Hundred of colleges denied licences to enrol international students

Tough Tier 4 rules crack down on bogus colleges and fraudulent applications from foreign students.

31 March 2009. Almost a quarter of applications for sponsorship licences from independent schools, colleges and universities to have a license have has so far been turned down, the Government revealed today.

A strict new system has been put into place to crack down on bogus colleges and fraudulent applications from foreign students.

Institutions now have to register with the UK Border Agency before they are allowed to sponsor international students to come here under the student tier of Britain’s new points-based system. 

The Tier 4 rules ensure that institutions who benefit from having international students on their books take responsibility for ensuring students arriving from outside Europe comply with the conditions of their leave to be in the UK.

Around 460 institutions of the more than 2,100 universities, independent schools and colleges which have applied to accept international students since July have already been rejected by the UK Border Agency.

The boom in overseas students coming to the UK in recent years has led tuition fees last year to total £2.5 billion.

There are currently about 240,000 non-EU students in UK higher education. International students form 14% of the full-time student population and they make up 43% of those at research postgraduate level.

Before reaching the UK, students now need to prove they have a place at a licensed institution, that they can financially support themselves for nine months – down from the 12 months originally proposed for this tier – and must provide their fingerprints to the UK Border Agency.

Foreign students play a huge part in the UK’s cultural and economic wealth and they help make the UK’s education sector one of the finest in the world, according to Home Office.

The Government is determined that the new route benefits talented, legitimate students making the most of Britain’s world-leading educational institutions.

Home Secretary Jacqui Smith said, "These new measures make sure people who come here to study – and the people who teach them – play by the rules.

"This new tier of the points based system allows us to know exactly who is coming to the UK to study and crack down on bogus colleges.

"I have made it clear that I will not tolerate either the fraudulent applicants trying to abuse Britain’s immigration rules, or the dodgy colleges that facilitate them. However Britain will always welcome legitimate students who are coming here to receive a first-rate education."

Speaking on a visit to Imperial College, London, Immigration minister Phil Woolas said he wanted to protect genuine universities and colleges which he said were essential for the economy.

But he added: "We want to expose those who are not genuine students who are using fraudulent college offers to come here.

"In my estimation abuse of the student visa has been the biggest abuse of the system, the major loophole in Britain’s border controls.

"I believe that the new system will benefit major institutions, colleges and private universities, but the backstreet bogus college is being exposed."

Dr Sharon Bolton, head of international student support at Imperial, said she was concerned about bureaucracy in the new system, reported the BBC.

The 17-page application form for existing students to renew their visas was now 55 pages long, she said, and some scholarship students found the income requirements exceeded the amount they were given by the university.

She said: "The application form for those in the UK is a massive administrative burden for the students themselves, the universities that are dealing with it, and for the Home Office workers who are processing them.

"We are also worried that it is sending out a message that students aren’t welcome here," she said, but she welcomed the effort to "weed out" colleges that are "illegitimate".


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