UK NARIC helping with Tier 4 Highly Trusted Sponsor Compliance

Please note that since this article has been published immigration guidance has changed. Please see our post UK NARIC’s Visas and Nationality Service launches on 6 April which contains more up-to-date information.



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?

Counter fraud

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



Please check the Home Office website to ensure that you have the most up-to-date information.

UK NARIC – helping you apply to study or work in the UK


Please note that since this article has been published immigration guidance has changed. Please see our post UK NARIC’s Visas and Nationality Service launches on 6 April which contains more up-to-date information.



If you are applying for a job or to study in the UK, but have qualifications from outside the UK, how can you be sure that you satisfy the necessary requirements? UK NARIC can help you!

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 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

Tim Buttress, January 2013



*Please check the Home Office website to ensure that you have the most up-to-date information.

How a UK NARIC English Language Assessment can help

Please note that since this article has been published immigration guidance has changed. Please see our post UK NARIC’s Visas and Nationality Service launches on 6 April which contains more up-to-date information. Also, as of 6 April 2017, UK NARIC statements can be used to evidence English levels A1, A2, B1, and B2, in addition to C1.

Language is the main entity that separates man from the apes and other animals.

(Henry Morris, Ph.D, The Mystery of Human Language)

In our last blog we looked at how English language is used in the UK immigration system.  For migrants, being able to demonstrate that they have the necessary proficiency in English is fundamental to them being able to come to the UK to work of study.

It has been said that English is the most important language in the world; it is the language most used on the internet (although use of Chinese is growing) and is recognised as the language of communications, science, information technology, business, seafaring, aviation, entertainment, radio and diplomacy.

In terms of the UK immigration system, the Home Office place a great deal of significance in being able to speak and understand English.  They have identified three ways migrants can demonstrate their proficiency:*

  • They are a national of a majority English speaking country, or*
  • They have passed an English language test, at or above the level for the PBS tier in which they are applying, which has been approved by the Home Office, or*
  • They hold a degree that was:
    • taught in English, and
    • is equivalent to a UK bachelor’s degree or above.*

The first two options are fairly cut and dried; migrants either fulfil these or they don’t, but what about the last one?

To meet this purpose, UK NARIC have developed an assessment that can indicate an individual’s proficiency in English.  Visit our website for more information about this service.

How the Assessment helps

The English Language Assessment helps migrants prove that they meet the Home Office’s English requirements.  In essence it confirms the level of a qualification and that it must have been taught in English, with the sole exception of foreign language modules.  The methodology underpinning the Assessment means that an individual’s proficiency can be compared to C1 on the CEFR scale; meaning that it can be used to support applications to Tiers 1 & 2 of the Points Based System.*

What needs to be sent?

In order to make an assessment we need the following information:

  • a covering letter with your contact details and stating the purpose of your enquiry
  • a photocopy of your English test certificate(s) OR evidence of the medium of instruction of your study
  • a photocopy of your final certificate and course transcripts
  • a photocopy of a certified translation in English if necessary
  • payment for the service (!)
  • a self-addressed envelope with correct postage paid if the letter is for a UK address (if the postal address is outside the UK you do not need to provide postage)

How quick is the assessment?

We aim to get the assessment completed within 15 working days, once we have received all the appropriate documentation, but if there is a need to research the qualification / institution it might take longer.

If you have any further questions about the service please get in touch!

Please check the Home Office website to ensure that you have the most up-to-date information.*

*Please check the Home Office website to ensure that you have the most up-to-date information.