A Scottish university has become the first in the UK to have its international licence suspended preventing it from sponsoring foreign students over concerns that the student visa system is being abused.

The UK is currently cracking down non-student visa abuse as part of a wider policy to reduce the number of visas being granted to overseas students.

Now the UK Borders Agency (UKBA) has suspended the licence of Glasgow Caledonian University after concerns were raised over the amount of time nursing students from the Philippines were spending working during their course following an inspection earlier this month.

The university now has 28 days to demonstrate to the Home Office that it has addressed the concerns or it may have its licence revoked.

‘I can confirm that Glasgow Caledonian University's tier 4 licence has been suspended following concerns about abuses of the immigration system,’ said Phil Taylor, UKBA regional director in Scotland and Northern Ireland.

Highly trusted sponsors bringing in international students must ensure that they are attending the course for which they are enrolled and that they are complying with the requirements of the immigration rules. The UK Border Agency makes regular checks on sponsors, and where we find evidence that they are not fulfilling their duties, we may suspend their licence,’ he explained.

‘GCU (Glasgow Caledonian University) is co-operating with the UK Border Agency to address issues specific to a group of international students on the BSC nursing (professional development) course and we expect to have these resolved in the near future,’ said a Glasgow Caledonian University spokeswoman.

‘As conversations are ongoing, the UKBA has asked the university to implement a 28 day suspension of our processing of immigration paperwork, as their processes require. While we feel that this action is disproportionate, we are working with them to fully understand the issues and implement any changes needed as a result,’ she explained.

‘Our duty of care to our students is our absolute priority and they have time and again recognised that by voting us top in Scotland for international student support. We are proud of that and will ensure it remains the case as we make any changes requested of us,’ she added.

New rules governing student visas, including stricter entrance criteria and limits on work entitlements, came into force in the UK at the beginning of the month.