Public Interest Cases

International students - January 2015


Visa sponsorship

The OIA receives a number of cases that relate to institutions’ responsibilities in relation to visas:

London Metropolitan University

After the university’s licence to sponsor new international students was revoked it reached an agreement with the United Kingdom Border Agency (at the time the relevant agency) to enable existing international students to continue studying there, so long as they were attending and progressing satisfactorily. Where the university was unable to confirm satisfactory attendance or progress, the student’s registration would be withdrawn.

The university withdrew a student’s registration but wrongly gave her the impression that this decision had been taken due to her failure to attend classes – the real reason was due to the poor marks she had achieved. The student based her appeal statement on the fact that she had attended classes but that her attendance may not have been logged as she had not used her smartcard to access university buildings. Had she been informed of the real reason why her registration had been terminated, she may have changed the focus of her appeal statement to the family bereavements she had experienced (including the death of her father). The OIA found the complaint Partly Justified and recommended that the University should allow her to submit a fresh appeal statement and to reconsider her appeal accordingly.


Sheffield Hallam University

An administrative error at the university led to the student’s application for an extension to his student visa being declined by the United Kingdom Borders Agency.

The student complained to the OIA about the way his complaint was handled, and about the level of compensation offered by the university.

The OIA found the complaint Partly Justified. It found no grounds to accept the student’s complaints about requests from the university for information to support his claim for financial compensation, nor about the perceived fairness of the way his complaint was handled. The OIA did however conclude that the university took too long to resolve his complaint. It took the view that had the university met with the student when the administrative error was discovered this would have enabled expectations of redress to be managed and might have helped resolve the complaint more quickly.


Student expectations: international students

Students registering to study in the UK may in some cases have unrealistic expectations:

University of Northampton

The student was a Masters student whose studies were terminated following cumulative academic failure.

At the Appeal Panel hearing she stated that she was not interested in attending teaching sessions, only in receiving her degree, that she did not understand why she had to submit work and that the work she did submit should have passed because her brother in her home country had “checked it” for her. The Appeal Panel concluded that the student had not engaged with her studies and that she did not understand the ethos of the UK HE system or what was required of her.

The OIA concluded that it was unfortunate that the student appeared to have misunderstood the UK HE system, in that payment of tuition fees alone does not in itself result in the award of a degree. Students must of course engage with their programme of study and meet the prescribed academic standards, demonstrated via assessment, in order to be eligible for the award of a degree. The HEI also has a duty to maintain its academic standards and the academic integrity of its awards.

The OIA found the complaint Not Justified.