The UK Border Agency has announced details of the newly launched ‘Highly Trusted Sponsor Scheme’ for education providers under Tier 4 of the points-based system.
Tier 4 sponsors can now apply for a Highly Trusted Sponsor licence, and the register of highly trusted sponsors will go live on Tuesday 6 April 2010.
Under the UK’s points-based system for controlling migration, all sponsors are rated according to their track record and procedures for monitoring overseas students. The UK Border Agency (UKBA) say they are now expanding and building on this rating process:
‘The new scheme is about immigration control, not academic achievement. To qualify as a highly trusted sponsor, an education provider must have a proven track record in recruiting genuine international students who comply with immigration rules while they are in the UK.
‘The scheme will cut red tape for sponsors who qualify. It will also allow us to monitor other sponsors more thoroughly, focusing our enforcement activity on those who seek to abuse the system. We will be applying minimum standards for all sponsors; where appropriate, we will suspend or revoke the licences of sponsors who fail to meet these standards.
‘Compared with other Tier 4 (General) sponsors, a highly trusted sponsor will be able to offer a wider range of courses to overseas students. It will also be offered new services and benefits, such as a dedicated account management function and a more flexible approach to reporting student non-attendance.’
The Highly Trusted Sponsor Scheme section of the UKBA website contains more information about the scheme’s benefits for sponsors, and explains how to apply.
The new category of educational sponsor comes shortly after the recent announcement by Home Secretary Alan Johnson following the government’s Tier 4 review.
What does this mean to private colleges?
Alan Johnson said that initially all government run colleges and universities will be on the highly trusted sponsors register and that private colleges would have to apply to be included.
Under the new immigration rules only those education providers that qualify under the new highly trusted sponsor category will be able to offer courses to tier 4 (general) students that are at level 3 on the National Qualifications Framework, or at level 6 on the Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework.
Crucially, only highly trusted sponsors will be able to offer vocational courses or courses which contain an element of work based placements, and courses below degree level (excluding foundation degrees).
The rules have been amended to give highly trusted sponsors greater flexibility in issuing valid Confirmations of Acceptance for Studies to their students who need to re-sit examinations or repeat course modules.