The announcement, made today by Theresa May, the home secretary, will impact universities and overseas students given their close connections with the UKBA.
Ms May said the new immigration and visa section would be focused on giving an “effective” and “good customer” service – which may give some hope to overseas students who lament the standards of service provided by the UKBA.
The announcement follows a critical report into the UKBA on Monday by the Home Affairs select committee, which warned that it would take 24 years to clear a backlog of asylum and immigration cases the size of Iceland.
Ms May said the UKBA had been “a troubled organisation since it was formed in 2008, and its performance is not good enough”.
She said the agency had not been designed to absorb the level of mass immigration seen under the previous Labour government, and its size led to conflicting cultures.
She cited as key problems “a lack of transparency and accountability”, and poor IT systems.
The agency would be split between “a high-volume service that makes high-quality decisions about who comes here, with a culture of customer satisfaction for businessmen and visitors who want to come here legally. And second, an organisation that has law enforcement at its heart and gets tough on those who break our immigration laws”, Ms May said.
She argued that the UKBA should not have been given agency status, as this had “created a closed, secretive and defensive culture”. The new bodies “will not have agency status and will sit in the Home Office, reporting to ministers”, Ms May added.
Universities will hope that the organisational shake up does not result in any policy shifts. Mark Harper, the immigration minister, told Times Higher Education in January that higher education was entering a period of “a lot more policy stability”.