Tier 4 Points Based System Review
27 November 2009

Following a speech made by the Prime Minister on November 12th, the government plans to hold a major review of the Points Based System (PBS) for visas in early December.

The proposals made by the review of the Points Based System (Tier 4 – Students) could dramatically reduce the number of PBS visa students able to come to study in the UK.

It will cover the below focus areas:

  • Should the minimum level of qualification that can be studied through the PBS be raised from NQF level 3?
  • Should the minimum level of English language qualification that can be studied in the UK through the PBS be raised from CEFR level A2?
  • Should English language testing be introduced for all courses of NQF level 5 and below, including English language courses, and if so, through what mechanism?
  • Should access to vocational courses be restricted?
  • Should we introduce a differential approach for countries which have historically been sources of illegal migration, raising the minimum level of qualification and introducing stricter tests for individuals from those higher risk countries?
  • Should we restrict the work rights attached to student visas?
  • Should we place limits on the progression of students on courses up the qualifications scale without their returning to their home countries?


These particular points could have a significant and detrimental effect on education providers across all areas, not only ELT providers, as many of the students who come to study English also go on to Universities and professional courses in the UK.

There are obvious negative economic consequences which would result as well. Every year the accredited ELT sector (English UK members and non members combined) brings approximately 600,000 students to the UK to learn English (International Passenger Survey and English UK data). This makes a direct contribution to the UK economy of around £1.5 billion in foreign earnings every year


We have been advised by English UK members that there is an e-petition which is available for all to sign online in order to demonstrate support for our sector and call for the review to reassess the proposals for these fundamental changes with proper consideration and consultation.

The Petition is now live at http://petitions.number10.gov.uk/PBSReview/. Please follow this link and enter your name and address, should you wish to participate. You will then be sent an email which will provide you with a further link where you will be able to see the most up to date number of signatures. If appropriate we would urge you to contact staff in your institution, and any providers of accommodation or other services for overseas students to ask them to sign up too. It will take only take a couple of minutes.

The main aim for the e-petition is for it to reach the top 5 most-signed petitions in order for it to be taken seriously by the government. Currently the figure stands at over 4700 signatures. Clearly more signatures would be welcomed.


At a national level English UK is lobbying for the sector as a whole and English UK members in particular. Our Chief Executive, Tony Millns, has met with UKBA executives and has been coordinating an extensive campaign targeting all relevant Government and Shadow Cabinet ministers as well as producing a response to the review and the points raised above.

English UK has also urged its member centres to contact their local MPs to point out just what damage these changes could potentially cause to the economy if brought in.  


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