Bogus colleges in the UK let in thousands of illegal immigrants

Most entered on fraudulent visas as “students” to work illegally

21st July 2009: A network of bogus education providers across the UK, with a substantial number based in Scotland, is believed to have let thousands of illegal immigrants in; and the Westminster Government is being blamed for not tackling the problem.

An investigation by the Commons Home Affairs Select Committee has come to the conclusion the ministers did not take any action, even though they were aware of the problems for over a decade, and allowed huge numbers to enter after posing as students.

The committee said most entered on fraudulent visas to work illegally and not to further their education. Though the exact number is yet to be estimated, the study concluded as many as 2,200 bogus colleges could have been operating for several years.

These colleges were on the register of education providers, but were not on the register of sponsors, the report said, adding that, however, did not automatically mean a college was "bogus".

The committee also criticised the UK Border Agency for giving advance notice of inspections to the colleges in up to 85 per cent of visits.

The study also revealed besides operating as a front for illegal immigration, some of the colleges were trying to cash in on the reputation of Scottish education by charging hefty fees from foreign students for essentially worthless courses.

The committee chairman-cum-Labour MP Keith Vaz said it was unacceptable and unbelievable that the ministers had done nothing about the problem, despite knowing about it for more than a decade.

Calling for "immediate action" to check the inflow of bogus students, he said the committee was not convinced that effective action was being taken to even ensure the departure of students whose visas had expired.

The committee insisted the use of the term "college" should to be restricted to registered institutions. The suggestion is in sync with the demand led by Scotland’s Colleges — a body representing college principals north of the border, and supported by Fiona Hyslop, the Education Secretary.

As of now, private education provider cannot use the term "university" or "polytechnic" in their title under the Westminster-controlled Company and Business Names Regulations, but they can call themselves a college.

Chief executive of Scotland’s Colleges Chris Travis welcomed the report and said they had been campaigning for a number of years to shut down bogus colleges. It was great news that the committee had recognised the problem and recommended swift action.

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