New rules for student visas in Spring 2009

Foreign students must have a sponsor. Only licensed colleges and universities may sponsor.

11 November 2008. Starting from March 2009, the Student Tier (Tier 4) of the new points system will come into effect.Under the new system, the following measures will apply.

In order to apply for a study visa, non-EU students must:

• obtain sponsorship by licensed education providers;
• show a proven track record in education;
• apply for a course that meets a minimum level of qualification;
• be able to prove they can financially support themselves and any of their dependants; • provide their fingerprints

In order to recruit non–EU students, colleges and universities must:

• obtain a licence from the UK Border Agency;
• take responsibility for their foreign students and ensure that they are fully aware of all their ongoing obligations as a sponsor.

To apply for a licence, providers will need to show evidence that they hold valid accreditation from an accreditation body approved by the UK Border Agency. Private colleges accredited by the following organisations are automatically ‘accredited’: Accreditation UK; British Accreditation Council; Accreditation Service for International Colleges; Ofsted (but there are other ways of being ‘accredited’, too).

Any educational institutions wishing to apply to join the sponsor register should ensure their application is completed before March 2009.

From autumn 2009 the system will be tightened further with the introduction of a “sponsor management system”. Dedicated technology will allow universities and colleges to inform the UK Border Agency if students fail to enrol or miss more than ten sessions.

This provision has raised harsh criticism from academics, who, in an open letter titled “Academics are not immigration officials” denounced their intelligence role under the new system. “Police-like surveillance is not the function of universities”, they claim.

The system is meant to clamp down on bogus students and ensure only those who benefit Britain can continue to come.

"Those who come to Britain must play by the rules and benefit the country,” Border and Immigration Minister Phil Woolas said, “This new route for students will ensure we know exactly who is coming here to study and stamp out bogus colleges which facilitate the lawbreakers." Since 1 January 2005, almost 300 bogus colleges have been removed from the Department for Universities and Skills Register of Education and Training Providers.

Minister of State for Higher Education David Lammy said, "I welcome the education sector’s involvement in developing this implementation plan, which will help to ensure we have a structure that allows international students to benefit from the excellent educational experience the UK offers, while giving them the opportunity to work in the UK for two years following graduation.

"However, we 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."

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