Lancaster University has made the management of foreign student records more efficient by deploying an authentication solution from TSSI Systems.

The UK Border Agency (UKBA) requires educational institutions to meet certain standards to become a ‘highly trusted sponsor’ of Tier 4 students from abroad. Universities have to apply for a licence on an annual basis to sponsor students, and the standards require universities to keep detailed records of students and to monitor them while they are studying in the UK.

Student information is initially captured at the application stage, when students supply details such as their passport information. The university uses this information to say it is prepared to sponsor a student, and issues them with a pass that they use to get their student visa from UKBA.

Prior to implementing the Validate solution from TSSI Systems, Lancaster University did some of this process manually. For example, at registration, the university would take a photocopy of students’ passport and visa details and input the data manually into its in-house student record system, which is Microsoft-based, using a Microsoft SQL server and .NET applications.

With the TSSI solution, when the student arrives at Lancaster to register, it captures the passport and visa information by scanning the documents for data. It also captures an image of the documents. The documentation is then authenticated through a data feed between the university’s record system and the TSSI database.

“All that data goes into the database and TSSI. We are then picking up that data on our own systems. It is absolutely data-matched,” said Ian Denny, head of registry operations at Lancaster.

“We have a record keeping responsibility. Because we’ve scanned the image, we can move the data an image into our systems. We can identify no-shows [by cross-checking the registration data with applications].”

The university can also spot counterfeit documents, and a reporting tool allows it to keep track of expired visas over a given data range.

In addition, if a student extends their course at Lancaster, the system can give the university an early alert to remind the student to renew their visa.

Lancaster sponsors around 2,000 Tier 4 students each year.