College immigration fronts to be targeted
Anthea Lipsett and agencies
Tuesday July 24, 2007
The government is to crack down on fake colleges that enlist immigrants who come to Britain to work while pretending to be students, it has emerged.
From 2009, all private colleges that recruit overseas students will be required to register with the Home Office and prove that they are genuine educational establishments.
The moves follow concern that hundreds of small language schools have been acting as a front for people to enter the UK to work illegally.
The new rules are part of the government's new points-based system for managing immigration.
All private institutions that are not publically reviewed by Ofsted, the former Adult Learning Inspectorate or the Quality Assurance Agency, will require accreditation. The rules will not apply to publicly funded institutions or private schools teaching children up to 18 years old, as these are already regularly reviewed.
A limited concession to the accreditation requirement has also been agreed for very low risk overseas higher education providers that offer only part of their programmes in the UK.
The higher education minister, Bill Rammell, said: “The government welcomes the many genuine international students who come to study in the UK each year.
“But a minority of less reputable colleges in this country work with people overseas helping them to get round the immigration rules and enter the UK to work illegally.
“That is why new rules for colleges who teach overseas students have been announced. Unaccredited institutions should seek accreditation as soon as possible,” he said.
“These improvements will mean we are better equipped to protect the UK against those individuals and colleges who want to misuse the student route of entry to this country.
“We are also able to offer international students the assurance that they are applying to trustworthy and good quality learning institutions in the UK.”
There are thought to be about 1,800 private colleges that are not yet accredited. They will have to apply for accreditation as “sponsors” of their international students.
The Association of Colleges has been pressing ministers to tighten up the rules for inclusion on the register to prevent abuse by bogus language schools. It said last year the scheme had been “wide open for abuse” because “anyone” could join the existing register.
John Brennan, AoC chief executive, said: “We warmly welcome the government's announcement that it will introduce these new rules for institutions that teach overseas students. AoC has been pressing for this measure for some time. It is an important step in maintaining the standards and reputation of UK education overseas.”
The immigration minister, Liam Byrne, said: “We are already cracking down on bogus colleges and schools and 69 have already been stripped of their right to take foreign students since 2005, but today's announcement is the next step.
“Abuse of our education system will not be tolerated. The sponsor register, along with an extra 100m of investment to double our enforcement capability, will help us do this,” he said.
“Foreign students bring in a huge 5bn a year. But migration has to support Britain's national interests. Our new Australian-style points-based system will be simpler, clearer and easier to enforce. Crucially, it will give us the best way of letting in only those people who have something to offer Britain.”