I note with interest that the UK Border Agency is piloting an electronic application system for Tier 4 applicants. This provides a welcome opportunity for the department to address the inherent injustice of the current system, by which institutions’ existence is potentially threatened by innocent errors in applications or supporting documentation over which they have no control (leaving them open to deliberately erroneous malicious applications).
An electronic system would allow sponsors to view and approve supporting documentation prior to it being submitted to the UKBA. This would offer significant potential savings in time and staffing, would undoubtedly reduce errors and would ensure that institutions were granted responsibility as well as culpability. Provided that hard-copy documents matched those submitted electronically by sponsoring institutions, the UKBA would be in a position to justifiably censure those with high refusal rates.
Any upcoming reforms of Tier 4 policy should also allow for an additional amendment to be made with regard to refused applications: nullifying refusals for candidates who subsequently secure visas at the same institutions for the same courses (as such people have indubitably demonstrated their bona fides). Guidance on this issue is currently ambiguous.
It is surely not the intention of the UKBA to penalise legitimate applications for courses in the UK or the institutions that provide them. I therefore hope that the body will give due consideration to these proposals - setting out a clear and consistent process for applicants and teaching institutions. The current uncertainty is profoundly damaging to British business and to the reputation of the nation as a place of study.
Matthew Goldie-Scot, Senior educationalist, Carfax Education.
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