Academic Progression and Time Limits

The Royal College of Art (RCA) is a recognised immigration sponsor under Tier 4 of the Points Based system and as such is required to ensure that all students meet the requirements as outlined by the Tier 4 Sponsor Guidance. This means that before assigning a Confirmation of Acceptance of Studies (CAS) the College needs to be certain that prospective students meet certain Home Office requirements. These requirements include, evidencing 'academic progression' and ensuring that prospective students have sufficient time to complete the course within the Home Office time limits on studying in the UK. 

If a student does not meet the requirements the RCA will be unable to issue a CAS. Failure to comply with the above requirements could result in the RCA's sponsor licence being suspended or revoked. 

Academic Progression

In 2011 the Home Office introduced a new rule that requires all Confirmation of Acceptance of Studies (CAS) assigned by a Higher Education Institution (HEI) to confirm that the prospective student is making academic progression with the new course of study.

In order to show academic progression the new course should normally be above the level of the previous course for which permission to stay in the UK as a student was granted (ie, progressing from a BA to a Masters). However, if the new course is at the same level as the previous course, it may exceptionally be considered to represent academic progression. If you wish to study a course at the RCA which is at the same level as your current course, you are advised to contact Student Support for further advice.


You are not required to demonstrate academic progression in the following circumstances:

  • you are making a Tier 4 (General) application from overseas
  • you are making a first application to complete an existing course commenced at a Tier 4 sponsor that had its license revoked
  • you are applying to re-sit an examination or repeat a course module
  • you are applying to complete the PhD or other doctoral qualification for which you were last given Tier 4 or student leave (including where you are completing the qualification at a new sponsor).

Time limits for studying in the UK

In April 2012 the Home Office introduced limits on how long students could study in the UK at degree level and above. If you wish to apply for a Tier 4 visa to study at the RCA, the Tier 4 application must lead to you spending no more than five years (60 months) studying in the UK, at degree level. 

When calculating the five years you should include any time given before the course start date (maximum one month) and after the course end date (maximum four months).

The College is not able to issue a Confirmation of Acceptance of Studies (CAS) if study at the College will take the individual beyond the maximum time allowed.


There are some exemptions to the five year cap:

  • If you are applying to study a Masters at the RCA and the five year cap will prevent you from completing a fifth year of academic study at degree level. In these cases the cap is extended to five years and 11 months.
  • If you have completed a four year undergraduate degree and wish to undertake a Masters at the RCA, the cap is extended to six years. In cases where the cap would prevent the completion of a sixth year of academic study, it is extended to six years and 11 months.
  • If you are applying to study on, or continue a course in Architecture this period of study will be exempt from the limit. It is important to note that if you have previously been granted leave to study Architecture and your new application will be for a different course, then the previous study will be included in the new time limit calculations.
  • If you are applying to study a PhD or one of the postgraduate research courses listed in Annex 4 of the Tier 4 Policy Guidance at the RCA, then there is no time limit while you are studying that course.
  • If you have already completed a PhD or one of the postgraduate research courses listed in Annex 4 of the Tier 4 Policy Guidance, any new Tier 4 application is limited to eight years. This does not include time spent on the Tier 4 Doctoral Extension Scheme (DES).

If you have any queries at all about the above please contact