On 24 June 2014, James Brokenshire, the Immigration Minister, delivered a statement to Parliament outlining details of action being taken against a number of Tier 4 sponsors. The action followed an investigation into the alleged abuse of the Tier 4 Student route, including potentially fraudulent and questionable ETS test results. Since the announcement, we have seen an unprecedented level of enforcement action by the Home Office against education providers.

As of 24 September 2014, 27 sponsors remain suspended and 38 institutions have had their licences revoked. This figure is set to rise as UKVI's investigations continue. UKVI has published a factsheet which is regularly updated. The factsheet aims to provide guidance to those institutions impacted.

The Penningtons Manches immigration team has been assisting a number of Higher Education Institutions (HEIs), English language schools, and private providers which have been affected by the recent events.

The investigation and the way it has been conducted have raised many questions, including:

  • In many cases, did UKVI adopt an 'act first, think later' approach?
  • What support are institutions being given to enable them to deal with 'affected' students, especially where the institution did not rely on a TOEIC certificate when a CAS was assigned?
  • Who is responsible for withdrawing/removing students who fraudulently obtained a TOEIC certificate from institutions - is it UKVI or the institution?
  • Will discretion actually be applied in relation to HTS applications of those affected institutions?

All sponsors need to be proactive in their approach to compliance and consider how they will manage compliance within their institutions post-ETS.