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Immigration 101: Student Visa Sponsors - Part 1 (#43)

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Only offering acceptable courses of study are eligible to be .  The only exceptions are as follows:

  • The Foundation Programme Office may sponsor migrants on the two-year Foundation Programme for postgraduate doctors and dentists.

  • Where the migrant's programme of study forms part of an overseas degree course, the prospective sponsor in the United Kingdom can be an organisation linked by common ownership or control to the overseas university.  But the UK Border Agency (UKBA) may ask for proof of these links before they will consider granting a sponsor licence.

What education providers must show

Education providers seeking a sponsor licence must show that:

  • they have been inspected, audited or reviewed by an appropriate body (if they are subject to public review);

  • they hold valid accreditation from an appropriate body (if they are not subject to public review); or

  • they directly offer short-term 'study abroad' programmes in their own premises in the United Kingdom (if they are an overseas higher education provider).

See below for more information about these requirements.

Procedures are in place for the UKBA's approved accreditation bodies to promptly inform them if a provider's accreditation is removed and to act quickly to check on education providers if the UKBA report concerns.  If a provider needs accreditation but subsequently loses it, the UKBA will withdraw their sponsor licence.

Inspection or auditing

If a provider is subject to public review, they must show that they have been inspected or audited by:

  • the Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education (QAA) - for institutions across the United Kingdom;

  • the Office for Standards in Education (Ofsted);

  • Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Education - for institutions in Scotland;

  • Estyn - for institutions in Wales;

  • the Education and Training Inspectorate - for institutions in Northern Ireland; or

  • the Independent Schools Inspectorate (ISI).


If a provider is a private higher education institution and not subject to public review, but they subscribe privately to the QAA, they must submit evidence of their last QAA inspection report.   Some organisations receive public funding from the QAA because they deliver some of their programmes in partnership with a degree-awarding higher education institute.  However, this funding is for students on a particular programme - it is not funding for the institution, and therefore does not meet UKBA requirements.

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