|As you may know, after a long period of consultation with education and business sectors on the subject of UK study and work regulations for international students, the Home Secretary Theresa May made a statement in March 2011 on Tier 4 Visa status.
At Pearson, we've been fully involved in the consultation process, and we welcome some of the news, including the decision to retain a B1 English language entry standard for study at below degree level, and the new clarity and openness on the route to Highly Trusted Status (HTS).
The role of BTEC Higher Nationals in higher education
We also welcome the decision to recognise the Edexcel BTEC Higher Nationals (HNs) on equal terms with equivalent qualifications (such as Foundation Degrees and the SQA HND). We’ve heard from many centres how much you value the role BTEC HNs play in vocational higher education. We feel positive about the developments we're working on with you - including projects to explore a BTEC Level 6 qualification and a potential BTEC degree programme - and are confident that our BTEC Higher National suite provides a robust way forward for all centres in the new environment.
However, we feel that alterations to working rights could represent a real blow to many international students wanting to study in the UK, and we're continuing to argue vigorously that students studying at any HTS institution - public or private - should be allowed to work alongside their study. We will keep you informed of developments with this.
Please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any further queries about the Tier 4 review and its implications for you and your students.
Is it true the UKBA has introduced different visa criteria depending on where the student is studying?
The UKBA has shifted its focus from regulating higher education qualifications themselves to regulating the centres delivering them.
This means that different rules will now apply to students depending on where they are studying (for example, at a university, FE college or private college) and no longer on which qualification they take (such as a Foundation degree, BTEC Higher National or SQA HND).
How many student visas will be allowed and when do the changes take effect?
Annual student visas will be capped at 80,000 based on previous usage - not first come, first served. The new rules will be phased in, with changes in April 2011, July 2011, and April 2012; further updates to the HTS criteria are due in summer 2011.
What are the new rules around sponsoring students and Highly Trusted Status?
All sponsors of foreign students, including private colleges, must be accredited by either Ofsted or its devolved equivalents - QAA, the Independent Schools Inspectorate, the Bridge Schools Inspectorate or the Schools Inspection Service - and all must become Highly Trusted Sponsors.
Sponsors have until April 2012 to achieve Highly Trusted Status and until December 2012 to be accredited by the relevant agency; universities and publicly funded FE colleges already qualify for HTS. During the transition period, there will be a limit on numbers sponsored by any non-HTS institution.
What are the language level requirements?
B1 remains the English language level requirement for courses at below degree level, including the Pathways, with the more advanced B2 level for students at undergraduate level or above.
All students not attending a higher education institution (HEI) must demonstrate proficiency through a Secure English Language Test (SELT); students wanting to study English should apply under the new extended student visitor visa route, which allows for up to 11 months’ study.
Do all international students retain the right to work part-time?
Universities: Students at Recognised Bodies (universities) retain the right to work 20 hours a week and to do work placements, but only with a 50:50 study-to-work ratio.
FE colleges: Students at publicly funded FE colleges will continue to be able to work 10 hours a week, part-time.
Private colleges: Students at accredited private colleges will have no right to work part-time or during holidays, and work placements will have to have a 66:33 study-to-work ratio. This change applies to new students only, not those already studying. We are seeking clarification on the working rights of university-sponsored students studying under franchise at publicly funded or private colleges.
How do the new regulations affect private colleges?
Students at accredited private colleges will have no right to work part-time or during holidays, and work placements will have to have a 66:33 study-to-work ratio.
This change applies to new students only, not those already studying. We are seeking clarification on the working rights of university-sponsored students studying under franchise at publicly funded or private colleges.
While universities and publicly funded FE colleges already have Highly Trusted Status, private colleges will have to apply for HTS.
Are there restrictions on the length of study for international student visas?
Sponsors must vouch for academic progression where students are not moving up to the next NQF level.
Can all international students bring dependants with them during their study?
Only post-graduate students will be allowed to bring dependants with them during their study.
Can international students still work after completing their studies?
Post-study work will be closed from April 2012.