Page last updated at 09:53 GMT, Wednesday, 30 July 2008 10:53 UK

UK student visa must be sponsored

kitchen staff
The Home Office says bogus colleges can be conduits to low skilled work

Students coming to the UK from overseas will have to be sponsored by a college licensed by the UK Border Agency, under Home Office proposals.

The colleges will have to prove they are genuine education institutions - not just routes into low skilled work.

They will have to report students who are not attending their courses.

As part of the wider shake-up of the immigration system, applicants will need to have enough points before they can apply for a student visa.

Applicants will be fingerprinted and will need a biometric identity card.

Mutual benefits

The new licensing system, to be implemented next year, will replace the existing register of education training providers operated by the Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills.


There are about 240,000 non-EU students in UK higher education
International students form 14% of the full-time student population
They make up 43% of those at research postgraduate level
Source: Higher Education Statistics Agency
This was introduced only in 2004 as part of a crackdown on bogus colleges, but is regarded as ineffective.

In January it emerged that 256 of the 2,000 institutions on the register had been inspected since 2005 and 124 of them, almost half, had been struck off.

In a "statement of intent" announcing the new rules, the Home Office borders and immigration minister, Liam Byrne, said international students brought many benefits to the UK.

These included 2.5bn to the economy in tuition fees alone as well as cultural benefits, returning home with "an enhanced appreciation of British life".

"So we want good students. But we want to shut down bogus colleges operating 'courses' which are really a means to low skilled employment," he added.

police raiding a house
In June there were raids on alleged bogus college operators
Higher Education Minister Bill Rammell said: "I will not tolerate the minority of individuals who seek to damage the quality of our education system through bogus colleges. This is why we have introduced tighter checks to the current Register of Education and Training Providers.

"The new system will toughen this process further and give extra protection from the damage bogus colleges can cause."

Mr Byrne also said students acquired "a good command of the English language" while in the UK.

Concerns have been raised recently on this score by academics and other students who say sometimes overseas students are being awarded qualifications despite having little English.

Work after study

The chief executive of Universities UK, Diana Warwick, said: "Universities agree with the principles of the new system and welcome the plan to link visas to specific institutions.

"But we have been keen to ensure that there is sufficient time for the new processes to be understood by prospective students overseas and by colleagues in universities as well as to ensure rigorous testing of the new IT system that will underpin the points-based operation."

She said universities also liked the doubling of the time people may work in the UK after completing their studies.

"These arrangements will allow international graduates to apply to stay in the UK to work for up to two years after graduation," she said.

"We know international students are keen to build on their academic qualification with a period of work experience in the UK and post study work will ensure the UK remains an attractive destination for international students."

The government is consulting people on the changes with a view to publishing an implementation plan in October.

The new system is in two parts:


All colleges and universities that want to recruit foreign students will need a licence.

To get a Licence, all education providers will need to show they are inspected or audited or hold valid accreditation with one of the bodies approved by the UK Border Agency (UKBA):

Accreditation UK - which offers an accreditation service for English language centres.
BAC - the British Accreditation Council - which offers a more general accreditation service to cover a wide range of education providers.
ASIC - the Accreditation Service for International Colleges - which also offers a general accreditation service to cover a wide range of education providers.
Ofsted - the Office for Standards in Education, Children's Services and Skills.

Education providers will be expected to report students who fail to enrol or who stop attending.


Adult students will be allowed in only "where they can demonstrate a proven track record in studying".

They will need an immigration sponsor - that is, the education provider that has accepted them on a course.

A sponsor's confirmation of acceptance for studies will account for 30 of the 40 points needed to get a student visa.

It will be a pre-requisite to getting the visa but no guarantee that someone will be granted one.

The other 10 points will come from checks by UK entry clearance officers that applicants have sufficient funds and that their documentation is genuine.

Students on courses of more than 12 months will have to show they can pay their first year of fees and have at least 9,600 for their first year in the UK.

Once in the UK students will face ongoing checks.

'Bogus' language colleges raided
19 Jun 08 |  Education
Bogus college check catches 124
08 Jan 08 |  Education
Home Office 'told of visa scam'
29 Jun 06 |  Education
Call for tighter colleges listing
22 Jul 04 |  Education

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