Independent schools 

Independent schools will no longer be granted HTS status automatically. The UKBA has outlined that those who wish to continue to sponsor international students must submit an application for the renewal of their HTS status. The deadline for filing such applications has been extended from 21 April to 30 April 2012.

The UKBA has stated in the new guidance that is due to become effective on 6 April 2012 that Independent schools will be assessed against the mandatory criteria for HTS only where the following conditions are met:

  1. they have a minimum of 51% of their students aged 17 and under; and
  2. are registered as an independent school with the Department of Education

Please note that Independent schools that do not meet points 1 and 2 above will be assessed against both the mandatory and core measureable requirements for HTS. The UKBA also reserves the right to assess Independent schools that meet points 1 and 2 against the full HTS criteria including the core measurable requirements where it considers such scrutiny to be necessary.

Partner institutions, branches and campus arrangements

The new tier 4 sponsor guidance introduces a new provision for partner institutions. The requirement to deliver pre-sessional courses only has been removed where the following conditions are met:

  • there is a contractual partnership agreement between the parties confirming that they will both work
  • together to deliver education to students; and
  • both parties hold their own separate licences and have HTS status and educational oversight in place.

This means, for instance, that universities and private providers who wish to work in partnership together to deliver services to international students may do so through a range of UKBA approved vehicles including partnership institutions, branches and/or campus arrangements.

The immigration, corporate and commercial lawyers in Penningtons' education sector team have advised on a number of partner, branch and campus arrangements in recent months. This often involves liaising closely with the UKBA and QAA to ensure that the model meets the requirements of both agencies. 

Work placements

From 6 April 2012, sponsors offering courses involving a work placement element will need to ensure that the work placement element does not exceed 33% of the course duration in the UK.

HEIs, including overseas HEIs offering study abroad programmes in the UK, will continue to benefit from the current work placement arrangements of 50:50. Penningtons have obtained confirmation from the UKBA that this also includes third parties offering overseas higher education institutions' study abroad programmes in the UK.  

Maximum time limit in the UK

In our February 2012 update we reported on the Government's intention to limit the number of years students can spend in the UK studying degree level courses. These changes will now come into effect on 6 April 2012. Sponsors should ensure that their recruitment practices are modified to minimise instances of refusals where students will exceed the limit. 

It should be noted there is a discrepancy in the tier 4 sponsor guidance and new immigration rules as to the length of time a PhD student can remain in the UK and whether they can seek further sponsorship.  We are seeking urgent clarification on this point and will publish further information in due course. 

Curtailment of leave is shortened to a maximum of 60 days

The new immigration rules have been amended in relation to curtailment of leave for tier 4 students.  In the event of a sponsor licence being revoked, a tier 4 sponsor shortening the length of a course or a tier 4 sponsor withdrawing sponsorship, a tier 4 student's leave will be curtailed to 60 days.  However, a statement in the new policy guidance for students effective from 6 April still states that the UKBA 'will not limit the student's permission to stay if he/she has less than six months left.' Penningtons have obtained confirmation from the UKBA that this is an error and from 6 April, where applicable, all leave will be curtailed to 60 days.