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QAA, ISI to inspect privately funded education providers

Will work to drive up educational standards for sponsors bringing international students 14th June 2011: Two organisations — Quality Assurance Agency (QAA) and the Independent Schools Inspectorate (ISI) — have agreed to extend their activities to inspect privately funded education providers.
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A written statement laid in Parliament today explains that the two bodies will work to drive up the educational standards for sponsors bringing international students to the UK.

The statement came soon after the UK made it clear that the criteria is getting tougher for people wanting to come to the UK to study. Limits on their rights to work are among major reforms which will come into force next month.

The UK Border Agency said in March the Home Secretary announced changes to Tier 4 of the points-based system for student visas.

`A key part of the reforms is to strengthen the conditions which an education provider has to satisfy before they are allowed by the UK Border Agency to ‘sponsor’ an international student to study in the UK. This involves the oversight of their education provision and their compliance with immigration requirements.

`As regards educational oversight, we announced that from the end of 2012 all sponsors would need to have had a satisfactory inspection or review by one of a number of specified bodies who are involved in the delivery of the regulatory framework for educational standards in the UK, ‘the educational oversight bodies’.

`It is open to a sponsor to seek review from the appropriate body on the list. The UK Border Agency wishes to rely on existing educational oversight arrangements rather than creating a new framework for the purpose of Tier 4.

`The high standards set and monitored by the educational oversight bodies on the approved list are adequate for our purposes and will drive up the quality of education on offer to international students through Tier 4. In turn this will improve the quality of students and therefore of immigration compliance.

`The UK Border Agency has held discussions with a number of the approved educational oversight bodies about extending their current activities to include review of other education providers.

`This will maximise the opportunity for those other providers to remain, or become, Tier 4 sponsors. It will thereby keep open a place in Tier 4 for privately funded colleges of further and higher education, and English language schools who meet the standards set by the educational oversight bodies.

`The UK Border Agency can now announce that the QAA and ISI have agreed in principle to extend their activities to carry out additional reviews.

`The QAA will review listed bodies; other private higher education providers offering courses normally awarded in accordance with the Frameworks for Higher Education Qualifications; and ’embedded’ colleges offering courses as a pathway into higher education.

`ISI, on the other hand, will inspect privately funded further education colleges offering courses on the QCF/NQF, and also English language schools.

`The UK Border Agency is still in discussion with the educational oversight bodies operating in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, and also with the other educational oversight bodies involved in the independent schools sector, about their potential role in the process.

`We shall make a further announcement as soon as possible to clarify the position of colleges based in the devolved administrations and of faith colleges.

`The QAA and ISI will publish on their websites the details of the applicable standards and procedural information about how to apply, charges and how reviews will be carried out. QAA and ISI will communicate with stakeholders in the relevant sectors before commencing reviews, which are expected to begin being scheduled from October.

`QAA and ISI have set a date by which sponsors seeking educational oversight by the end of 2012 must have submitted an application, and this is Friday 9 September 2011.

`QAA and ISI will announce the dates when they will start to accept applications. These dates may be varied in respect of providers in the Devolved Administrations depending on the timing of the announcement referred to in paragraph 9 above.

`A current sponsor who has not had a satisfactory review by one of the approved review bodies and who does not apply by the due date of 9 September will lose the ability to issue new confirmations of acceptance for studies (CASs).

`Sponsors who do not hold a current satisfactory review and who do apply by the due date will have until the end of 2012 to obtain one. Following an application, a sponsor who receives an unsatisfactory review will lose the ability to issue new CASs.

`Some providers offer a mixture of higher education courses, those aligned to the FHEQ, and further education courses, those aligned to the QCF/NQF.

`Where the character of an institution is predominantly higher education, the QAA will be the educational oversight body, and where the character is predominantly further education, the ISI will be the educational oversight body.

`In Scotland and Wales the appropriate qualifications frameworks, SCQF and CQFW, will be taken into account.

`QAA and ISI have agreed to develop a memorandum of cooperation to include a means of determining which body will conduct reviews for colleges with mixed provision. The UK Border Agency will review these arrangements at the end of 2012.

`The UK Border Agency will consider with the educational oversight bodies the frequency of reviews required for all providers after the initial round is complete. It is expected a risk-based approach will be adopted.

`QAA and ISI will issue further information on the nature of each organisation’s judgements and arrangements for re-review where an institution does not receive a positive report.

`Where current Tier 4 sponsors do not receive a positive review, we will restrict their ability to issue CASs.

`Both QAA and ISI operate an appeals and complaints procedure.

`All reports will be published on either the QAA or ISI website as appropriate.

`Organisations approved by the QAA to proceed to a detailed scrutiny of their applications for taught degree-awarding powers will not need to apply separately to the QAA, as the appropriate educational oversight body, for review.

`In addition, where the QAA is contracted to undertake reviews on behalf of statutory regulators, institutions reviewed by QAA for these purposes will not be required to undergo any separate review.

`These arrangements do not apply to colleges not yet in operation. QAA and ISI will publish further guidance on how educational oversight will be applied to new colleges’.

The full list of approved educational oversight bodies authorised for Tier 4 purposes is: the Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education; Ofsted (England); Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Education (Scotland); Estyn (Wales); the Education and Training Inspectorate (N Ireland); the Independent Schools Inspectorate; the School Inspection Service; and the Bridge Schools Inspectorate

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