Pop goes the met

30 August 2012
So London Metropolitan University, a university I am familier with from trips down Holloway Road, has lost visa sign-off powers, so all its overseas students now have 60 days to find a new sponsor. While it does not surprise me that it is the Met in the firing line, this does raise a lot of nasty issues.

London Met has had a lot of problems in the last few years, and I think this one will finally push it over the edge. If I recall correctly, London Metropolitan got caught out for a few million as a victim of the collapse of IceSave, but either way they have had major issues involving oversight. What I found telling is that problems were supposedly identified six months ago, which was basically straight after a load of job losses. This is not a good recipe at the best of times, never mind when you are on the wrong end of government practice. I think they're finished, and the nasty bit is that I doubt they will be the last.

University teaching of home students is, with a few exceptions, a loss-making activity. Cross-subsidy from high overseas (i.e. non-EU) fees is the only reason many (if not the vast majority of) UK universities survive, and as is the London Met's case the total loss of all non-EU students is basically suicide. Since it is it student visas that have to bear the brunt of Coalition immigration policies, expect other institutions to have similar problems. With an immediate 15% loss of income, it is hard to see how the London Met could survive without being bailed out. Although the government has previously stated that it would allow universities to go bust, one doing so would still be a major turning point, as once the precident is set many may follow in quick succession.