LSE students holding Tier 4 student visas will fall into legal jeopardy if they attend Spring Week schemes, the Student Services Centre (SSC) has warned. In an internal memo sent to department managers on 25 February and obtained by The Beaver, the SSC noted that due to changes in LSE’s term dates which place most spring week schemes within LSE’s official term time, “legally our students are not able to undertake” full-time spring week schemes which overlap with LSE term-time. It was not immediately clear which specific schemes are affected and the SSC declined to comment.
The notice noted that summer schemes were likely to be similarly affected but did not elaborate on such issues. The SSC indicated that the Home Office had refused to allow the School to resurrect an old agreement which had allowed students to be released early for internships. Alluding to the presence of increasingly hard-line forces within the Home Office, the SSC noted that “The Home Office now is a completely different animal to when we had this arrangement…in the past.”
The changes are expected to primarily impact undergraduate students—particularly first-year students—given the target demographics of such programs. 55% of LSE undergraduate students were classified as ‘overseas’ students in 2018/9 and the majority of these students hold Tier 4 visas, which limit full-time students to working 20 hours per-week during term-time. Students from the European Union (EU) and European Economic Area (EEA) will not be immediately impacted, although the SSC noted that “the issue will also increase when EU/EEA nationals are under immigration control,” after the UK formally leaves the European Union at the end of the year.
The Beaver understands that some firms have asked students to obtain a letter from the School or from their departments indicating that they have been released early and are eligible to work full time. However, the SSC noted that they do not provide such documents and warned departments that such documents were legally void: “[a] letter from the department does not mitigate the legal risk for either the student or the School.” Asking students to obtain letters from the university mitigates legal risk for firms but does not protect students or the university—despite what students might assume when asked to do so by firms.
Noting LSE’s mandatory reporting requirement in cases of Tier 4 violation, combined with the strict punishments imposed by the Home Office for visa violations—including visa withdrawal and bans on returning to the UK—the SSC concluded that “the long-term risks for a one week scheme to both the student and the School are likely to outweigh the benefits.” LSE acknowledged the importance of such schemes for many students, but noted that ultimately “our role is to protect the whole student body by not putting our Tier 4 sponsor licence at risk and sometimes this is to the detriment of the few.”
Such developments highlight the role of universities within the UK’s ‘hostile environment’ immigration system, which forces university administrators to effectively become immigration enforcement agents. LSE and other universities are legally obligated to ensure that students are in compliance with visa regulations and can face sanctions and visa-granting restrictions if they fail to do so.
The Beaver has reached to an LSE spokesperson for comment. Responses will be amended to this article.