Finally one of the main migrant groups are taking up the cases of thousands of Tier 4 students who have been left stranded like refugees in a war zone during the UK Border Agency’s relentless student visa crackdown on private colleges.
The Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants (JCWI) writes:
450 colleges had their ‘trusted sponsor’ status revoked in the past year. This affects around 11,000 overseas students. Much is being said in the media about the immigration abuses of student visas, but the coverage forgets the real victims of this headline figure – the students.
Colleges who have their licences revoked are not all ‘bogus’, as the red top papers would have us believe. There’s been a constant scrutiny of such institutions for a number of years now. Colleges denied the chance to recruit international students face financial oblivion, and many close leaving students stranded in the middle of their studies.
I’ve had a couple of meetings with a group of students who have been left high and dry by two main factors. Firstly, they studied at a college run by rip off merchants who were happy to take large amounts of cash in the form of tuition fees, who then filed for bankruptcy. Secondly, they’ve been let down by an immigration system that offers no support or protection to students in this situation.
Immigration law generally limits permission to stay to 60 days if a student’s course ends earlier than expected. As such, this means that a student has 60 days to find another college after their one closes.
Whether a college is licenced to issue Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies (CAS) certificates is decided by UKBA on three criteria: the human resource systems of the college, the civil penalties, and criminal convictions of the staff and any non-compliance by the organisation. There is no academic scrutiny of the college and no financial safeguards offered to students who choose to study there.
Perhaps an example best explains the situation.
Zara (not her real name) from Bangladesh came to study in the UK. Like so many students across the world, she was keen to improve her understanding and language skills by studying in another country. She’d seen adverts about London Trinity College, knew about the quality of education in the UK and applied. On the college website, it stated that the institution was a recognised sponsor in the eyes of the UKBA, which she found reassuring. The college was indeed listed on the UKBA website as a sponsor. They issued her with a CAS and was issued with a student visa.
Zara paid fees of £8000 to cover tuition for her ACCA qualification in accounting. But the financial demands weren’t quite so simple. She had to prove to UKBA she had enough money in her bank account to maintain herself for a year – £9600 to be precise. Borrowing the money from her parents and a little more from her extended family, she arrived in the UK, found lodgings and started her course in accounting.She was disappointed to find her ‘college’ was set up in a closed down grocery store. But, they taught the course and she thrived as a result of her hard work.
One day Zara turned up to college one day to find it closed. Meeting other students outside they did some quick research and found the college had gone into voluntary liquidation. None of the students were able to get their money back.
On seeking advice Zara and the others discovered that unless they found a college that would accept them within 60 days, paid the fees to the new college and reapplied for a visa, they would be in the country illegally.
Zara and her family could not afford a second set of fees. Additionally, few colleges are willing to accept international students mid-course as they have to use up their valuable CAS allocation for less money than a student studying a full year.
The Government and media stoked hysteria on ‘bogus’ students and ‘bogus’ colleges does wonders for helping to massage the figures on net immigration and appeasing public perceptions on immigration, but it does nothing to help the real victims of the situation – overseas students left in the lurch by colleges and the UKBA.
Overseas students bring billions of pounds of trade and education revenue to the UK each year. Cuts in funding mean that universities and colleges are more dependent than ever on the fees paid by international students to keep courses open and education provision intact.
A stamp of approval from the UKBA has helped thousands of students decide to study at institutions which have dubious academic track records. Revoking trusted status may stop further abuses in the future – but what about those left in limbo now? Source: JCWI.
The UK Border Agency has implemented significant changes to the Tier 4 student route of the points-based system, which came into effect on 4 July 2011.
The Government implemented major changes to the Immigration Rules relating to Tier 4 students who want to study at private colleges in July.
- restrict work entitlements, by only allowing students sponsored by higher education institutions (HEIs) and publicly funded further education colleges to work part-time during term time and full-time during vacations;
- restrict sponsorship of dependants to those of students sponsored by HEIs on postgraduate courses lasting 12 months or longer, and of government-sponsored students on courses lasting longer than 6 months;
- require institutions to confirm that courses represent genuine academic progression from any previous courses studied by the student in the UK; and
- create a streamlined application process for low-risk nationals sponsored by Highly Trusted sponsors.
The Home Office recently revealed a drop of 11,000 overseas students since tougher measures introduced this year. UK Universities warns that not only is the government’s action damaging Britain’s reputation, but was also responsible for 400 private colleges effectively opting out of the new Tier 4 sponsoring system.
The Universities UK action issued a warning about Britain’s reputation in education after new figures revealed that the government’s curb on overseas students had reduced their numbers by 11,000 and led to more than 450 colleges pulling out of the market, the Guardian reported earlier this month.
A spokesman for UK University Services (UKUS) said that ‘unfortunately many international students are being deterred from choosing British colleges and universities due to rule changes, the abolition of the PSW post study work visa as well as all the rumours and stories of the bad experience suffered by their fellow countrymen whilst studying in the UK’.
English UK, an association representing 450 language colleges, demanded an apology from the Home Office claiming their remarks implied institutions were fronts for illegal immigration.
The Home Office has been threatened with legal action amid claims it mistakenly implied that 22 colleges were bogus or sub-standard.
The combination of new UK Border Agency ‘Highly Trusted Sponsor’ regulations introduced this year and the new Tier 4 student visa rules, has increased costs whilst wiping out the market for smaller private education providers – hence the 400 closing their doors or simply opting out of the new Highly Trusted regime.
Last month more than 650 Tasmac College students were left stranded without a college when the University of Wales (UoW) accredited college went bust.
Students affected by the closure of their college should remember that new Tier 4 visa rules apply to students applying to private colleges after 4 July 2011.
Bison UK Immigration Adviser Cynthia Barker said:
‘This means that if you renew your visa for a private college or change college after 4 July 2011, you will not be able to work and you will not be able to sponsor your dependant.’
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