Yesterday saw a couple of meetings to discuss the implementation of the points based immigration system. In terms of defining the interfaces, we are nearly there. A few additional fields were requested and a few queried but the hope is that, within a few weeks, we will have clear specifications on the format of the files to be used for interfacing between student records systems and the Sponsor Management System. The hard work starts now to make sure that the system is in place and is fully tested and robust for February 2010.
The second meeting was with suppliers of student records systems and representatives of those institutions that have bespoke student records systems. After spending months in meetings discussing the finer points of the process, the meeting revealed that there is still a need for wide communication about how the system will be implemented and the impact it will have on processes within institutions. It is hoped that UCISA will organise an event on this in the near future. Since the creation of records and the transfer of information between the systems will not be automated, business processes will have to be amended to ensure that the data is well managed. Given the cost implications of generating confirmation of acceptance on study numbers (CASs) institutions will want to ensure they only generate records for those applicants they expect to attend. Similarly the UK Border Authority will want to see processes in place to ensure that institutions void CAS numbers of students that they know are not attending their institutions, and that they have processes in place to report on those who fail to attend or fail to progress during their course.
The additional manual processes will place an added burden on institutions, that is clear. An automated system similar to the way admissions data is transferred between UCAS and institutions would be ideal but this is certainly not going to happen in the near future. Although we are at something of a halfway house it is important to remember that we have come a long way in the last six months – the initial suggestion from the Home Office was that institutions would need to enter individual records into the sponsor management system directly. That would have placed a far greater burden on institutions than the current proposal.