UKBA 'risks out-pricing small universities'

21 Mar 2013 | Posted by Carl Thomas

The UK Border Agency (UKBA) is at risk of hurting small universities and other higher education providers if it introduces a one-size-fits-all fee system for universities.

This is the view expressed by Dominic Scott, chief executive of the UK Council for International Student Affairs.

Speaking to the Times Higher Education Supplement, Mr Scott explained that the agency is at risk of pricing smaller organisations out of the market with the introduction of a premium UK immigration service for education establishments at a cost of £8,000 a year.

He stated that "big players" in the sector should be expected to cover the costs needed to supplement smaller providers.

The service will become available from July this year and will allow institutions to pay for extra services, such as a dedicated account manager.

Mr Scott explained that the services are a welcome addition, but "the real concern is that this is a disproportionate additional cost for the smaller operators". For example, a large university that attracts thousands of international students will be required to pay the same fee as a small college with just a few dozen students on visas.

At the moment, the UKBA operates a premium service for organisations looking to bring employees to the country on UK work permits. However, these are charged proportionately with smaller sponsors required to pay £8,000 a year, while larger companies have to find £25,000 for the service.

The university service has been designed to offer similar privileges, but tests conducted in a pilot period suggest that it is yet to prove its worth. A senior member of staff at a British university who took part in the pilot told the news source that the trial showed mixed results: "We have had a good account manager, who responded swiftly with useful guidance, but we have also had a poor account manager, who gave us incorrect advice which we had to challenge on the basis of the written policy guidance."