UK trusted sponsor licenses revoked

21, August, 2014

The UK Home Office has revoked highly trusted sponsor (HTS) status from 15 institutions that were initially suspended in June, but is also facing criticism from schools that have been cleared for the public handling of its investigations.

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An updated list published on the Home Office website this week reveals that from the 57 private institutions that were first suspended, 15 have had their licenses fully revoked, while two have surrendered licenses (see below for list). The schools will no longer be permitted to recruit non-EU students requiring student visas.

The newly published Home Office statement lists the 47 private institutions that are still currently suspended from HTS status – a further nine institutions have been added since the original list was announced. The institutions were initially suspended following Home Office investigations into Toeic language testing fraud and other areas of sponsor compliance.

Two institutions, Bloomsbury International in London and Studio Cambridge, have been reinstated to the HTS register.

One public university, Glyndwr University in Wrexham, remains suspended, while the University of West London currently has its Confirmation of Acceptance of Studies (CAS) allocation frozen, pending further investigations, meaning it cannot recruit non-EU students. As previously reported, the University of Bedfordshire has had its CAS allocation reinstated after Home Office audits and is free to recruit non-EU students again.

The Home Office has established a working group, including industry associations and student support groups, to assist any students displaced by the license revocations. A statement on the Home Office website says, “The working group will develop a process to assist genuine students, and ensure this is communicated to students affected.” The statement also provides advice relating to suspended institutions.

Meanwhile, institutions that have been cleared and some politicians have been critical of the government’s handling of the suspensions.

Studio Cambridge Sales Director, Nicole Kennedy, told Study Travel Magazine that the Home Office had initially given no reason for the school’s suspension, but then said it was being investigated because it was a Toeic test centre. No specific concerns relating to students or tests were produced. Following involvement of lawyers and the school’s local MP, Julian Huppert, Studio Cambridge was cleared and received an apology from the Home Office.

In terms of impact, Kennedy said that there had been cases of misunderstanding from immigration officers who tried to reject Studio Cambridge students with student visitor visas, which should have been completely unaffected by the HTS suspension. She added that long-term partner agents have been loyal and understanding, but the school’s reputation has been damaged.

Managing Director, Malcolm Mottram, said, “We are, of course, pleased to be exonerated in this way but disappointed that the Home Office acted so carelessly in the first place.”

Julian Huppert MP, said, “It is incredible that the UKVI [UK Visas & Immigration] can come down in this heavy-handed way without any evidence to seriously hamper a school’s business and threaten its reputation.”

He added, “Clearly, we need to make sure that our immigration system is run properly and that schools which are targeting students in a fraudulent manner are rooted out and dealt with; but there is no excuse for the behaviour meted out to Studio Cambridge.”

Gavin Shuker, the MP for Luton South, also criticised the government for its treatment of the University of Bedfordshire, saying that it was inappropriate for the institution to be named before it could put its case. “Many will be left asking what motivated the government to target Bedfordshire in this way,” he told the Times Higher Education.

The Home Office has revoked HTS licenses from: Alpha Meridian College; Birmingham Institute of Education Training & Technology; Bradford Metropolitan College; College of Excellence; Eynsford College; Hammersmith Management College; Katherine and King's College of London; Kinnaird College; Midlands Academy of Business and Technology; Queensbury College; Shakespeare College; Stanford College; Superior College London; UK Business Academy; and West London Business College

Bradford College of Management and Britain College surrendered their HTS licenses.

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