UKBA restores Glasgow Caledonian’s licence to sponsor

Glasgow Caledonian University has had its licence to sponsor foreign students reinstated by the UK Border Agency after a three-week investigation.

May 11, 2011

The UKBA suspended the institution’s Tier 4 “highly trusted sponsor” status last month after a routine check. Concerns were raised over a number of nursing students from the Philippines, who appeared to be working full-time in care homes and attending lectures for just two hours a month instead of the required minimum of 15 hours a week.

Glasgow Caledonian was given 28 days to demonstrate that it had addressed the problem or risked losing its licence permanently. The deadline was set for next week.

The UKBA said today that it was reassured that the university is following regulations on student attendance and confirmed that it had lifted the suspension.

Speaking to Times Higher Education, Pamela Gillies, principal and vice-chancellor of Glasgow Caledonian, said the problem had arisen over the university’s “misunderstanding” of the Home Office requirement that foreign students on practical courses such as nursing spend 50 per cent of their study time in the classroom.

Nursing students at Glasgow Caledonian had spent 50 per cent of their time on placement, she said, but in the remainder had learned in a variety of ways, including problem-based exercises and online study.

“This is best practice within the sector, but the UKBA required that the additional 50 per cent of learning be classroom-based and we misinterpreted that,” Professor Gillies said.

She added that she believed the suspension was a disproportionate response to the problem and said she was “pleased but not surprised” that the licence had been reinstated with immediate effect.

The university is now taking legal advice over the reputational damage caused by the affair.

Jonathan Sedgwick, acting chief executive of the UKBA, said: “We had legitimate concerns which the university has worked with us to address and we are now satisfied it is complying with our rules.

“The UK Border Agency takes compliance very seriously and carries out regular checks. We retain the right to suspend a sponsor’s licence where we find evidence that they are not fulfilling their duties.”

hannah.fearn@tsleducation.com

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