Government Urged To Tighten Registration Rules For Language Schools

Government urged to tighten registration rules for language schools

Alexandra Smith
Thursday June 29, 2006

The loophole allowing immigrants to pose as students at bogus language schools should have been closed at least a year ago, the Association of Colleges (AoC) revealed today.

The AoC said it had repeatedly warned the Home Office last year that its failure to tighten the rules for inclusion on its official register of language schools would allow many colleges to abuse the system by issuing visas to immigrants who had no intention of studying.

The BBC aired an investigation into bogus language schools last night and found some immigrants were paying up to 600 for fake documents which they used in visa applications to extend their stay in the UK. It is estimated that up to 50,000 students could be using such scams to stay in the country illegally.

In one case highlighted by the BBC, 350 was paid for papers saying an applicant had completed an eight-week course despite her making it clear she had no intention of studying.

A man connected with a different centre offered to arrange a visa for 300 without the need to attend the school.

John Brennan, the chief executive of the AoC, said: “The register has given an air of legitimacy to private operations without any real safeguards to ensure that they do not abuse their position. We warned the Home Office repeatedly last year that creating a register which allowed anyone on it was wide open to abuse.

“There were no checks on quality or probity. AoC wants the Home Office to restrict the register to bona fide colleges which are in receipt of public funding or are properly accredited. That way, both legitimate students coming in to study from overseas and the public are properly protected.

“The AoC is campaigning for the official register to be restricted to publicly funded further education colleges and private language colleges approved and accredited by the British Council or the industry body English UK. AoC welcomes government's recognition of the problem and its moves to address it.”

The Home Office has announced plans to introduce a more rigorous system of accrediting colleges amid concerns that more than half of the 83 registered language colleges it inspected recently should be shut down.

A student visa will only be granted only if the applicant is studying at a registered school.