Westminister in London at night
Photo By: Aria Mehr, Flicker Creative Commons
In March 2011, following a 3 month consultation on the reform of the student route, the UK government announced a package of reforms to Tier 4 of the points based system. These changes are being introduced in stages and concern sponsor accreditation, student entry requirements, entitlements and post-study arrangements. Two tranches of changes have already been introduced – in April and on 4 July - and further changes will be introduced in April 2012.
Changes introduced already:
1. Sponsor accreditation: Existing sponsors must become Highly Trusted Sponsors by April 2012 and meet new accreditation criteria by the end of 2012. Those sponsors that do not fulfill these requirements will be subject to an interim limit on the number of students they can recruit until they do.
2. New sponsors to the Tier 4 register must meet the new accreditation criteria in order to be issued with a Tier 4 license.
3. English language requirements: students at degree level and above must be proficient in English language to B2 level of the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (upper intermediate level). B1 level is required to study below degree level. Applicants are required to provide a secure English language test certificate to demonstrate their proficiency, except those studying with a Higher Education Institution. An HEI can decide how to assess a student’s language proficiency to B2 level.
4. An applicant may be required to attend an interview with the UK Border Agency. This may be part of the visa application or when the applicant reaches an airport in the UK. A student can be refused a visa or entry to the UK if she/he cannot show that they their English language ability is at the required standard.
5. Sponsors can issue a Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies (CAS) to a student for a new course only if the new course represents academic progress from his/her previous study in the UK, for example moving from a course at NQF 6 to NQF 7 or studying at the same academic level that complements or enhances previous study. All sponsors need to vouch for progress for students who have previously studied in the UK.
6. Applicants have to declare at the visa application stage that they hold and will continue to hold the required maintenance funds to support themselves and pay for their course. The UK Border Agency also has the power to publish local lists of financial institutions from which it will not accept documents on the basis that, from experience, these institutions do not verify documents to the UK Border Agency’s satisfaction (these lists have not yet been published).
7. Tier 4 general students studying at or above degree level, with a UK Higher Education Institution (HEI) or studying a short term study abroad programme as part of an overseas HEI degree programme may work 20 hours per week during term time and full time in the holidays. Tier 4 general students studying a course below degree level with a UK HEI or a course at any level with a publicly funded Further Education college may work up to 10 hours per week during term time and full time in the holidays. Other students may not work at any time.
8. Post graduate students at HEIs on a course of 12 months or longer and government-sponsored students on courses of at least 6 months are able to bring dependants. These dependants are able to work. No other students are permitted to bring dependants.
9. The sponsor providing ACCA courses must be an ACCA approved learning partner offering tuition at either Gold or Platinum level.
Changes to come:
1. Courses offering work placements will have to have a study:work ratio of 66:33 except at HEIs (which can be 50:50)
2. There will be a maximum time of 5 years in Tier 4 study at degree level and above, with exceptions for some courses such as medicine and PhDs.
3. Tier 1 (post study) work route will close, but students with a graduate level job offer with a licensed employer will be able to apply for a visa under Tier 2 of the points based system.
4. There will be a new provision for student entrepreneurs.