The combination of administrative ineptitude by the authorities at London Metropolitan University, and the pressure self-induced by an absurd promise by the Conservatives has created a nightmare for a group of innocent students far from home.
There is no doubt that, if the university authorities have failed to fulfil their obligations to ensure that only genuine students are admitted to the United Kingdom, sanctions are appropriate. But whilst the university may suffer in the medium and long term, the Government has a responsibility to protect legitimate visitors to our company.
So, instead of giving the students sixty days to find a new course, with the stress and risk of financial loss that this entails, why not ban the university from offering places to any new students, announce that their current student body will receive rather more scrutiny than might otherwise be the case, and impose an inspection regime for students to be financed by the university?
Something must be done quickly, because the current situation is fraught with danger for our university sector. If it were to become the case that overseas students could find their courses abolished at a moment's notice, they might decide that the risk is too great, and that going to the US, or Canada, or Australia might be a safer choice. And given the revenue that accrues to British universities from overseas, that loss could dwarf the costs of immigration that so trouble the Conservatives.
But once again, the Conservative insistence on setting an entirely impractical target has proved to have created more problems than it could ever solve. The response of the UK Border Agency is designed to appease the political agenda, rather than solve the problem. I would suggest that any benefit that might have thought to accrue from such a hardline stance will be dwarfed by the criticism that this will attract from those who believe in fair play and natural justice.