Desperate South Asian students are being hunted out by immigration and education touts after the UK Border Agency gave students of the London Metropolitan University 60 days to enrol for courses elsewhere or face deportation.
The LMU was stripped of its Highly Trusted Sponsor status on Wednesday night by the UKBA, which said some of its non-European students did not possess "decent English," or had overstayed their visa or were skipping classes. The university rejected the accusation and the methodology used by the UKBA, which randomly sampled student records.
There was panic among the students, who demonstrated outside Prime Minister David Cameron's office. But just a few feet outside the north London campus building where the vice chancellor defended his position, HT spoke to an Indian immigration tout who targeted distressed Indian students.
Smartly dressed and describing himself as a "legal and educational services consultant" from Mumbai, the man wrote down the cellphone numbers of a teenaged Pakistani girl, two Nepali men and a man from Andhra Pradesh.
"We can enlist these students in other universities that we are working for," he said, claiming that "thousands of colleges" are being investigated by the UKBA.
In the city of Birmingham, 200 miles away, Bright Learning Academy - run by Indians - is also helping local students enrolled at LMU. "We are a student extension service, and deal with student visas and immigration issues," a woman who gave her name as Meghna Mittal told HT on the phone. "We got an email update this (Friday) morning that some LMU students might be approaching us for getting into other universities."
Questioned, she revealed that some students, although living in the "Birmingham area" were enrolled in LMU, adding: "It's only a 2.5 hour train journey to London."
Such private companies have been able to move in swiftly because students are desperate. Despite repeated offers of help by the university and the UKBA, the fact is that September is the start of the academic year in Britain. Having paid more than 10,000 pounds in fees, no one wants to go back.