UK: Highly Trusted Sponsorship for Tier 4 Sponsors – proposed criteria

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. We 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 us.

In April 2011, we committed to review the criteria to become a Highly Trusted Sponsor. We 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 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.

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 deducted 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 fail 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. For the current renewal process and guidance, see our How to apply as a Highly Trusted Sponsor page.

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.