This article was previously published on the Leadership Foundation website.
Student visas – suspension of ‘highly trusted status’
A statement by the Immigration Minister to the House of Commons on 24 June 2014 highlighted issues with international students recruited by 3 universities and a number of private further education colleges.
A BBC’s Panorama programme earlier in the year identified widespread fraud to the system of English language testing carried out by one of the companies licensed to undertake the testing. One of the requirements for all students wishing to gain a visa to extend their stay in the UK is to prove they can speak English to an appropriate level.
For a higher education provider to be able to sponsor international students to study in the UK, they need to have a 'highly trusted status' (HTS) license from the UK Visa and Immigration Service (UKVI). A licence is valid for 4 years and institutions are subject to inspection by the UKVI’s assurance team.
To maintain their HTS the education provider must comply with a set of conditions specified by the UKVI. Failure to comply with these conditions may lead to the license being ‘suspended’ or ‘revoked’. The suspending or revoking of an institution’s HTS is likely to have significant financial and reputational impacts.
Following the investigations involving UKVI, the House of Commons was informed that the ‘highly trusted status’ of one university had been suspended and 2 further universities 'have been told that they are no longer allowed to sponsor new students pending further investigations which will decide whether they too should be suspended.' A number of other universities are also being investigated by UKVI.
All 3 of the universities highlighted in the Minister's statement to the House of Commons relied upon the results of English language testing undertaken the company now under suspicion of systematic fraud when recruiting many of their international students.
Issues for governors
Governors need to assure themselves that the institution’s process and procedures comply fully with the UKVI’s licensing requirements and that the institution’s ability to recruit international students is not at risk.
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