We are increasingly being asked to advise clients on the implications under Tier 4 of the immigration points based system of potential collaborations with other providers in the light of the evolving higher education marketplace.

As a reminder, the current UK Border Agency ("UKBA") Tier 4 guidance permits Tier 4 sponsors of non-EEA students to register additional "branches" under their main licence, subject to meeting the UKBA's requirements of a controlling relationship between the main sponsor and the branch institution - and other UKBA criteria, such as demonstrating that the branch is subject to educational oversight.

The UKBA Guidance confirms that control can be shown in scenarios where, for example, one entity is in a position to cast more than half of the votes of the other entity, or the entities are related as parties to a joint venture agreement.

Interestingly, the distinction in previous versions of the UKBA's Tier 4 guidance for "partner institutions" (delivering pre sessional courses for the benefit of a sponsor's students) has been removed from the latest version of the Tier 4 guidance, apparently requiring prospective partner institution collaborations to demonstrate the same relationship of control as "normal" branches. It would now seem that any provider wishing to collaborate with a higher education institution will have to satisfy the requirements for control referred to above.