BBA principal Yvonne Green is campaigning for rule changes that would make it easier for non-EU students to attend colleges providing non-degree level courses
Boat Building Academy principal Yvonne Green has enlisted the help of local MP Oliver Letwin and MEP Sir Graham Watson in her campaign to persuade the UK Border Agency to make it easier for small independent colleges to accept overseas students.
Both Mr Letwin and Sir Graham have approached the Home Office and UKBA on behalf of the Academy.
Following a tightening of immigration rules, the BBA is being forced to turn away fee-paying non-EU students because it does not meet criteria that would allow it to sponsor foreign students to enter the UK.
The non-profit-making Academy says it is losing significant income as a result – and students who would prefer to learn boat building skills in the UK are having to go abroad, including to the USA, which is normally considered to have very strict immigration rules.
Other small colleges teaching non-degree level courses across the UK are likely to be affected in a similar way.
The problem is that because it offers a Level 3 qualification (roughly equivalent to A levels) and not a degree-level qualification the UKBA’s rules do not allow the BBA to be responsible for sponsoring foreign students while studying the Academy’s courses in the UK.
In particular, the standard 6-month visitor’s visa is not long enough to allow students to complete the Academy’s 38-week course — and college principal Yvonne is adamant that the course could not be squeezed into six months for the sake of foreign visitors.
‘The courses are intense as they are. We regularly have people working late in order to make the most of the facilities and teaching, and in order to complete the course to the standard that has made our reputation,’ she told intheboatshed.net.
‘In any case, we couldn’t have students completing the course in two different lengths of time.’
The BBA is accredited and regularly inspected by the City & Guilds, but this is not accepted by the UKBA as evidence of the Academy’s bona fides.
In a letter to the UKBA some time ago, Mr Letwin wrote ‘The Boat Building Academy—which I know well — is one of the jewels of the South West. It has a national and international reputation as a centre of excellence, and is audited regularly by City & Guilds.’
Meanwhile, just a few weeks ago Sir Graham commented: ‘Lyme Regis Boat Building Academy is an institution Dorset and the UK should be proud of. The academy delivers world class teaching in a skilled discipline and sells the UK as a top destination for education in this field.
‘However they have been caught by rules designed to restrict so called bogus colleges, which the boat building academy is clearly not.’