Sponsors are reminded that since 4 July 2011, when assigning a Confirmation of Acceptance of Studies (CAS) to a student who wishes to continue studying in the UK, the new course must represent academic progression. HTS applications will be automatically refused, if a sponsor has had visa refusals resulting from its failure to confirm academic progression on the CAS when required. In addition, a Tier 4 sponsor licence may be revoked, if the sponsor is found to have stated academic progression where none is later found to exist, or where the sponsor is unable to provide evidence in support of this.

In order for sponsors to ensure that they are declaring academic progression correctly on all CAS, it is important that students are assessed thoroughly in terms of their intention and ability to study the course, and that the details are obtained outlining a student’s previous academic and immigration history in the UK. This information should be obtained at the point of application, before a CAS is assigned.

Please note that academic progression must be confirmed in relation to the level ‘…of the previous course for which we gave them permission to stay in the UK as a student.’ This may not be the same academic level that a student has stated on their application form, as they may not have been awarded the qualification for which they were originally granted leave. Therefore, it is advisable to request copies of the CAS statement, visa letter or admissions letter used to support their most recent visa. This applies irrespective of whether the student is applying for leave to remain from within the UK or entry clearance from overseas.

The Tier 4 sponsor guidance includes specific examples of when it is not necessary to state academic progression. However, we would advise sponsors to confirm academic progression in all cases where a student has studied in the UK previously, even when the new course is clearly at a higher academic level. Where the continued study is at the same NQF level, further explanation is necessary as to why the sponsor believes this represents academic progression and how the new course will complement a student’s previous study in the UK. All evidence used to support this decision must be retained on the student’s file, as the UKBA may request to see this.

The sponsor guidance also permits further study at a lower academic level than previously studied and this too must be justified by the sponsor in the CAS and supporting documents retained. However, please note that this is not contained in the immigration rules but is a concession permitted by the guidance and therefore could be removed at any time.

Finally, it is also important to obtain a student’s full academic and immigration history in order to determine whether or not a student will have their visa application refused due to the limit on time spent studying in the UK. Any such refusals will be included in your HTS statistics.