An approved education provider is a student's immigration sponsor while they are in the UK and must comply with a number of duties.
The education provider must be approved by the UK Border Agency (UKBA) and have a licence to bring students to the UK.
Once they are licensed, they are given a rating and added to the UKBA tier 4 register of sponsors; they can also issue visa letters to people who want to apply for student visas.
Once an education provider has been chosen, the student should ensure it is on the Register of sponsors; if the provider is not on the register, it will not be able to sponsor the student for a visa.
Once an education provider is licensed, it is given either an A-rating or a B-rating. B-rated education providers are working with the UKBA to improve the management of their duties, and to get an A-rating.
** Additional Information & Advice **
As discussed in a previous blog entry, the UK government introduced new rules for student visas earlier this year - so instead of researching online, you may prefer to speak with a solicitor who specialises in immigration law.
You can be matched with a solicitor for free via solicitor matching services, which can also help you to understand the best course of action for your situation and whether you are ready to hire a solicitor.