Bogus college crackdown welcomed
Page last updated at 10:25 GMT, Tuesday, 21 July 2009 11:25 UK
Four bogus colleges in Scotland have been struck off a government register after an investigation into students obtaining fraudulent visas.
They were among 300 bogus colleges uncovered by the UK Border Agency.
In a new report, MPs on the Commons Home Affairs committee have called for additional regulations to crack down on phoney colleges.
Scotland's Colleges, the body representing legitimate institutions, has welcomed the recommendations.
The bogus colleges, four of which were uncovered in Glasgow, were found to be acting as a front for illegal immigration by supplying fraudulent visas.
MPs on the committee said tens of thousands of foreign nationals may have entered the UK illegally in this way.
In a critical report, they said the word “college” should be restricted to institutions accredited by the state.
Chris Travis, chief executive of Scotland's Colleges, said: “We have been campaigning for a number of years to shut down bogus colleges and give our sector greater protection in law.
“It is simply great news that the House of Commons Home Affairs committee has recognised the problem and recommended the government takes swift action.”
He added: “I will be writing to the secretary of state for business, innovation and skills, Lord Mandelson, calling on him to implement the committee's recommendations in full and without delay.
“Only by doing this can the future reputations of all legitimate colleges in Scotland be safeguarded.”
The umbrella body has called on the UK Border Agency to investigate five more colleges in Scotland.
The MPs said they were “extremely disappointed” that the government had ignored repeated warnings from the education sector about the problem of bogus colleges.
Committee chairman Keith Vaz said: “The government has been aware of their existence for 10 years and done nothing to stop them.
“This is totally unacceptable and frankly, quite unbelievable.”
He said immediate action was needed: “The government must restrict the term 'college', to prevent any premises above a fish and chip shop from being able to claim it is a reputed educational institution.”
Immigration Minister Phil Woolas said: “No institution can bring students into the country unless we are satisfied they are genuine.
“Before we tightened controls around 4,000 UK institutions offered courses to foreign students, but under the new system only around 1,600 can currently bring students into the country from outside Europe.”