.

Michael Banner, fellow of Trinity College, Cambridge, told BBC Radio 4: "It doesn't present a very welcoming picture on the face of it, not least because we know a lot of students on the surface have done nothing wrong. It's a punishment for the university, but the people being punished are the students".

Cambridge University Students' Union (CUSU) said the decision to revoke LMU's licence was "disproportionate" and "must be challenged".

Rosalyn Old, president of CUSU, said: "The Border Agency's decision to revoke this licence and deport thousands of legitimate students is just one part of a dangerous agenda to discourage international students from coming to study in the UK".

"At a time when universities and their students are suffering under serious budget cuts, the Border Agency's decision is a serious blow to the exceptionally diverse, international, academic community which makes UK Universities, including Cambridge, world class," she added.

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