On Tuesday 24 June the Minister for Immigration and Security, James Brokenshire, presented a controversial statement to the House on what he claims is further abuse of the student visa system by Tier 4 sponsors.
The Minister announced that following the controversy surrounding fraudulent ETS English Language tests, UKVI, HMRC and other government departments have conducted an investigation into those sponsors that have sponsored students that hold “invalid” test results. So far this has led to one university having its High Trust Sponsor licence suspended, two universities being prevented from sponsoring new students and 57 private further education colleges having their licences suspended.
The Minister also stated that:
- Having been provided with analysis from the American arm of ETS for a number of ETS test centres in the UK operating in 2012 and 2013, they have identified more than 29,000 invalid results and more than 19,000 questionable results.
- The work undertaken by HMRC has identified a number of overseas university students earning more than £20,000 a year despite the rule that they must not work more than twenty hours per week during term time.
- UKVI identified people allegedly studying in London while their home addresses were registered as restaurants as far as away as Ipswich and Chichester.
- At certain private Further Education colleges, as many as three quarters of the file checks completed by UKVI officers were a cause for concern. At one college, a staff member told UKVI officers that they were not encouraged to report students’ absence or failure because doing so would reduce the college’s income and jeopardise its right to sponsor foreign students.
- Because much of the worst abuse we have uncovered seems to be taking place at London sub-campuses of universities based in other parts of the country, I can also tell the House that the Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education will examine these London campuses to see whether further action should be taken against their parent universities.
- Other universities are involved in the continuing investigation and further action may follow, although because of the steps they have already taken to improve their processes including voluntarily ceasing overseas recruitment to London sub-campuses, we will not at this stage remove their right to sponsor foreign students.
A full transcript of the speech can be found here.
The Minister announced that a working group including Universities UK, UKCISA, HEFCE and the NUS is being established to provide assistance to genuine students who may be required to move to a new sponsor. He also said that a dedicated helpline is being set up for students to call.
We have successfully represented a high number of Tier 4 sponsors, including HEIs, that have faced enforcement action and Nichola Carter, Carter Thomas principal, was appointed by London Metropolitan University to lead its successful counter attack against the Home Office following the decision to suspend its sponsor licence in 2012. Having analysed the Minister’s statement and responses to subsequent questions raised in detail we are very concerned as to the legality of the action that the Government is taking.
If your organisation is affected by today’s announcement and you require legal advice, we can be contacted here.