Dear colleagues,

By now you have probably seen the various media reports on the National Audit Office’s report on the implementation of the Tier 4 Points-Based System in 2009.  The report was welcome and outlined a number of key findings, including:

  • the Border Agency implemented Tier 4 before the key controls were in place;
  • an estimated 40,000 to 50,000 individuals may have entered the UK under the Tier 4 system with intent to work rather than study;
  • UKBA has taken little action to prevent and detect students overstaying visas or breaching visa conditions;
  • UKBA is less efficient and effective at tracing people than it could be;
  • UKBA did not have a fully documented compliance strategy for migrants and sponsors until December 2011.

BAC had previously raised similar concerns – we had noted that the Points-Based System was implemented before CAS were ready to be introduced, for example.  More recently, accredited colleges were invited to share their thoughts and experiences regarding Tier 4, and reported that there were widespread concerns about the consistency of decisions, a lack of transparency, difficulties in communicating with the Agency and unnecessary bureaucracy.  BAC’s submission to the Independent Chief Inspector can be downloaded from the College Gateway by accredited colleges.

The NAO report includes some very useful recommendations, including:

  • UKBA to work more collaboratively with sponsor representative bodies;
  • UKBA should provide provisional verbal feedback to colleges at compliance visits and written feedback within reasonable timescales;
  • With reference to the numerous changes made to the Tier 4 system at short notice, UKBA should develop a regulatory approach more in tune with best practice, including reviewing how far its work reflects the Regulators’ Compliance Code for compliance and enforcement.

As a member of the Joint Education Taskforce, BAC will be joining other sector representatives and strongly pressing UKBA to respond in full to the report and ensure that changes are made as a result.

Dr Gina Hobson

Chief Executive