Tier 4 changes for education providers and migrant students

Changes to the Immigration Rules affecting migrant students and educational providers which sponsor them under Tier 4 of the points-based system have now been introduced.

The Immigration Rules now encompass changes from the Tier 4 review, including the rules governing the new Highly Trusted sponsor licence. Only sponsors who hold a Highly Trusted sponsor licence can now offer the following courses, known as 'restricted courses', to Tier 4 (General) students:

  • courses at National Qualifications Framework (NQF) level 3 or equivalent; and
  • courses below degree level that include a work placement (other than foundation degrees, which can still be offered with a work placement by any Tier 4 (General) sponsor).

Education providers who hold a standard Tier 4 sponsor licence can only offer courses at or above NQF level 4 or equivalent. And they cannot offer courses that include work placements unless those courses are degree-level courses or foundation degrees.

(A foundation degree is a programme of study which leads to a qualification awarded at a minimum of level 5 on the revised National Qualifications Framework by an English higher education institution with degree-awarding powers, or awarded on a directly equivalent basis in the devolved administrations. In Scotland, a Higher National Diploma at Level 8 on the Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework is equivalent to a foundation degree.)

If a student is studying a restricted course at an institution that does not hold a Highly Trusted sponsor licence, they can continue to study at that institution until they complete their course of study or their permission to stay under Tier 4 expires, whichever is sooner. If a student wants to extend their stay to complete their studies on an affected course, they must do so at an institution that holds a Highly Trusted sponsor licence.