The UK Border Agency has completed its review of the criteria to become a Highly Trusted Sponsor (HTS) under Tier 4 of the points-based system. They are now inviting comments on the proposed new criteria.

From April 2012, all Tier 4 sponsors must obtain HTS status. By the end of 2012, they will also need to have been inspected, audited or approved by one of the educational oversight bodies specified by the UKBA.

In April 2011, they committed to review the criteria to become a Highly Trusted Sponsor. They have now completed this review, and the proposed new criteria are set out below.

Mandatory requirements – all must be passed

Minimum qualifying period 12 months, with the last 6 months as an A-rated sponsor
Minimum period with no civil penalties 3 years
Refusal rate < 20 per cent
Enrolment rate > 90 per cent
Course completion rate More than 85 per cent
Declaration of progression 100 per cent
No serious concerns (Linked to the new visiting officer report)

Core measurable requirements

Start with 100 points; must score 70 or above.

Refusal rate < 5 per cent -0
5-10 per cent -5
10-15 per cent -10
> 15 per cent -20
Enrolment rate > 98 per cent -0
96-98 per cent -5
93-96 per cent -10
< 93 per cent -15
Course completion rate > 98 per cent -0
95-98 per cent -5
90-95 per cent -10
<90 per cent -15

To become a Highly Trusted Sponsor, you must pass each of the mandatory requirements. You will then be assessed against the core measurable requirements, with points deducted according to a sliding scale.

For example, a sponsor meets all the mandatory requirements and has an 18 per cent refusal rate, a 94 per cent enrolment rate and a 92 per cent course completion rate. They are deduced 20 points for the refusal rate, 10 points for the enrolment rate and a further 10 for the course completion rate, losing 40 points in total. This leaves a score of 60 points so their application is refused.

If you failing on one or more mandatory requirements, you will become a legacy sponsor. You will not be able to sponsor new students, and your licence will be revoked from April 2012.

Sponsors failing on the core measurable elements may reapply after 3 months.

All education providers who wish to begin or continue to sponsor students from outside Europe must apply for HTS status by a date to be specified, and must obtain HTS status by April 2012.

Sponsors who currently have HTS status will need to apply up to a month before their current status expires.

Sponsors who do not already meet the accreditation requirements must also apply to Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education (QAA) or the Independent Schools Inspectorate (ISI) by 9 September 2011. We published further information about the enhanced role of QAA and ISI in a news story last month.

Since 21 April 2011, all independent schools with an ‘A’ rating and appropriate accreditation are automatically awarded HTS status. Independent schools with a ‘B’ rating are given HTS status, if they have the appropriate accreditation, as soon as they become A-rated.

New independent schools are given HTS status immediately, if they are A-rated and have the appropriate accreditation.

If you were registered after 1 March 2011 with a zero CAS limit, you will be given 50 per cent of your requested CAS allocation and must apply for HTS 12 months after receiving your licence, providing you have been A-rated for the last 6 months.

Any sponsor who misses either application deadline will become a legacy sponsor, unable to sponsor any new students. Their licence will then be revoked in April 2012.

Sponsors who achieve or successfully renew HTS status will be subject to an interim CAS limit until they have obtained satisfactory educational oversight (EO) inspection.

See below for some example scenarios.

Scenarios

Sponsor applies for educational oversight (EO) by the deadline but misses the deadline for HTS status. It becomes a legacy sponsor after HTS deadline, and its licence is revoked in April 2012 (and its remaining students’ leave is curtailed in line with current policy). Legacy sponsors will have a zero CAS limit so cannot sponsor new students.

EO is granted on 1 February 2012. Sponsor needs to apply for a new licence. If the licence is granted, it becomes A-rated with a limited number of CASs and must apply for HTS status within 12 months or its licence will be revoked.

Sponsor fails to apply for EO by the deadline and already has HTS status. It becomes a legacy sponsor, and its licence is revoked in April 2012 (and its remaining students’ leave is curtailed in line with current policy).

Sponsor fails to apply for either HTS status or EO by the deadlines. It becomes a legacy sponsor, and its licence is revoked in April 2012 (and its remaining students’ leave is curtailed in line with current policy).

Sponsor applies for both EO and HTS status by the deadlines. HTS status is granted, but there is no outcome on the EO application by April 2012. It remains on the sponsor register as an HTS but with limited CAS from April 2012. If EO is granted, this limit is removed. If EO is refused, its sponsor licence is revoked with immediate effect and students’ leave is curtailed in line with current policy.

Sponsor applies for both EO and HTS status by the deadlines. If HTS is refused because mandatory standards are not met, it becomes a legacy sponsor and its licence is revoked in April 2012 (and its remaining students’ leave is curtailed in line with current policy). If the core standards are met but the HTS application fails on points, scoring 50-70 points (a ‘near miss’), we will grant an A-rated licence and CASs subject to the limit. Sponsor must reapply for HTS status before April 2012.

New sponsors must apply for EO by the deadline, but HTS status is not available to them if the 12-month qualifying period goes beyond the HTS deadline. They must apply for HTS at the earliest possible opportunity.

A sponsor who has been B-rated since 9 April 2011 for compliance reasons and has held its licence for 12 months or more will not qualify for HTS status and will become a legacy sponsor in October, with its licence revoked from April 2012.

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