While these scams undoubtedly take place, the reality for many students is brutal and costly, with education being denied, and students being left vastly out of pocket. There are few, if any, articles in the mainstream media which recognise that students at closed international colleges are the victims of such events.
This denial of the plight of such students is reflected in government. UKBA do not recognise that students suffering from denial of education as a result of either a bankrupt college or a revocation of visa granting status is within their remit to mitigate for those affected.
In New Zealand and Australia there is a mandatory fee guarantee scheme for private colleges which ensures students studying at failed colleges do not experience a similar fate to those students in the UK. Presently students have trading standards legislation as their only, weak and inadequate, way of protecting their investment in their education. There are no known cases of successful utilisation of this ‘protection’ by overseas students.
Accreditation of private colleges in the UK has until now been a travesty, with differing bodies offering accreditation. The British Accreditation Council (BAC) and the Accreditation Service for International Colleges (ASIC) being the major bodies involved. Both have recently lost their recognition and will be replaced by the Independent Schools Council (for Schools and FE Colleges) and the Quality Assurance Agency for higher education. These agencies will accredit educational institutions on academic standards alone. The Highly Trusted Sponsor status awarded by UKBA will be assessed on immigration compliance alone. This results in a system which continues to ignore the financial viability of institutions. Coupled with a neglect of introducing a fee guarantee scheme á la NZ or Australia, there will be no protection for students who could fall prey to college closures in the future.
None of the bodies that will endorse colleges either academically or in regards to their immigration compliance will have a students’ complaints procedure. This fortifies any feeling that the education system sees students as a raw material in the business of education, rather than people seeking to enhance their life skills and prospects. For the sake of the reputation of education in the UK, accreditation needs to assess the financial stability of colleges it endorses.
The new accreditation system appears at face value to be a more vigorous system for rooting out ‘bogus’ colleges, but it offers no way of ensuring a college closure will not lead to students being left in limbo and out of pocket. Should a college close the opportunity to transfer to another college, whilst maintaining the rights and visa status awarded on acceptance to the previous college, should be extended to affected students. This is surely the only fair way to deal with the victims of people caught in the cross fire.
Currently students formerly studying at the London campus of Indian university TASMAC are trying to find alternative educational establishments in the UK to study at – they are finding all sorts of bureaucratic obstacles in their way – some of them trace back to UKBA’s lack of willing to help expedite an agreeable solution to their problems.
Some colleges advertise themselves through their Highly Trusted Sponsor status, and the authorisation to provide the relevant documents to a student to come to and study in the UK is indeed a selling point. This advertising also infers a ‘stamp of approval’ from a government body, but this is purely a bureaucratic immigration factor. It would be preferable to sell a college on its academic excellence instead.
We continue to support the Pupils’ Rights campaign for a better deal for students battling to get their education back on track after experiencing the closure of their colleges. We need to secure assurances and policies to ensure that overseas students are protected from nefarious colleges and from systemic injustices that leave people in the lurch.
- A system of accreditation for colleges that not only looks at academic standards but also takes into account the financial well-being of any institution that recruits students.
- UKBA should stop colleges from advertising themselves as portals to a student visa. It is education they are selling, not visas.
- A fee guarantee scheme, similar to those in place in Australia and New Zealand, for all private providers of education to overseas students.
- Rules in place to assist students who have been registered at failed colleges to easily transfer their studies and their fees to alternative colleges. This arrangement should not mean the new college a student attends is penalised regarding their allocation of CAS certificates awarded.
- For students transferring , maintenance of the visa conditions agreed when they first came to study here, especially regarding their right to work.
Further and Higher Education is an important part of the UK’s economy, it needs such measures to ensure it’s excellent international reputation, which is suffering at present through private college closures and the restrictions imposed on international students. The Coalition Government would be wise to take these steps immediately.
Students who are currently experiencing difficulties in the UK as a result of revoked, bankrupt or otherwise closed colleges should contact the campaign for rights for international students by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.