It might seem a Orwellian statement but UUK issued a press release last week expressing concern about the IT system that will support the introduction of the new points based immigration system for students (Tier4). The press release notes that “Sufficient time needs to be allowed to enable universities to provide input to the IT specification and for testing to take place, both in the UK and overseas. Students have a short period of time in which to make their visa applications and if the IT system does not work during this window, students will miss the start of their programmes and may decide not to come to the UK”.
I believe that this is a real risk. Although it has been agreed that the implementation of Tier 4 will be phased to avoid the peak student recruitment and admissions periods, there is still no clear definition of the processes involved, the data that needs to be held and the mechanisms for data transfer between the immigration database and student records systems. Systems suppliers have already expressed concern that the proposed timetable is already tight. The sector needs to have efficient processes backed up by effective IT systems in order to remain one of the leading importers of overseas students. The growth of overseas competition and the current economic climate means that the UK cannot afford the risk of poor processes and systems impacting on the numbers of overseas students choosing to study here.