Tier 4 visa change limits availability of certain courses

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New changes from 7 April 2010 reduce the number of courses provided by many education providers. The changes to the immigration rules means that only education providers holding a new Highly Trusted sponsor licence.can offer the following types of courses known as 'restricted courses' to Tier 4 (General) students:

  • National Qualifications Framework (NQF) level 3 or equivalent

  • Courses below degree level that include a work placement; If an education provider offers a foundation degree level course this can still be offered with a work placement by any Tier 4 (General) sponsor.

If you are an education provider with a standard Tier 4 sponsor licence you will only be able to at or above NQF level 4 or equivalent. You will also not be able to offer work placements unless the courses are degree-level courses or foundation degrees.

The foundation degree is a study course which meets the following requirements:

  • It will be considered to be a foundation degree if it leads to a qualification awarded at a minimum of level 5 on the revised National Qualifications Framework by an English higher education institution with degree-awarding powers. It can also be awarded on a directly equivalent basis in the devolved administrations.


  • In Scotland, it can be considered to be a foundation degree if it is a Higher National Diploma at Level 8 on the Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework.

If you are a student on a restricted course and your educational institution does not have a Highly Trusted sponsor licence you can continue to study at that institution until the completion of the course of study; However, you can only stay on the course only as long as you have a valid Tier 4 visa. If you then wish to extend your Tier 4 student visa you will have to apply at an educational institution with a Highly Trusted sponsor licence.

The following are Transitional arrangements for education providers:

If you are a Publicly funded institution then you will be deemed to hold a Highly Trusted sponsor licence from 6 April 2010. You are also listed as 'Highly Trusted' on the Tier 4 register of sponsors. If you wish to remain as a Highly Trusted sponsor in future you must submit your application for a Highly Trusted sponsor licence by.30 June 2010; If you do not apply by this date you will lose this status and from 1 July 2010 will no longer enjoy the benefits of being a Highly Trusted sponsor.

If you are a private sector educational institution and so did not qualify for automatic inclusion as a Highly Trusted sponsor and are currently an A-rated sponsor, you should seriously consider applying for a Highly Trusted sponsor licence. As long as you apply by 30 April 2010 you will be allowed to offer restricted courses until 30 June 2010. If you do not apply for a Highly Trusted sponsor licence by 30 April 2010, you will not be able to offer restricted courses to Tier 4 (General) students after 1 May 2010.