The current Tier 4 Sponsor Guidance no longer allows universities to sponsor students for more than three months at a partner college where the college does not have its own Tier 4 sponsor licence (pre-sessional partners). Since the change to the Sponsor Guidance, we have had a number of queries from those in existing arrangements and from those considering such arrangements. We therefore put the question to the Home Office's Tier 4 policy team.

The policy team advised that the “policy change will not be applied retrospectively, though it is the intention that from 1st October 2013 unlicensed colleges will only be able to offer short pre-sessional courses, even where they are in partnership with a licensed sponsor. To confirm though, these changes will not be applied to partnerships formed before this date.”

We are aware that this method has been used by some embedded colleges to open up new UK centres with new partner universities, thus allowing them to recruit Tier 4 students onto year 0 (level 3), year 1 (level 4), and pre-Master's programmes in the first year of operation and before applying for educational oversight, a Tier 4 licence, and then HTS status.

Those sponsors, who are currently operating under such arrangements, should take steps to ensure that their courses are compliant and that applications are not refused by Entry Clearance posts.