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  • Independent education providers support the elimination of visa abuse Study UK, the UK’s leading association for independent further and higher education institutions and specialist training providers, has called for a renewed focus on fraud detection and prevention to protect against criminal exploitation of the student visa system, in response to the Panorama documentary that aired on BBC1 on Monday 10 February, titled ‘Immigration Undercover: The Student Visa Scandal’. Undercover Panorama journalists paid a west London immigration consultancy to compile all of the documents necessary to make a fraudulent Tier 4 General Student visa application. In addition to providing false bank statements to evade the Tier 4 maintenance funds requirement, Studentway Education was filmed arranging for the journalist to cheat a Home Office-approved English language test, facilitated by staff at Eden College International. Sue Hindley, Chair of Study UK, responds to the programme: “This appears to be a clear example of criminal fraud being perpetrated against the UK immigration system and the education sector. Study UK strongly supports the Government’s commitment to eradicating all abuse of the student visa route and we urge the Home Office in the light of these revelations to place a renewed emphasis on the detection and prevention of fraudulent student applications. Sophisticated fraud such as this can be very difficult for individual education providers to defend themselves against. The element of the Panorama programme of most concern was the apparent ease with which one particular Home Office-approved Secure English Language Test could be subverted by unscrupulous test centre staff. It appears that the test provider, ETS of Princeton, New Jersey, has been insufficiently rigorous in its approach to test centre accreditation and the monitoring of results. It is therefore right for the Home Office to have taken swift action to suspend all ETS tests pending a full and thorough investigation. It is essential that educational institutions are able to rely on the security of these tests when considering new student applications. Weaknesses in the regulatory framework must be addressed in order to boost public confidence in the admission of international students, whose continuing choice of the UK is a hugely valuable economic and cultural asset. We welcome such initiatives as the recent renewed focus by Ofqual on ensuring that the qualifications offered by UK awarding bodies to Tier 4 students are of a high standard and rigorously applied, and recent work by the British Council in producing a database of education agents who have completed training, signed up to an ethical code of practice, and committed to undertake a programme of continual assessment. The overall lesson from Panorama, however, must surely be for the Home Office to focus its efforts and resources on the effective enforcement of existing laws and regulations, rather than the invention of new blanket rules and bureaucracy that would serve only to tie up responsible education providers in red tape and to discourage genuine students from applying. In this regard Study UK stands ready to assist the Government with the implementation of any preventative measures that are likely to make a real, positive impact.”
  • All international students should have the right to work Study UK, the UK’s leading association for independent further and higher education institutions and specialist training providers, has responded to a report published today by the thinktank IPPR titled ‘Britain wants you! Why the UK should commit to increasing international student numbers’. The report advises that in an increasingly competitive global market, in which the UK’s education exports industry is estimated to be worth £17.5 billion to the economy, ‘the UK needs to present an attractive, competitive offer to students both during and after their study’. Recommendations on how to improve this offer include working rights for all international students, and not just those at universities and publicly funded colleges as currently. Sue Hindley, Chair of Study UK, responds to the publication of the report: “We welcome IPPR’s recommendation to Government to ‘commit unequivocally to increasing the number of international students studying in British education institutions’. In particular, we support their position that ‘the entitlement [to working rights] should be the same regardless of whether the student’s education institution is public or private, further or higher education.' Study UK has campaigned on this issue since working rights were removed from international students at independent providers in 2011, writing to the Minister of State for Immigration and parliamentary committees this year to call for changes. We welcome IPPR’s recognition that all international students bring benefits to the UK education sector and economy, and that we should be making them a competitive offer in return. We hope that the growing consensus on this issue will have an impact on political decision-makers. We also support IPPR’s position that stricter regulation of education providers must not be allowed to stifle growth in the sector. The report proposes a sliding scale of sanctions so that where weaknesses are identified a Tier 4 sponsor may be placed under review rather than immediately having its licence suspended or revoked, actions which can cause lasting reputational damage. It also recommends ‘reducing audits from every year to every 2-3 years if an institution is consistently performing well’. Study UK has long urged the Home Office to adopt both of these measures as essential elements of a flexible Sponsorship system in which the Government and education sector work together in guarding against abuse. We share IPPR’s vision of a regulatory system that is risk-based and that allows for a constructive partnership and an honest dialogue between education providers and the Home Office.”
  • Study UK Conference and AGM - 16 December 2013 This year’s Study UK Conference and AGM 2013 will be held on 16 December 2013 at the BIS Conference Centre in Westminster from 9.30am till 5.30pm (registration at 9am). The conference will focus on two critical themes for UK Independent Education today: The Future of UK Higher Education: expanding choice, empowering students and driving innovation Maintaining the UK’s international competitiveness: global trends, opportunities and policy challenges Plenary sessions with industry leading keynote speakers and specialised breakout sessions will allow you to tailor your experience. Join Study UK and leading names in education as we look at: the evolving nature of Higher Education and how the sector is regulated protecting and enhancing the student experience in a changing sector the importance of data in student choices and educational outcomes risks and opportunities for the UK in the global education market improving the efficiency of the student visa and sponsorship system business management – VAT, accounts auditing and pension obligations advances in international marketing Why take part? The conference programme will cover all the current major issues in the industry, bringing you up to date with the latest research, insight, policy changes and expert advice. Stimulating plenary talks and discussions will be supported by a choice of breakout sessions to consider a broad range of topics in depth. An unparalleled opportunity for networking with principals and senior staff in the independent education sector. A buffet lunch will be provided as well as refreshments throughout the day. Content will be delivered by high-profile, thought-provoking speakers and forward-thinking, knowledgeable workshop leaders drawn from across Government, business and the sector. Confirmed speakers include: David Willetts, Minister of State for Universities and Science Alison Allden, Chief Executive, Higher Education Statistics Agency Rachel Wenstone, Vice President for Higher Education, National Union of Students Pat Killingley, Director of Higher Education, British Council George Shirley, Head of Sponsorship, Home Office Alice Sachrajda, Institute for Public Policy Research Emma Leech, Chair of HE Market Interest Group, Chartered Institute of Marketing Book online now to secure your place, with the full day’s programme just £100 for Study UK Members and £130 for non-members. A further 20% discount is available when booking additional delegates. Watch the website for the full programme schedule, coming soon. Date and location Monday 16 December 2013 BIS Conference Centre, 1 Victoria Street, Westminster, London SW1H 0ET Registration: 09:00 | Programme start: 09:30 | Programme end: 17:30 Booking information Study UK members: £100. Non-members: £130. (VAT exempt) (20% discount available when booking additional delegates) Click here to book online via www.studyuktraining.com or contact the events team: T: 020 7608 7090 | F: 020 7608 7961 | E: events@study-uk.org  
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