Universities should outsource tracking of students with visas or face having rights revoked

Many universities have a license to bring overseas students in on visas. One such university was the London Metropolitan.

Last year the university lost its right to recruit students from outside the EU because it failed to properly monitor students. There were cases of students remaining in the UK when they had no right. Student visas have been used by people with no intention of studying.

Because universities want to focus on teaching they need technology and support to help them monitor activity as losing the right to bring overseas students in is very costly.

Here in this guest blog John Butler, VP at education IT supplier Ellucian, discusses the role of technology in simplifying the international student management process.

Universities must harness technology and services to prevent student visa abuse

By John Butler

In mid-December, Home Secretary Theresa May, highlighted work the coalition government has done to reduce the abuse of the student visa system by foreign nationals. She said the number of bogus applicants coming to the UK on a study visa and subsequently disappearing to take up work had been reduced dramatically since this government came to power.  May concluded by claiming the UK “can now look forward to a period of stability on student migration policy.” 
While May pointed to policy stability, nearly 75,000 foreign nationals still live in the UK on a student visa and it is every diligent college’s responsibility to keep track of them.  Universities across the UK use different systems and processes to track overseas students, but a lack of concrete direction and guidance by the UK Border Agency (UKBA) and ways to measure progress makes managing international students during the course of their study challenging. In the wake of London Metropolitan University losing the visa licence which allowed it to enrol international students and the subsequent reprieve, the issue has rarely been out of the media spotlights. In its defence, the LMU argued that the Border Agency changed the requirements for tracking overseas students “at least 14 times in the last three years” and failed to keep the university aware of its concerns in the six months before the issue came to light.

There’s no doubt that higher education institutions realise the importance of managing overseas student applications effectively. Many UK academic institutions have made significant investments in technologies and have in place software and services that help to streamline and simplify the process.

Such solutions can help to manage the registration process, including visa requests and also enable universities to communicate with prospective international students in a number of ways, at various stages of the application process. For example, Banner™ International Student Tracking from Ellucian™ allows institutions to notify students by email about the status of their CAS (Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies) application; to identify students who have received a visa but do not show up for registration and create automated reports to alert UKBA for no-show students. Universities are also able to record and monitor attendance information for international students.

Essentially, innovation in technologies means institutions can manage information through one centralised system and easily match its student information records with the UKBA data. In addition, the international student management process can be streamlined to ease the burden on administrative staff across different schools. This not only decreases workload and resource issues but also reduces duplication and erroneous information, creating a more efficient and resourceful management system.

Ellucian has worked with a number of UK higher education institutions to help them implement tools to improve enrolment. Universities that have appropriate systems in place have benefited from an easier, less time consuming process that has delivered a better quality of information and accuracy to track international students.”

Other reading:

University black box cuts student visa processing time

UK Border Agency ordered to crack down on bogus student visas

Exeter University automates overseas student processing for UKBA compliance