What is a Tier 4 Sponsor?

What is a Tier 4 Sponsor?

This page explains your education provider's role as your 'Tier 4 sponsor' if you are studying in the UK under Tier 4 (General) of our points-based system.

If a UK education provider wants to teach international students, it must apply to UKBA for a Tier 4 sponsor licence. If UKBA approve the education provider's application, UKBA will give it a licence and add it to our register of Tier 4 sponsors.

As a Tier 4 sponsor, your education provider must comply with a number of duties while you are in the UK. These are described below.

Only a Tier 4 sponsor can assign confirmations of acceptance for studies (CASs) to international students. To score enough points to become a Tier 4 student, you will need a CAS, so you must check that the provider of your chosen course is a licensed Tier 4 sponsor. You can do this by downloading the current version of the register of sponsors from the right side of this page.

For more information about CASs, see the Confirmation of acceptance for studies page.

Inspections of education providers

UKBA also recommend that you look at the inspection report for your education provider. These reports are produced by 8 independent organisations, which UKBA call 'education oversight bodies'.

Educational oversight body Tier 4 sponsors covered
Quality Assurance Agency Universities and other higher education providers and pre-sessional providers throughout the UK
Independent Schools Inspectorate Independent schools, privately funded further education providers and English language schools in England and Wales
Bridge Schools Inspectorate Independent schools and privately funded further education colleges with a clear religious purpose in England and Wales
School Inspection Service Independent schools and privately funded Montessori and Steiner further education providers in England and Wales
Education Scotland Publicly and privately funded further education colleges and English language schools in Scotland
Education and Training Inspectorate Publicly and privately funded further education colleges and English language schools in Northern Ireland
Ofsted Publicly funded further education colleges in England
Estyn Publicly funded further education colleges in Wales

You can download each organisation's list of inspection reports by following the links on the right side of this page. Inspections of privately funded providers will be completed by the end of 2012, so you might find that your education provider has not been inspected yet.



If a Tier 4 sponsor does not receive a satisfactory inspection outcome, UKBA might review or withdraw its sponsor licence.

What is Tier 4 sponsors?

To apply as a student under Tier 4, you must have been offered a place on a course of study by a 'Tier 4 sponsor'. This is an education provider which has been approved by UKBA to teach international students.

If an education provider successfully applies to UKBA for approval, UKBA will give them a sponsor licence and add them to the register of Tier 4 sponsors.

The register contains the education provider's name and location. It also indicates whether the education provider is a Highly Trusted sponsor, or is a standard sponsor with an A (Trusted)or B (Sponsor) rating. The B rating is a transitional rating, and means that the sponsor is working with UKBA to improve its systems.

Highly Trusted sponsors have demonstrated the highest levels of compliance with their duties. In return, they can offer a wider range of course levels and work placement opportunities.

You can check whether a UK education provider has a Tier 4 sponsor licence by looking at the register of Tier 4 sponsors. This is updated regularly, and you can download the most up-to-date version from the right side of this page.

When a Tier 4 sponsor gives an international student an unconditional offer of a place on a course, it assigns a confirmation of acceptance for studies (CAS) to the student.

 

Tier 4 sponsors Duties

As a Tier 4 sponsor, your education provider must comply with a number of record-keeping duties and reporting duties during your stay in the UK.

They must keep:

  • a copy of your passport, your biometric residence permit or your UK immigration status document - you should keep the original; and
  • your contact details.

If you obtained your Tier 4 visa using a confirmation of acceptance for studies, your education provider must report to UKBA if:

  • you fail to enrol on your course within the enrolment period; 
  • you miss 10 expected contacts without your education provider's permission; 
  • they stop being your immigration sponsor for any other reason (for example, if you move into an immigration category that does not need a Tier 4 sponsor); 
  • there are any significant changes in your circumstances (for example, if your course of study is shortened); or
  • they suspect that you are breaking the conditions of your permission to stay.

(If you obtained your Tier 4 visa using a visa letter before 5 October 2009, the reporting duties are voluntary, but UKBA encourage education providers to report.)

You must give your education provider all the information they need to meet these duties. If you do not, UKBA may investigate you and take action against your education provider (which may affect you).

What happens if your sponsor's license is withdrawn/suspended before you apply?

If you apply to UKBA under Tier 4 using a confirmation of acceptance for studies (CAS) from a sponsor whose licence is suspended, UKBA will not consider your application.

If you apply to UKBA under Tier 4 to do a short course to prepare you for your main course of study, UKBA will not consider your application if your CAS shows that the short course will be at a partner institution whose licence has been suspended.

If UKBA withdraw your education provider's Tier 4 sponsor licence, your CAS will become invalid and you will not be able to use it in an application to us. UKBA will refuse any applications made using an invalid CAS.