We have been informed by a number of our clients that the Home Office is currently performing an informal and limited consultation on potentially far-reaching changes to the arrangements for branches and partner institutions concerning Tier 4 sponsors. It is understood that this is connected with QAA’s review into branch campuses.
At the moment, pursuant to paragraphs 57 – 71 of document 1 of the Tier 4 Sponsor Guidance, Tier 4 sponsors may issue CAS to international students who will be taught by a separate education provider providing that separate entity has been added by UKVI as a branch or partner institution to the Tier 4 sponsor’s licence.
There are numerous Tier 4 partnering arrangements in place within the education sector that align with these provisions including, but not limited to:
- pathway providers working with universities to deliver pre-sessional courses;
- universities working with private and public colleges;
- universities working with other universities to deliver courses;
- English language schools working with Tier 4 sponsors to deliver courses.
We understand that the Home Office is considering potentially significant changes to Tier 4 partner institution and branch arrangements where the main sponsor issues CAS to students who will be taught by the partner institution or branch.
We understand that the Home Office is considering allowing universities to operate partner institutions whereby the University will issue the CAS to a student who will study with the partner institution in limited cases, for instance, where the university has full legal control of the partner institution entity, where there is a central compliance and recruitment function, where the rules and regulations of the university apply to the partner institution and providing the partner institution entity does not have its own Tier 4 sponsor licence. We also understand that independent schools may be permitted to operate partner institutions for Tier 4 purposes in limited circumstances and that all other Tier 4 partner institution and branch arrangements where the main sponsor issues the CAS would be brought to an end.
Our current understanding is that the Home Office wishes to announce the new measures soon and we are working with some of our clients to try and have these measures delayed pending a full and comprehensive consultation. These changes, if implemented, will have potentially serious consequences for a large number of education providers and we will update our website as soon as any formal announcements are made.
The current proposals appear only to relate to situations where the Tier 4 sponsor is issuing CAS to students who will study at a branch or partner institution and not to other forms of partnering relationships that education providers may have in place.
If you require legal advice on this or any other Tier 4 related issues, please contact us.
This article was original published on 9 December and has since been updated.