Visa and degree course applications made by overseas students could be unified to help streamline admissions and to combat fraud, writes Tony Tysome.
The Universities and Colleges Admissions Service has begun talks with the Home Office and Universities UK to consider the benefits and feasibility of linking electronic applications through Ucas to requests for visas.
Last year, Ucas handled more than 45,000 applications from overseas students for places on full-time undergraduate courses. It already runs a verification unit to help spot fraudulent applications.
Anthony McClaran, Ucas chief executive, said discussions with the Home Office and vice-chancellors were at a "tentative" stage. But he added: "It makes sense to see where all these processes can be joined up. In a situation where people are applying electronically, we are seeing if there is any scope for looking at ways in which there can be a link between the process of applying for a visa, seeing whether someone is eligible for a visa and applying for a place on a course.
"We are in possession of that information at an earlier stage than anyone else. If it is possible to link us with visa applications, that is worth considering."