The UKBA's revised guidance for Tier 4 sponsors, which requires them to acquire "Highly Trusted Sponsor" ("HTS") status from April 2012, was considered by the High Court in April of this year in the case of R (on the application of London College of Management Ltd) v Secretary of State for the Home Department [2012] EWHC 1029 (Admin). London College of Management is a private college which had been granted previously a Tier 4 sponsor licence which allowed it to offer courses to students from outside the European Economic Area. The College was refused HTS status by the UKBA on 2 bases:

  • The UKBA’s criteria for HTS status required the refusal rate for entry clearance for students issued with a Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies ("CAS")  from the sponsor to be under 20% in the 12 months before the HTS application.  The College failed on this ground as the number of refusals exceeded 20%.  The College argued that this was an unfair basis for refusal, as the reasons students issued with CAS were refused clearance or leave to remain were not necessarily the fault of the College.     

The court dismissed this argument, stating that the rationale for the requirement was to judge the extent to which investigations carried out by the sponsor ensured that students genuinely intended to complete their studies in order to lower refusal rates.  The court indicated that 20% was a generous threshold and felt that it is more workable to have a percentage threshold; otherwise it would be necessary to debate in each case the reason for refusal and if the refusal should count against the sponsor or not.  In any case, the court decided that even if the reasons for the College’s refusals were taken into account, as they argued they should be, the number of refusals the College should have anticipated exceeded 20%.  

  • The College was also refused HTS status on the basis that the UKBA considered it had failed to comply with certain Tier 4 reporting duties, which required it to report all students that failed to enrol at the College within the enrolment period.  The College argued that this was also an unfair basis for refusal as it was unnecessary to report that a student had failed to enrol at the College if they had been refused clearance and had not entered the UK as no enforcement action was therefore necessary. 

The court held that all failures to enrol should be reported in order to make the obligation clear and unambiguous.  A qualification on this requirement would be unworkable as a sponsor would not necessarily know whether clearance had been granted or why a student failed to enrol.