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UKBA Premium Sponsor service fee may hurt smaller UK Universities | Immigration Matters

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New premium sponsor route to highly trusted sponsor status will cost £8k a year, David Matthews of Times Education reports. The UK Border Agency (UKBA) is planning to offer institutions a “premium” immigration service at a cost of £8,000 a year, despite fears that a “one- size-fits-all” fee could hurt smaller universities and educational providers.

Education institutions will be able to pay for the extra service from July, which will include providing institutions with a dedicated account manager.

Tier 4 compliance with immigration rules has become a worrying priority for the sector since London Metropolitan University was stripped of its licence to sponsor international students in August last year.

The Chief Executive of the UK Council for International Student Affairs, expects the “big players” in the sector, such as UK Universities, to pay for the service. , Dominic Scott said:

“Where it’s going to hurt is smaller players because it’s one size fits all,” he warned.

A small college with no more than 30 international students, for example, will have to pay the same amount as a large university that attracts thousands, Mr Scott said.

“The real concern is that this is a disproportionate additional cost for the smaller operators,” he said.

The UKBA already operates a premium service for organisations wanting to bring workers to the UK. Small sponsors are charged £8,000 a year and large sponsors £25,000.

Mr Scott also complained that the UKBA had promised dedicated account managers when it introduced the requirement in 2010 for universities to be a highly trusted sponsor in order to recruit overseas students, but that they had never materialised.

The UKBA is currently running a free-of-charge pilot of the premium service “to ensure that we deliver (wherever possible) what sponsors want and need”, according to a Home Office spokeswoman.

The government’s target to bring net migration down to below 100,000 a year has led to a 38,000 drop in international students coming to study in the UK – who in total bring in investment and jobs worth £8bn a year.

If you want proof of how billions has been lost to UK PLC, look no further than the example of the owner of a Chinese restaurant who said his turnover had gone down by £1000 per week since the Tier 4 licence of a local college was suspended by the UKBA 3 years ago.

Speaking on BBC’s This Week, historian David Starkey said that, unlike the depression of the 1930’s, Britain was failing to come out of the current recession because it was not making enough this that other countries want to buy.

British education is one product that people in other countries still want to buy, and could buy more of if the Government would get out of the way.

If you have been arrested or detained, need any immigration advice or are worried about the new immigration rules or need help with Sponsorship or Tier 1, 2, Tier 4, applying for university if your college has closed, Spouse Visa, ILR/Settlement, Citizenship, Dependant Visa or an appeal against a refusal, or if you have been waiting for a reply from the Home Office for longer than a year, please email: or visit for free immigration news updates.

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A senior member of staff at a UK university, who had taken part in the pilot but did not want to be identified, said she had mixed experiences during the trial.

“We have had a good account manager, who responded swiftly with useful guidance, but we have also had a poor account manager, who gave us incorrect advice which we had to challenge on the basis of the written policy guidance,” she said.

Universities would not need to ask as many questions if the policy guidance was “better written and more clearly explained” in the first place, she added.

As part of the pilot, universities are also allowed to see the UKBA’s estimation of the proportion of international students that have been accepted by the university but then subsequently rejected for a visa for other reasons – a crucial figure, as it must be below 20 per cent or an institution will lose its highly trusted status.

Mr Scott said this was “very useful” for institutions, although the anonymous pilot participant said that the UKBA’s figure had “not always been accurate”.

Ian Creagh, head of administration at King’s College London, said that having to pay for the premium service “sticks in the craw”.

Speaking at an event on Migration and Higher Education at the London School of Economics earlier this month, he added that losing the right to sponsor international students “would be just so, so cataclysmic” that the university would nonetheless “shell out the £8,000 tomorrow”.

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