One of the largest private higher education colleges in the UK has had its licence to sponsor international students suspended by the Home Office.
The British Institute of Technology and E-commerce, which has partnerships with a number of universities, disappeared from the list of licensed institutions earlier this month.
According to the principal, James MacAskill, the suspension is down to a “misunderstanding” by the Home Office over the “exit arrangements” the institute had in place with previous partners. “We anticipate an early resolution to this particular issue,” he said.
The BITE is currently ending validation partnerships with the University of East London and the University of Wales, which was in effect shut down in 2011 after a series of scandals surrounding its validation activities. Dr MacAskill did not confirm whether these were the partnerships that had been the focus of the Home Office’s concerns.
In September last year, the BITE signed a new partnership with Staffordshire University to validate a range of largely business-related BA and master’s-level programmes. There are currently 336 students taking such courses.
According to a report released earlier this year by the Quality Assurance Agency, the BITE had 3,662 higher-level students, of which 2,254 were studying for a higher national diploma in business offered by the firm Pearson. This is a growth of more than 50 per cent since 2009-10, when the BITE was one of the five biggest private colleges in the UK.
The QAA report says that it had enrolled about 2,500 extra students in the autumn of 2013 after being allowed to access student loans for higher national certificate and diploma courses. It was one of 23 private colleges that had this funding suspended in November 2013.
According to Peter Robinson, the institute’s academic registrar, about 20 per cent of its students are “affected” by its visa licence status, although according to a Home Office spokesman, existing international students will not be affected by the suspension and can continue to study at the BITE.