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January 2012

Open letter

The London Theological Seminary (LTS) has written an open letter to Damian Green, Conservative MP for Ashford and immigration minister, appealing for a rethink about new even tighter regulations for the ‘educational oversight’ of visa students.
    The Government’s intention is to ensure that the UK’s educational system is not abused to allow illegal immigration of ‘students’ by the back door, but the costly, time-consuming regulatory processes could have a significant effect on smaller colleges such as LTS.
    In his letter, LTS principal Robert Strivens said, ‘The threat posed to colleges such as ours, by the new requirement to obtain “educational oversight”, is so grave that I feel compelled to place the matter in the public domain.
    ‘LTS is a small private theological college that, for more than 30 years, has trained people from the UK and overseas for pastoral ministry in evangelical churches.
    ‘Our students are now serving in churches across the world. We believe that we represent the kind of small institution in the voluntary sector that this Government would want to see succeed under its “Big Society” project.
    ‘We wholeheartedly support the Government’s desire to crack down on bogus institutions which allow their “students” to enter and remain in this country under false pretences.
    ‘However, private theological colleges such as LTS have already had to comply with a series of new regulations imposing a heavy administrative burden, to continue to take visa students’.
    
Unrealistic

Mr Strivens wrote that LTS has had to obtain BAC accreditation, have its course validated by Middlesex University and achieve Highly-Trusted Sponsor (HTS) status with UKBA.
    He wrote: ‘This has been costly and time-consuming, yet we have complied with the requirements in full.
    ‘The new requirements to obtain “educational oversight” are disproportionate, unnecessary and unfair to legitimate private institutions like LTS. The review will involve significant costs for smaller colleges — roughly £18,000 for the initial application and review, followed by significant annual renewal and re-review fees.
    ‘This cost represents around 7 per cent of our total annual budget and does not take account of the high level of extra administrative work, which we believe would be needed. This level of cost makes the QAA route prohibitively expensive’.
    He urged Mr Green to reconsider the effect of the new rules on private theological colleges like LTS, and suggested dropping the requirements for colleges already BAC accredited with university-validated courses, or to ensure that private theological institutions with clear HTS status may obtain educational oversight through the Bridge Schools Inspectorate.

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