Regulatory fail

Sometimes it feels as if all I talk about these days is immigration and more specifically the problems with the current system administered by the UKBA to control it. So does it make me a glutton for punishment that I have chosen to wile away an idle hour reading the PAC report into the Tier 4 system?

I have to say that I’m rather glad I did. It was reassuring to see that some of the concerns expressed by so many university and college clients about the over-the-top and ever-changing regulatory requirements on them were regarded by the PAC as valid.

The report will undoubtedly make uncomfortable reading for the UKBA, criticising it for:

·          “overly complex and in some places conflicting” guidance and rules;

·         Inadequate sources of insightful guidance available via the UKBA’s help-lines able to deal with complex queries about the meaning of the guidance and the rules;

·         Frequent and incremental changes to the guidance and rules that were ill-timed having regards to the academic cycle;

·         Inadequate consultation on changes to the guidance;

·         An almost total failure to comply with the principles of better regulation in the Regulators’ Compliance Code (a statutory code of practice, compulsory for central government); and

·         An undifferentiated approach to assessment of risk that results paradoxically in higher compliance activity and cost on the part of the least risky sponsors.

The PAC recommends that the rules and guidance should be simplified and then further changes kept to a minimum to allow a period of stability. Future changes should wherever possible be timed to fit the academic year. The PAC was also sympathetic to the proposition that students should be excluded from net migration figures.  Whether any action is taken in light of these recommendations remains to be seen.

It is also interesting to note that many of criticisms of the UKBA made in the PAC report chime with the grounds for legal action cited in London Metropolitan University’s press release dated 3 September 2012. The embarrassment may be far from over for the UKBA.

Smita Jamdar
Partner and Head of Education
For and on behalf of SGH Martineau LLP
DD: 0800 763 1332
M:  07909 925946
F: 0800 763 1732
International DD: +44 870 763 1332
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