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Confirmation of educational oversight arrangement for Tier 4 sponsors
28 July 2011
As part of the reforms of the student visa route, all Tier 4 sponsors will need to obtain highly trusted sponsor status and also receive a satisfactory review or inspection by one of the publicly recognised inspection bodies approved for Tier 4 purposes - Ofsted and its equivalents in the devolved administrations, the Quality Assurance Agency (QAA), and the Department for Education-approved inspectorates for independent schools.
On 13 June we said that QAA and the Independent Schools Inspectorate (ISI) would extend their activities to offer inspection to private education providers who sponsor international students. Educational oversight by QAA will include higher education providers and pre-sessional providers throughout the UK. ISI will inspect further education providers and English language schools.
Mixed higher education and further education providers should apply to QAA or the appropriate further education inspectorate, depending on whether they offer predominantly higher education or further education courses. QAA and ISI have consulted interested Tier 4 sponsors about their procedures and standards. ISI will publish the final version of its standards in the first week of August.
We can now confirm further details of the overall arrangements.
Religious, Montessori and Steiner colleges of further education
The Bridge Schools Inspectorate (BSI) and the School Inspection Service (SIS) will offer inspection for Tier 4 purposes to further education sponsors within their area of expertise, in England and Wales:
- for BSI, further education colleges with a clear religious purpose;
- for SIS, further education Montessori and Steiner providers.
BSI and SIS will publish their standards soon.
Further education and English language colleges in Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland
In Wales, further education colleges and language schools must apply to ISI (or BSI for colleges with a religious purpose, or SIS for Steiner or Montessori colleges) - in line with arrangements for colleges in England. Estyn has confirmed it will not be involved.
In Scotland, all further education colleges and English language schools must apply to Education Scotland for inspection. Education Scotland will confirm its procedures shortly.
We will announce the position of further education colleges and language schools in Northern Ireland shortly.
Deadlines for applying for educational oversight
Existing Tier 4 sponsors that want to be inspected or audited must apply before a certain date to be able to continue to sponsor new international students under Tier 4.
Applications for educational oversight by QAA are being accepted now and those for inspection by the ISI will be accepted from 1 August.
Higher education providers that are not already audited by QAA must apply to it by 9 September 2011, as previously announced.
Private further education providers and language schools in England and Wales should apply to ISI by 9 September, as previously announced, with the following exceptions:
- Private further education colleges in England and Wales with a clear religious purpose should apply for inspection by the BSI, by 7 October.
- Private further education Montessori and Steiner providers in England and Wales should apply for inspection by the SIS, by 7 October.
Private further education providers and language schools in Scotland will be able to seek inspection from Education Scotland by 11 November.
The inspection arrangements for private further education providers and language schools in Northern Ireland will be confirmed shortly on the UK Border Agency website.
Overseas higher education institutions operating in the UK
QAA will, in addition, provide educational oversight of certain foreign providers offering full recognised overseas degree programmes in the UK, working appropriately with their counterparts in the provider's country of origin. Accredited US institutions listed on the US Department of Education website that offer US degree courses are able to apply to the QAA along with associate members (or third party providers) of the Association of American Study Abroad Programmes UK (AASAP/UK). Foreign providers offering complete degrees from other countries should contact QAA in the first instance who will, on advice on the recognition of the provider, confirm whether it is able to review their education provision.
Consultation on criteria for highly trusted sponsor status
We are currently consulting on draft revised criteria for sponsors applying for highly trusted sponsor (HTS) status for Tier 4. Comments are requested by 5 August and we will publish the final new criteria by the end of August to apply to all applications from early September.
Existing sponsors may apply for HTS before they have received a satisfactory inspection or review report from the appropriate educational oversight body.
Prospective Tier 4 sponsors not already on the Tier 4 register should apply for educational oversight before they apply to us. To achieve a satisfactory educational oversight outcome, they must be able to demonstrate an established track record in providing quality teaching in the UK. This would normally involve teaching UK or EEA students before being able to sponsor international students.