More than 2,000 international students face deportation after London Metropolitan University has been banned from teaching foreign students amidst an investigation exposing “systematic failures” of its visa system.

The university has had its Highly Trusted Status (HTS) for sponsoring international students taken away following an investigation by the UK Border Agency, which found a quarter of foreign students did not have permission to be in the country and over half had no proof they were attending lectures. A “significant proportion” did not have adequate standards of English and could face deportation within 60 days unless they find a place on another course.

Universities Minister, David Willetts, has set up a task force for “genuine students who are affected through no fault of their own” to provide advice and help finding other institutions where they can complete their studies.

The National Union of Students has accused the Government of using international students as “a political football”, suggesting it could “endanger the continuation of higher education as a successful export industry”.

But Immigration Minister, Damian Green, defended the “sensible measures” the Government had employed in revoking the university’s status, saying it had breached rules that were designed to prevent foreigners abusing study visas.

He said:

“What we found here is a serious systemic failure where it appears that the university doesn’t have the capacity to be a proper sponsor and to have confidence that the students coming have the right to be here in the first place.”

A UKBA spokesman said:

“London Metropolitan University’s licence to sponsor non-EU students has been revoked after it failed to address serious and systemic failings that were identified by the UK Border Agency six months ago.

“We have been working with them since then, but the latest audit revealed problems with 61% of files randomly sampled. Allowing London Metropolitan University to continue to sponsor and teach international students was not an option.”

Professor Eric Thomas, president of Universities UK, said:

“The UKBA’s decision to revoke London Metropolitan University’s licence will cause anxiety and distress to those many legitimate international students currently studying at London Metropolitan, and their families.”