Welcome to the July edition of my blog. And can I firstly say what a pleasure it is to be writing this with the sun streaming through the office window – summer has finally arrived!

Visitor visas

On a less positive note, many of you have been in touch regarding the Home Secretary’s announcement toward the end of June that the Home Office will be trialling a system of bonds for visitors coming to the UK. There is quite rightly concern within the education sector that this will affect training and short course providers whose delegates make use of the Student Visitor Visa (SVV) route. Initial reports suggested that bonds would apply to visitors coming from six countries (India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Nigeria and Ghana) and would be trialled for 12 months from November, with a selection of applicants from these regions being asked to pay a £3,000 bond. However, the Home Office has subsequently removed details re the pilot from its website and it seems that the plans don’t have the level of approval from Government needed for them to progress. I will continue to press our Home Office contacts for further detail re any plans, while also emphasising the reputational and financial damage that could be done to our training sectors.
You may have seen on BAC’s website, the update regarding the publication of the Home Office’s report on the student visitor visa route, which found no evidence of displaced abuse ( HO reports no significant abuse in SVV). In addition to contributing to this report, I met with the Shadow Immigration Minister, Chris Bryant, on 4 June to discuss BAC’s work and, in particular, the vibrant training sector we inspect and accredit. These discussions contributed to Chris’ thinking for the backbenchers’ debate on international students (6 June). While the backbencher debate wasn’t particularly well-attended, much of the discussion was positive, focusing on students’ contribution to the UK. Nearly all attending MPs espoused the significant benefits of international students being able to study at institutions in the UK.
In related Home Office news, two consultations have recently been launched and focus on i) immigration checks and private rented accommodation and ii) migrant access to the NHS. You can find detail related to the consultations here. BAC will be collating responses from the sector on these consultations; please e-mail info@the-bac.org with any comment by Wed 14 August. Linked to the second consultation, I will be attending an All Party Parliamentary Group meeting at the House of Commons debating migrants’ access to healthcare on Wed 10 July.

Conferences and events

With summer’s arrival comes the conference season. I have recently attended the second Gulf Education conference in London, along with the UK Council for International Student Affairs conference in Glasgow. Given the pace of education change and development in the MENA (Middle East and North Africa) region, it was most helpful to attend Gulf Education event to meet with deliverers of training and HE, along with other quality assurance focused bodies. There’s a lot of interest in BAC’s work in the Gulf region and I will continue to be focused on raising the profile of BAC and its accredited colleges and training providers in the coming months.
I have mentioned previously that I sit on the Executive Committee of the Council of Validating Universities. This body works with universities and independent HE providers, promoting good practice within collaborative provision. I would urge any institutions which currently work with a university partner or aspire to do so, to consider joining the CVU. Its conference  will be held at the Bristol Marriot Royal Hotel this year, over 19-20 September, and attendance would allow you to get a feel for the organisation and the best practice support and networking opportunities it offers.
Finally, the particularly observant amongst you may have noticed that new SCP (short course provider) accreditation logos have been introduced (View and download them here – please note you will need your log in details to access this section of the website), these differentiate between those short course providers whose UK provision is BAC-accredited and those that have had their UK and overseas provision inspected and accredited. If you are accredited as an SCP, as you approach the end of your four year accreditation cycle, we will be working with you to determine whether your UK or UK and overseas provision will be incorporated in the re-accreditation inspection and hence which logo you will be eligible to use. If you have any questions about this please contact info@the-bac.org.
Dr Gina Hobson
Chief Executive