Conclusions and recommendations |
1. The Agency implemented Tier 4 of the Points
Based System for students without effective controls to prevent
abuse. When it launched
Tier 4 in March 2009 the Agency had only visited 30% of the educational
institutions (sponsors) that it had licensed, and its electronic
system to confirm that students had actually been accepted on
courses was not made mandatory for a further 11 months. In the
future, before new processes are rolled out, the Agency should
put in place adequate controls and identify and actively manage
risks before it implements changes.
2. Constant changes have resulted in overly
complex rules and guidance. The customer support provided by the
Agency has not been good enough. Due in
part to poor implementation, the Agency has had to make successive
changes to address weaknesses in Tier 4 controls and administrative
processes. Little regard has been given to the regulatory burden
and costs of constant change and unnecessary complexity on the
education institution. The timings of changes have not worked
well with the academic cycle and although the Agency has consulted
the sector it has not acted on their responses. The Agency's customer
helplines are unhelpful and the named contact points promised
for highly trusted sponsors are no longer available.
- The Home Office should simplify
the rules and guidance and keep further changes to a minimum in
order to create a period of stability. If further changes are
absolutely necessary, where feasible these should be timed to
fit with the academic year. Regard should be had to the extra
financial and regulatory burden of further changes.
- The Agency should develop service level agreements
which set out the responsibilities and service levels to which
both the Agency and sponsors will adhere.
3. The Agency has not minimised the regulatory
burden on low-risk sponsors and students. The
Regulators' Compliance Code stipulates that regulators should
make full use of risk assessment in their approach. The day to
day regulatory burden is the same for all sponsors regardless
of whether they are high-, medium-, or low-risk. Similarly, the
Agency does not discriminate sufficiently between high-, medium-,
and low-risk students. The Agency should adopt the Regulators'
Compliance Code, including the introduction of ways to reduce
the regulatory burden on the lowest risk students and sponsors.
4. The Agency has not taken enough action
to remove students who are not complying with the terms of their
visas. The lack of controls when
Tier 4 was implemented resulted in an estimated 40,000 to 50,000
additional people using the route to come to the UK in 2009 to
work rather than study. The Agency is right to prioritise 'high
harm' migrants such as foreign national prisoners, but it is not
acceptable to ignore such a large population of people living
and working in the UK illegally. The Agency has only belatedly
started to curtail the leave to remain of those who it knows are
not studying and to follow up on those whose visas have expired.
The Agency should deal urgently with migrants who are in breach
of their student visas and should be clear about the circumstances
in which it will remove them from the UK.
5. Data on immigration is still based on highly
inaccurate International Passenger Survey data.
The e-Borders system for counting all migrants in and out of the
UK still only covers 55% of flights and will not be fully rolled
out until 2015 at the earliest. It is not good enough to wait
for e-Borders to eventually provide 100% coverage to get robust
data. The Agency should identify and make better use of alternative
sources of data until e-Borders provides 100% coverage.
6. Students are included in net migration
figures but, according to the Home Office, students generally
remain in the UK for fewer than five years.
Australia, Canada and the USA treat international students as
temporary or 'non-immigrant' admissions in their statistics and
France excludes students from its temporary migration figures.
The Home Office presently includes students in net migration figures.
However, some academics and commentators consider that excluding
students would improve the accuracy of net migration figures and
allow the UK to compete more effectively in the international
student market. The Home Office should work with the Office for
National Statistics to begin reporting on net migration both with
and without students.