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Reduction of sponsor rating for Tier 4 sponsors

The government announced previously that they will be placing tighter controls on universities and colleges that sponsor students coming to the UK.

Under the current provisions those institutions who wish to maintain their ‘Highly Trusted Sponsor’ status must ensure that no more than 20% of their proposed students are refused, as of November 2014 this figure will reduce to just 10%.

The change follows a major shakeup for UK immigration rules and is supposedly a direct response to ‘bogus’ students being sponsored to come to the UK.

Institution’s now have until November to review their admissions policy and procedure, in preparation for the changes to take effect. However the main question here is who these changes will affect and how.

The sponsorship system

Currently anyone wishing to come to UK as student under the Tier 4 category needs a sponsor and any institution wishing to take on new foreign students needs to be a sponsor.

Thus institutions are required to apply for a sponsorship licence and ensure they continue to meet their duties and responsibilities throughout the time the licence is held. They are then able to review and assign Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies (CAS) to prospect students. The student will then apply using this CAS reference for their Tier 4 visa.

The changes in practice

From November 2014 the UKVI will use the following factors to assess whether an institution should be retain ‘Highly Trusted Status’.

–   Their refusal rate – which must now be below 10%

–   Their enrolment rate i.e. the amount of students with an assigned CAS who enrolled within the given time

–   Course completion rates i.e. the amount of enrolled students with an assigned CAS who completed their course

The change will mean that the UKVI can take into account refusals from November 2013 which were based on the determination that the applicant was not a genuine student.

For renewal applications from November 2014 to 31st July 2015 the UKVI will assess CAS data from the 1st August 2014 onwards. However from 31st July 2015 all CAS data from the preceding year will be assessed.

Who will be affected?

It seems clear that all those on the Tier 4 Sponsor’s register will be affected by this change – the guidance states that smaller institutions (i.e. those with less then 50 CAS for assessment) will be assessed at the UKVI’s discretion. The guidance lists a non-exhaustive subjective list on what will be considered, taking into account the reasons for refusal and the institutions previous history.

What will be the effect?

The most obvious answer would be that sponsors will have to show even stricter due-diligence when proposing to sponsor a new student. However applying strict regulated admissions process does not guarantee that the sponsor is free from the negative effects of this stricter approach – in fact many institutions many find that the refusal rate is simply out of their control.

It is no secret that within the regimented requirements of the Points Based System, refusals can simply be down to Entry Clearance Officers mistake or the fact that a document does not meet the format expected. Thus placing much emphasis on applicant’s fighting unwarranted refusals; as the guidance states that those students with ‘live appeals’ will not be included in the new refusal rate. It is even more vital now that institutions do not simply issue another CAS to the student without first seeking advice on the effect of the refusal and possible next steps.

What is clear from these new changes is that more and more institutions and applicants may have to seek additional guidance, not only to ensure they meet the requirements expected but to also address what to do if they are found to fall foul of these tighter controls.

Perhaps the most negative effect of this new refusal rate will be the message this sends out to prospective foreign students. With the UK being a desirable country in which to study, this new change sends out a considerable negative message to those selecting where they continue their study and decline in new foreign students to the UK can be expected.

Westkin Associates


5th Floor, Maddox House,
1 Maddox Street
United Kingdom
0207 118 4546

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