I hope members managed to take a break over the Easter holiday. Spring is finally here, and there is a lot to look forward to, not least the 2021 UKCISA Conference.
This year will be a UKCISA conference with a difference – our first virtual conference. While we’ll miss being in a room with our members and guests from across the sector, running an event online brings lots of opportunities. We can try out new session formats, engage with a wider range of speakers and, of course, welcome members who might not have been able to travel to attend a multi-day event in person. We’re excited about the platform we’ve selected to run this and are confident it will deliver an excellent experience for our delegates, speakers and exhibitors.
The call for proposals is now open and we are looking forward to seeing what ideas Members (and non-members) contribute - we want to hear all your ideas for sharing good practice with colleagues.
Of course, it wouldn’t be a UKCISA conference without the social events so we’ll also include some informal sessions for Members to get together. The conference will open for bookings soon, but for now, save the date 28 June to 2 July.
Graduate Immigration Route
These dates are timely, as the new Graduate Route opens on 1 July. Now that the detail has been confirmed, work is underway to get ready for its implementation.
UKCISA hosted a Q&A for students at the end of March, and will deliver a Members’ training session on 21 April. Unsurprisingly, there is significant interest in both sessions, but there’s still time to sign up for the April training, and the students’ session is available on the UKCISA website to share with your students.
UKCISA’s work has, of course, delivered on policy as well as advice and training. We convened 2 meetings bringing together Members and Home Office colleagues leading on the technical development of the Route. There have been some challenging discussions – not least because there is so little lead-in time for the sector to get ready for the launch this summer. The focus has been on ensuring that the eligibility reporting is proportionate and manageable for institutions that are already experiencing huge pressure on resources. Although there has been lots of backwards and forwards on this point, I can confirm that institutions will be required to report all eligible students, even if they do not intend to apply for the scheme.
UKCISA’s work on the Simplification of the Rules taskforce, led by Sarah Rimmington, ensured members’ input into the development of the new rules. As well as incorporating significant feedback on the draft rules, we were delighted to see UKCISA’s ask for unrestricted self-employment has been granted. This will make a significant difference to the career development of many international graduates – not just those working in sectors where freelance work is common.
UKCISA's advice on the latest fees regulations
We know that Members and students eagerly await UKCISA's analysis of each government's regulations and are working as hard as we can to get this out as soon as possible.
The team are analysing the regulations on fees status released by the DfE, the Scottish Government and the Department for the Economy in Northern Ireland. We are still waiting for the Welsh Government’s regulations. We’ll announce dates for our training on assessing eligibility very soon. In the meantime, you can register to be the first to hear about training sessions when they open.
While we complete our detailed analysis, Members can access our consolidated versions of The Education (Fees) (Scotland) Regulations 2011 for Scotland, The Higher Education (Fee Limit Condition) (England) Regulations 2017 and the two sets of amendment regulations issued for Northern Ireland in the UKCISA Manual. These versions are useful in showing how the regulations determine who is entitled to be treated as a ‘home’ student for higher education courses that start from 1 August 2021 onwards.
It is worth also noting that the DfE has further issued two guidance notes relating to its regulations on fee status for students starting higher education courses in England from 1 August 2021 onwards. One of these notes is to assure institutions that the regulations do include a number of categories that might mean a UK national or their family member qualifies for 'home' fees. This is an important effort by the DfE to ensure that institutions do not tell students they do not qualify, purely because the institution is not yet ready to test them against the eligibility requirements in the regulations.
You will have seen coverage of the recent research published by BUILA and UKCISA on 30 March, A Partnership for Quality: A Route to a UK Quality Framework with Education Agents.
Education Agents form an important part of the international student experience, and their role will become increasingly important, as institutions change their travel strategies post-pandemic to support their sustainability agenda.
The research offers UKCISA Members invaluable insight into student perspectives on agents, and how they perceive the services they receive and their relationship with institutions. Importantly, it identifies a range of areas where we can do more as a sector to offer transparency and clarity to prospective international students.
UKCISA will be working with BUILA and the British Council to support the development of this quality framework, supported by its key recommendations:
- Develop and promote a national code of ethical practice for UK education agent partners
- Reorganise the education agent training scheme to increase access and engagement
- Develop and promote a good practice guide for providers using education agents
In the meantime, keep in touch via our email updates and our social media channels, to ensure you receive the latest news. And, as the country gradually reopens, I look forward to seeing some of you in person again very soon.