Yesterday saw another meeting with the UK Border Authority to discuss the uipload of applicant data to the sponsor management system. Progress continues to be made but we still do not have a final specification. It is encouraging to report that the UKBA staff working on the interface have learnt enough about the sector to be able to present viable options to those present. However a number of points still have to be referred back to the policy branch of UKBA for clarification or a decision and today sees a meeting to discuss the guidance to be issued to applicants and sponsors – essentially the embodiment of policy. I am less comfortable that ‘policy’ have the same level of understanding as their IT colleagues and there is likely to be less consensus at today’s meeting.
Although progress is being made the upload is only one of three potential interfaces between the sponsor management system and student records systems. There is little over a year to when the Government have committed to having the system fully implemented. This is not a great deal of time particularly when systems suppliers have to develop a number of interfaces for which they are yet to receive a final specification. There is still a risk of a policy decision adversely affecting the process for overseas applicants and hence a risk to the sector as a whole. There is also a fair chance that the MIS departments in institutions will be left picking up the pieces and having to develop interim databases to service the requirements of the points based immigration system. Time will tell.