Shreya Paudel, NUS International Students' Officer

The National Union of Students (NUS) has created a petition to help save the education of “tens of thousands” of international students.

The Home Office revoked 38 “Highly Trusted Sponsor” licences over the three months from June to September, which allowed educational institutions to authorise visas for foreign students.

Shreya Paudel, NUS International Students' Officer
The online petition was started by Shreya Paudel, NUS’ International Students Officer (Photo: National Union of Students)

According to the NUS, students affected by the change were only given 60 days to find and apply for a course at a licensed institution. They also had to pay an administration fee for a new visa.

The decision to revoke the licences was announced in the House of Commons on 24 June by Security and Immigration Minister James Brokenshire.

It came after a February 2014 BBC ‘Panorama’ documentary exposed systematic cheating in language tests for prospective international students administered by the English Testing Service (ETS).

He told the House: “It is highly doubtful that many of the colleges, and some universities, that sponsored them in numbers were fulfilling their duties as ‘highly trusted sponsors’.

“The evidence [immigration enforcement officers] have provided of what is going on in these institutions is cause for serious concern. The work undertaken by HMRC has identified a number of overseas university students earning more than £20,000 a year, despite the rule that they must not work more than 20 hours per week during term time.

“Overseas students at privately funded further education colleges are not allowed to work at all, yet one college — the London School of Business and Finance — has 290 foreign students who worked and paid tax last year.”

However, the NUS is concerned that some of the students affected, which includes genuine, law-abiding international students, are not receiving enough support from the government.

They are demanding “clear and consistent communication and support” for those affected, as well as a financial guarantee that those applying to another institution can continue their education at the same cost.

Shreya Paudel, the NUS International Students Officer, added: “There is no open or transparent process for international students to challenge this decision, only to appeal it after they have already been forcibly put on a plane to leave the UK.”

At the time of writing, the petition had just over 400 supporters, including representatives from several student unions around the country.

You can see the full petition by clicking here, and read the Immigration Minister’s announcement to the House of Commons by clicking here.