Universities and colleges across the country need to comply with strict guidelines to bring students from outside the European Economic Area (EEA) to study in the UK. There have been high profile suspensions of universities and colleges which have failed to comply with these guidelines resulting in significant damage to the reputation of the institution as well as having a meaningful effect on revenues.
There are no hard and fast rules on how education providers can ensure they can keep their Highly Trusted Sponsor (HTS) status, but it is apparent that demonstrating good practice in the recruitment of international students is an important step in the right direction.
Working with institutions and the Home Office UK NARIC has been able to identify the following areas as being important steps in being able to help institutions keep or achieve HTS and thereby achieve compliance.
Compliance is the Key
In order to bring students to the UK from outside the EEA universities and colleges need to have HTS status. HTS is something that is “given” to education providers by the Home Office. Having, and keeping, HTS is the main aim of all education institutions that engage in the recruitment of international students.
The best way to gain and maintain HTS is to be compliant with the Home Office’s sponsor requirements.
There are numerous criteria to which institutions have to comply and we feel that it is useful to highlight four areas:
- Adopting best practice
- Ability to follow a course
- Counter fraud
- English Language Proficiency
Adopting best practice
Education providers in the UK need to clearly demonstrate that they are using tried and tested processes to identify and evaluate potential students from outside the EEA. The Home Office are not going to tell higher education institutions or colleges how they should market themselves or whether they are over-estimating the abilities of an individual; but they do want to see that there are policies and procedures and that the institution is following good practice.
Policies and Procedures
When it comes to evaluating applicants from outside the EEA institutions need to show that they are being consistent. Universities and colleges need to be able to demonstrate that they have a system in place. Using UK NARIC’s data is one way of doing this. All UK NARIC’s members are entitled to a “Membership Certificate”. This does not mean that UK NARIC accredits the institution (if you become aware of any institution claiming to be accredited by UK NARIC please let us know!), it simply confirms that the institutions is a member of UK NARIC and therefore has access to our data and services. The Membership Certificate clearly shows that the institution is using “an independent authority” to help them evaluate the qualifications of international applicants. If you are a member of UK NARIC and you would like to order a Membership Certificate please contact your Account Manager.
There are a number of other criteria that can be used to demonstrate good practice and we could fit many blog articles with them. However, it is worth highlighting a couple more:
Staff development: Make sure that relevant staff are kept up-to-date with the latest developments in education internationally. This can be done through Newsletters; there are a number of relevant newsletters available (QAA, UUK’s International Unit, AUA, UK NARIC). Additionally, staff could attend training courses and conferences. UK NARIC runs a number of professional development courses that have been designed for this purpose; additionally UCAS, UKCISA and many other organisations run courses and conferences throughout the year. Finally, it is important to keep up-to-date with immigration policy; UK NARIC is now running events that are specifically design to help higher education professionals to do this.
Admissions Policy: An Admissions Policy should set out the way in which an institution evaluates applicants. It should be readily available and it should provide information on the sources of information staff should use to make decisions. Which sources of information does your institution use: internal databases? UK NARIC? Any other sources? These should all be listed. Additionally, if your institution has particular policies on an institution, country or region this should be detailed in the Policy. The Policy should cover how you deal with Agents and what relationship you have with Agents.
Ability to follow a course
Under Tier 4 institutions should only issue a CAS once they are satisfied that a student both intends and is able to follow the course of study concerned.
The key point here is being able to assess an individual’s ability.
This can be done through the applicant’s previous qualifications, their performance in an admissions test or through interview. If an institution is using previous qualifications to assess an applicant’s suitability, then they need to ”confirm any qualifications the student already has which make them suitable for the course” on the CAS, i.e. use UK NARIC’s data.
Assessing a student’s suitability is very important. It is the way in which institutions can be sure they have a committed student; but how can institutions be sure that the qualifications are genuine?
We have covered education fraud in another article in this blog, and it is important that higher and further education institutions develop systems and processes to combat education fraud (in fact it should be covered in the Admissions Policy!).
The Home Office’s view on fraud is:
“We would encourage Sponsors to take all reasonable steps to verify the authenticity of a document; it is in the Sponsor’s interests to do so
Rooting out the non bona fide applications before issuing a CAS would save them from paying a CAS fee for a student who won’t enter the UK.
If an institution repeatedly sponsors applicants with non bona fide documents it may affect their Sponsor rating and could ultimately lead to their removal from the register.”
Therefore, it is vitally important that institutions wishing to gain or maintain HTS have a way of finding out whether a qualification is bogus. Members of UK NARIC are able to use the Counter Fraud Service which will provide members with the knowledge needed to be able to make better judgments about whether a qualification is legitimate. There is also the Degrees of Deception publication and a training course.
English Language Proficiency
There have been examples of when students have used bogus English language qualifications to enter the UK. The Home Office has established criteria for those wishing to study in the UK. There are a number of different ways in which applicants can show that they meet the different levels that have been specified, please refer to the Tier 4 guidance policy.
Tim Buttress, June 2013
ECCTIS Ltd are leading experts in the field of international qualifications and skills.
Our multi-lingual team of regional education experts possess in-depth understanding of comparative education models, recognition criteria, international qualifications and skills, qualification frameworks and quality assurance and accreditation systems. We use this unique knowledge set to develop products and services aimed at increasing understanding of global education for a range of stakeholders.
The 2009 figures from UNESCO showed that there were 3.3 million outwardly mobile students across the world.
The regions with the largest number of mobile students are East Asia and the Pacific, North America and Western Europe, while the regions with the lowest number of mobile students are Latin America and the Caribbean, the Arab States and Sub-Saharan Africa. For each of these six regions, North America and Western Europe are the top destinations. Taking a closer look at the UNESCO figures for English speaking African countries, the UK is second most popular destination; South Africa being the first.
In terms of UK NARIC assessments, the region as a whole also accounts for around 10% of the total number undertaken every year. The number of assessments we have undertaken for applicants from these countries (plus the overall ranking) over the past four years highlights some interesting points:
The total number of assessments has fallen by nearly 30% over the past four years (5319 in 2008 and 3757 in 2011). In terms of individual assessments, both Nigeria and South Africa have been in the top ten for the whole period. However, whilst numbers from Nigeria have held relatively steady, those from South Africa have declined by nearly 50% in these four years.
It is nonetheless still the case that these two countries account for around 71% of all applications made from this region.
Qualification level of migrants
The table below shows the breakdown of the level of South African and Nigerian qualifications submitted during 2011:
|Below Level 3 on the UK Qualifications Framework (QCF)||Senior School Certificate, The West African Senior School Certificate, Nigeria Certificate of Education, Advanced Certificate in Secretarial Studies||34%||N2 Engineering Studies, N3 Certificate in Engineering Drawing, National Certificate : Business Management||38%|
|A level and Sub-Degree Equivalents (QCF Levels 3, 4 and 5)||Registered Nurse, Diploma in Computer Education, Higher National Diploma in Electrical Electronics||17%||National Certificate N5 in Business Management, National Diploma in Industrial Engineering||14%|
|British Bachelor level||Bachelor of Science in Biochemistry, Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM) (1990)||42%||Bachelor of Arts, Baccalaureus Legum||40%|
|Postgraduate||Postgraduate Diploma in Education, Master of Science in Mathematics, Doctor of Philosophy||8%||Post Graduate Certificate in Education, Bachelor of Veterinary Science, Master of Education, Philosophiae Doctor (Chemistry)||7%|
The spread of qualifications from these countries is very interesting; nearly half are above Bachelor level, but a considerable proportion are below Level 3 on the UK QCF, in contrast to the overall average.
Tim Buttress, February 2013
UK NARIC provides information and advice about qualifications and skills to individuals from overseas; our services are designed to assist you when applying for jobs and courses in the UK.
Both UK NARIC’s Statement of Comparability and Career Path Report can help potential employers and education providers understand international qualifications by comparing an individual’s overseas awards to levels within the UK qualification frameworks, enabling them to make informed decisions about their applicants.
Statement of Comparability
UK NARIC can provide two officially-recognised documents. The first is a Statement of Comparability, which will include information about the standards of your awards in comparison to UK qualifications. It confirms the status of overseas qualifications and their comparable level in the UK, irrespective of it being an academic, vocational or professional award. It is used by universities, colleges, employers and Government departments and agencies, forming part of their decision-making process.
Career Path Report
Career Path Reports provide more detailed information about how an individual’s qualification compares to UK levels, the education system where the qualification was studied and recommendations for future study and/or professional development in the UK.
Both documents are available for qualifications awarded in many different kinds of institutions, including colleges, schools and universities. The main purpose of these documents is to ensure UK employers and education providers understand the level of your qualifications.
UK NARIC Application process
Applying to UK NARIC is easy; the best way to apply is online; simply visit www.naric.org.uk and click on the “Online Application” button. There is a cost for the services and you will be required to submit photocopies of your qualification documents with your application. UK NARIC can also save you the time and hassle of providing English translations for your qualification documents. For certain languages we offer a service whereby we use our in-house experts to evaluate qualifications from the original documents.
The Statement of Comparability and the Career Path Report take up to 15 working days to be produced, although this does not include delivery time. Having your qualifications reviewed and assessed by UK NARIC does not take long, but it could make a huge difference to your whole career in the UK.
Applying through the Points Based System
If you live outside the European Economic Area and you wish to come to the UK to work or study then you will need to apply through the Points Based System (PBS) for immigration. Under the PBS there are a number of different routes through which you can apply; the main work route is Tier 2 and the study route is Tier 4.
The Statement of Comparability and Career Path Report can help support your application. These documents will clearly state the level of your qualifications in UK terms.
Before you apply through the Points Based System we suggest you check the Home Office website to ensure that you are supplying the correct documentation.
(this page can be viewed on the UK NARIC website http://bit.ly/Y8GbSx)
Tim Buttress, January 2013
Since the introduction of the UK NARIC blog in November 2011, the most popular article we have written is ‘How a UK NARIC Statement of Comparability can help’ . Following on from the popularity of the article, here at UK NARIC we thought it a good idea to expand on the points made and further explain what a Statement of Comparability is, what is can do, how it can help; and perhaps equally importantly, what it is not and cannot do.
What is a Statement of Comparability?
Let’s start at the beginning – the purpose of the Statement of Comparability. The idea is that an individual from overseas comes (or is interested in coming) to the UK to study, gain employment or migrate. In order to do this, they need to prove to the admitting institution / potential employer / UK Border Agency that they have a certain level of education or expertise. However, understanding the level of the qualifications the individual holds and what they can bring to the table is often the first stumbling block: here at UK NARIC, we can provide an assessment and compare the overseas award to a suitable and fair level within the UK national qualification framework. This will then allow the admitting institution / potential employer / UK Border Agency to understand, in more familiar terms, how the award compares to a UK level of education. The document we provide that contains this comparability, together with details of the awarding body, year of completion and title of award, is the Statement of Comparability.
Is UK NARIC’s decision final?
The comparability itself is merely our expert opinion derived from our considerable knowledge and experience which has been developed in close co-operation with universities in the UK as well as other NARICs and relevant authorities. It is not, as is often mistaken, a legally binding decision. A Statement provides details of the professional rights the qualification confers in the country of origin and forms the first stage in a two-stage process of professional recognition. Professional recognition in the UK is conducted by competent authorities such as the Teaching Agency and the Engineering Council.
Can UK NARIC provide a translation?
Usually, in order for UK NARIC to provide a Statement of Comparability, we request both the original language documents as well as certified translations. However, for certain languages, we can offer our Translation Waiver Service (TWS). The purpose of this service is to allow individuals to send solely the original language documents, thus removing the additional time and expense of certified translations. The full list of languages that are covered under the TWS can be found on the UK NARIC website. It is really important to clarify that the TWS is NOT a translation service – the idea is purely to save individuals time and money by allowing them to send their awards in the original language only.
Does the Statement of Comparability expire?
Another question we are regularly asked is whether the Statement of Comparability has an expiry date. The answer to this is no – it does not! However, as our information is reviewed on a rolling basis, it is possible that an assessment may change over time: new information or evidence may come to light that means we have to review a certain award or even an entire education system. The assessments provided are as accurate as possible, but are based on data available at the time of assessment only.