Student Sponsorship and International Education in the UK

The student sponsorship system (and its predecessor, the Tier 4 regime) has for several years formed part of the framework of measures and legislation which the Home Office and UK Visas and Immigration use to implement and oversee UK immigration controls.  Historically both the Immigration Rules and the sponsor guidance have been subject to frequent and sometimes complex changes, establishing a number of baseline registration requirements on institutions that sponsor students domiciled outside the UK, coupled with a wide range of detailed duties and reporting obligations on such registered sponsors.  Recently, the changes have been more targeted; leaving the impact of Brexit aside, whilst the terminology of the old Tier 4 system has been replaced, the student sponsor guidance has remained comparatively undisturbed.  Alongside this, following recommendations by the Law Commission, the Government has been simplifying and consolidating the Immigration Rules.

Meanwhile, the Higher Education Statistics Agency has recently reported that between 2019/20 and 2020/21 there was an increase of 48,500 non-UK student enrolments, largely driven by an increase in non-EU students.  With non-UK domiciled students totalling over 600,000, this is encouraging news for the sector and the UK given the challenges of the pandemic and adjusting to the new relationship with the EU.  It also meets one of the targets set for 2030 in the Government’s International Education Strategy.

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