UK Student Visa rule change

8:02 am Blogroll


The UK Border Agency (UKBA), the equivalent of Hong Kong’s Immigration Department, has confirmed rule changes for the English proficiency of applicants for student visas to the UK. From 12th August 2010, all applicants for a Tier 4 (General) student visa to undertake full-time study at sub-degree level (excluding English language courses) will be required to take or offer a score in one from an approved list of six English tests – TOEFL, PTE Academic, IELTS, ILEC, ICFE, or CPE. The first is run by Educational Testing Service, the second by Pearson and the other four by the University of Cambridge ESOL. The latter is perhaps the best known provider and the IELTS has probably become the most well known and most widely used over recent years, especially here in Hong Kong.

The UKBA requirement will be for students to attain level B1 under the Common European Framework of Reference (CEFR) whichever test they choose. For IELTS students this translates as minimum grade of 4.0 in each of the four sections. The level cannot be attained if any one section is lower than a 4.0, regardless of the overall grade. Grades are only valid for two years after the test date. The grade must be acquired before a confirmed acceptance to study is issued by the school. Without the CAS, a visa application may not be submitted. This puts the onus on students and schools to administer the requirements.

At present, with the HKDSE English not counting towards university applications, and a grey area about whether it will count towards visa applications for schools, an IELTS score would seem to be even more important. While the exact rules are being decided/clarified (for example two years of competent schooling in English may be enough), Hong Kongers considering study in the UK should really be having a very serious look at studying and sitting the IELTS examinations.

By Danny Harrington

Co-founder of ITS Tutorial School

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