The draft guidance issued by the Home Office this month addresses the issuing of Confirmation of Acceptance of Studies (CAS) by universities for students enrolling at branch campuses, private partners, pathway programmes or English language school partners.
Currently a university can issue a CAS to a student who will be taught by a separate education provider – as long as the private institution has been added by UKVI to the university’s Tier 4 sponsor licence.
“We are concerned that policy is designed and implemented collaboratively and thoughtfully so as not to cause unintended damage”
Sources say the proposed new legislation would end issuance of CASs to students by the main sponsor institutions for study at branch campuses or pathway programmes.
A limited number of providers have been sent the guidance for consultation and comment in confidence. A spokesperson from INTO told The PIE News that they do not wish to comment except to say that they support any measure to eradicate evidence of abuse in the Tier 4 visa system.
“We are concerned that policy is designed and implemented collaboratively and thoughtfully so as not to cause unintended damage to a vibrant part of the sector which contributes millions of pounds in revenues, supports thousands of jobs, is fully compliant with all visa policies and is central to ensuring British universities continue to have access to talented students from across the world,” they went on to say.
Meanwhile, Nichola Carter of Carter Thomas Solicitors has confirmed that the firm’s FE and HE clients are “extremely concerned by the lack of a transparent consultation process”.
“UKVI has produced no evidence to date that indicates that such arrangements [branch campuses and private provider partners] pose a threat to immigration control,” she told The PIE News.
“If it has evidence that specific sponsors are not acting in a compliant manner in relation to their branch or partner institution arrangements, the sponsor licence system already allows UKVI to take robust enforcement action against those specific sponsors.
The move coincides with the release of the QAA’s report on its inquiry into London campuses of UK universities
“It is absolutely essential that there is a thorough consultation process on this issue.”
A spokesperson for the Home Office said it would not comment on leaked documents, however added: “We continue to work with the education sector to ensure that any abuse of the student visa route is tackled effectively, while at the same time the reputation of our world class universities is protected.”
The move coincides with the release of the Quality Assurance Agency’s report on its inquiry into London campuses of UK universities launched in June.
The QAA has concluded that the establishment of campuses is“generally thorough”.
“All universities have been diligent in their approval and validation processes and conscientious and thorough in their annual monitoring and review,” the report states.
However, the QAA has identified several “potential risk areas” including use of teaching staff not directly employed by the university, use of agents for recruitment, and insufficient checks on student entry qualifications.