Magazine article The Times Higher Education Supplement : THE

That's the Home Office Dealt with - What's Next?

Magazine article The Times Higher Education Supplement : THE

That's the Home Office Dealt with - What's Next?

Article excerpt

V-c outlines his plans now that London Met's full visa licence has been restored. Jack Grove writes

Only six weeks into what many view as the toughest job in higher education, John Raftery has received some good news.

The new vice-chancellor of London Metropolitan University was informed by the Home Office last week that it has restored the institution's highly trusted status, which was snatched away two years ago amid a blaze of negative publicity.

London Met was allowed to admit up to 1,000 non-EU students a year from April 2013, but the full restoration of its visa licence is the moment that many hope will close a traumatic episode in the institution's history.

Raftery, who joined London Met after five years as Oxford Brookes University's pro vice-chancellor for student experience, says that sorting out the visa licence has been his top priority since arriving in August. "I have done almost nothing else," he says.

Now, with procedures to satisfy the Home Office in place, Raftery is confident that London Met can focus on other pressing matters, despite tougher visa rules taking effect from November.

Under these new regulations, institutions where 10 per cent of international students are offered a place but refused a visa will lose their sponsor licence. The current threshold is 20 per cent.

London Met's current visa refusal rate varies from month to month, but is "miles away from 10 per cent", says Raftery, who adds that it sometimes dips below 3 per cent.

Regaining the full visa licence will help London Met to begin "measured, gentle growth" of overseas student numbers as the university starts to rebuild its battered reputation.

At the heart of that work will be the quality of academic provision, says Raftery, who highlights his success at Oxford Brookes where National Student Survey scores rose from 83 per cent to 89 per cent on his watch.

"I have spent five years improving the student experience at Oxford Brookes, where we transformed it," he says, adding: "I've done it once, I'll do it again."

He makes no secret that improving London Met's NSS score - a lowly 76 per cent, despite a 4 percentage point jump this year - is a key priority as it feeds into influential university league tables.

Is that pledge a bit foolhardy given that almost all London universities score below average in the annual survey? …

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