In July 2011 the Home Office confirmed details of new arrangements for the ‘educational oversight’ of private colleges which sponsor non-EU international students on Tier 4 student visas.
The Home Office say the arrangements are ‘a key part of the drive to improve standards of educational quality and immigration compliance which lies at the heart of the reforms to Tier 4 of the points based system’.
This page explains
This is a summary of the arrangements which will be in place after 2012 for those private education providers who are subject to the educational oversight regime introduced in 2011:
- sponsors will be subject to full assessments every 4 years;
- there will be intermediate ‘health check’ assessments, with the frequency dependent on the outcome of their previous inspection; and
- full assessments will be triggered at an earlier stage than the normal 4-year cycle if circumstances change (see below) or if health checks reveal any issues to be addressed.
In addition, there will be a 3 month window this year for new applications for educational oversight from private education providers. If a provider successfully obtains educational oversight they will then be able to apply to join the Tier 4 sponsor register.
Under the educational oversight arrangements, all Tier 4 sponsors are required to satisfactorily pass an assessment by one of the 8 independent bodies with an existing role in the formal regulation of education in the UK. The following designated bodies provide oversight to privately-funded colleges offering higher and further education and English language courses:
- the Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education;
- Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Education (Scotland);
- the Education and Training Inspectorate (Northern Ireland);
- the Independent Schools Inspectorate;
- the School Inspection Service; and
- the Bridge Schools Inspectorate.
This page explains in broad terms the educational oversight requirements for privately-funded institutions who wish to remain on, or join, the Tier 4 sponsor register. For detailed information on how these arrangements will apply in practice, please visit the relevant body’s website.
Publicly-funded providers and other institutions that have a current and satisfactory full inspection, review or audit from the appropriate designated body under the system of public reviews will continue to meet the educational oversight requirements.
Windows for new applications
Privately-funded colleges in England and Wales who want to obtain educational oversight as part of an application to join the Tier 4 sponsor register will be able to do so between 23 July and 22 October 2012. Privately-funded colleges in Scotland will be able to apply between 3 September and 5 November 2012. Providers in Northern Ireland should consult the Education and Training Inspectorate Northern Ireland on the window for applications.
The Home Office has agreed with the oversight bodies that these windows will be time-limited to enable them to plan their assessment schedules for the coming year. New applicants must have established a track record of at least 1 year of teaching before applying for educational oversight.
Full assessments of new applicants will begin in 2013, and will start the sponsor’s 4-year educational oversight cycle. This process will then repeat annually to allow new sponsors to join the register.
Four-year assessment cycle for privately-funded sponsors
Privately-funded colleges will be required to undergo a 4-year assessment cycle. All those who applied to a designated educational oversight body by the September 2011 deadline (or by 28 May 2012 for colleges in Scotland) will receive an initial full assessment by the end of 2012, beginning their 4-year cycle. These sponsors will next be required to undergo a full assessment in 2016 and every fourth year thereafter (unless there is a material change in circumstances – see below).
In addition to full assessments every 4 years, educational oversight bodies will now introduce risk-based interim health checks. Health checks will be a light-touch, shortened version of a full assessment with the format devised by each of the individual oversight bodies. They are designed to ensure educational standards and quality are being maintained throughout the 4-year cycle, without imposing the burden of a full assessment. The fees for health checks will be set by the educational oversight bodies on a cost-recovery basis. The educational oversight bodies will determine the notice given for the health check visit, but they may be carried out without notice or at short notice. Each educational oversight body will make available a report of every health check on their website.
All privately-funded colleges assessed in 2012 will be required to undergo an initial health check in 2013 to ensure that standards remain on track. Further health checks will take place annually but may be made on a 2-year cycle if the relevant oversight body judges the sponsor meets the highest educational standards. This means that in this first 4-year cycle, sponsors deemed to be performing well in 2013 will not undergo a further health check until 2015.
If the privately-funded sponsor no longer meets acceptable standards they will fail the health check. Their confirmation of acceptance for studies (CAS) allocation will be frozen and, they will be required to submit within 30 days an action plan to remedy deficiencies. During this time, the sponsor will be unable to sponsor any new international students but they can continue to sponsor students who are already studying with them. If any existing students need to extend their leave in order to complete their current course, the sponsor can apply for a CAS to assign to them using the sponsorship management system.
The sponsor will then be given the option of applying for a full assessment within a short period of time (maximum 6 months), which will re-start their 4-year assessment cycle. Those who pass the full assessment will have their CAS allocation reassigned. Those who fail – or choose not to apply – will be made legacy sponsors. The meaning of ‘legacy sponsor’ is set out in the Tier 4 sponsor guidance.
The educational oversight bodies will retain the discretion to require a full assessment and/or health check at any time if they consider the circumstances warrant it.
You should also refer to the diagram showing the 4-year assessment cycle for existing and new sponsors (see related documents).
Material change in circumstances
The educational oversight bodies will provide details of the specific material changes which will lead to sponsors being required to undergo an early full assessment part-way through the 4-year cycle. These changes are likely to include a significant and sudden increase in student numbers (international and/or EU/EEA), major changes in course provision (including changes to awarding bodies or organisations) and mergers or acquisitions of a new branch that is planned to be included in the existing sponsorship arrangement.
Other changes might be considered as part of the next scheduled health check. These might include significant increases in premises, a change of proprietor and major changes in teaching staff and accommodation arrangements for students.
A failure to report a material change of circumstances may be regarded by the agency as a failure of sponsor duties. Source: UK Border Agency.
Hundreds of private colleges have closed their doors due to suspension of their Tier 4 licence or because student visa Rule changes have given an unfair advantage to government funded college and universities.
Non-EU students are only allowed to work part time if they study in a government institution.
Geoffrey Alderman writing for the Guardian says high fees plus the prohibition of any part-time working by international students at private colleges have ensured the dramatic contraction of the multi-billion pound industry.
A cross-party group of British Members of Parliament (MPs) this week said that overseas students should be excluded from net migration figures which the government has pledged to slash.
This week Immigration Matters reported that students who have applied for Tier 4 visas to study in the UK and who have already passed approved language tests could still be refused a visa if immigration officers judge that their English is not good enough.
Cynthia Barker of Immigration Advisers Bison Management said she had dealt with hundreds of successful visa applications as well as appeals under the old student visa system.
But Cynthia points out that despite the fact that visa interviews will decide the fate of a student visa applicant, there will be no right of appeal against a refusal.
‘Students refused visa because of unpredictable decisions bt ECO’s were able to appeal to an independent immigration judge in the UK where refusals were often overturned.
‘When the points based system was introduce for Tier 4 student visa applications in 2010, the Home Office abolished the right of appeal against a visa refusal as it said decisions would be based on a points score rather than an ECO’s subjective judgment.’
Many college owners are saying that the non-EU student market for small to medium sized private colleges is finished.
Some colleges are diversifying into the EU market. Majestic College has announced a new UK Government funded study programme for EU students – which includes Bulgarians and Romanians looking to study and work on Yellow Cards.
Courses are fully funded by the Government-backed student loan scheme, with nothing to pay until you are earning over £21,000 per annum.
Thousands of Bulgarians and Romanians have enrolled on UK courses whilst applying for a yellow card to allow work and study. However, many have struggled with fees and living costs whilst waiting up to six months for their yellow cards to be processed.
If you need any immigration advice or help with Sponsorship or Work Permits, Visa, ILR/Settlement, Citizenship, dependant visa or an appeal against a refusal please email:
Majestic College offer special packages for EU students. They also have a number of employers looking for staff right now and are willing to employ Bulgarians and Romanians.
For more information call Joanna on 0208 207 1020 or email firstname.lastname@example.org