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Overseas Students

Volume 464: debated on Tuesday 9 October 2007

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what steps are being taken to prevent fake educational institutions enabling people to enter the UK posing as students. (154511)

Since 1 January 2005, only overseas students who can show that they have a place to study or are already studying at an institution which appears on the Register of Education Providers (REP) have been granted entry clearances or extensions of stay as students. The REP is operated by the Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills (DIUS) and the application process requires institutions to prove that they operate out of registered premises etc. The REP has been very successful in combating bogus colleges, particularly those which were entirely fictitious. In 2004, some 1,200 were visited ahead of the REP being implemented and 25 per cent were found not to be genuine and were prevented from registering. A further 69 colleges have so far been removed from the Register through a combination of visits conducted by compliance officers in the Border and Immigration Agency (BIA) as well as removals instigated by DIUS. Since July 2007, as the BIA has expanded its compliance resource in preparation for the introduction of the new points based system (PBS) for managing migration, officers have also begun to make more pro-active visits to colleges applying to get on the REP to prevent the registration of those found not to be bona fide.

Under the PBS we have plans to go even further. Under Tier 4: (Students) of the PBS, all education institutions will need to be registered on a new register of sponsors in order to recruit international students. No private educational institution will be able to qualify for the sponsor register unless they can demonstrate that they have been independently inspected or accredited by one of a limited number of BIA-approved accreditation bodies. As announced by DIUS on 24 July 2007, accreditation will be used to provide an independent qualitative check on an institution to demonstrate it is a genuine education provider. Tier 4 is expected to replace the current system for students in the first quarter of 2009. Unaccredited educational institutions have some 16 months to obtain the necessary accreditation in order to continue bringing international students to the UK after that date and we are confident that less reputable education providers will not be able to pass this additional test.

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what protection and recourse is available for foreign students arriving in the UK who have unwittingly paid money to fake educational institutions and may not work under the terms of their student visa. (154512)

The immigration rules set out provisions for international students to study at a bona fide private education institution which is included on the Register of Education and Training Providers. A definition of a bona fide private education institution is contained in the rules. Where it is found that an institution fails to meet this definition, it is prohibited from enrolling any more international students by being removed from the Register. Where the students at such institutions are unable to continue their studies, or where students are dissatisfied with the tuition at a college, the student rules permit them to move to another institution which is included on the Register of Education and Training Providers.

Such students may also wish to report their circumstances to their local Trading Standards Office or seek legal advice about the loss of their fees. Where a student has more serious concerns that an institution is facilitating illegal migration, then they should also contact the police.

The immigration rules permit those studying in the UK with a student visa to work part-time term-time and full-time in vacations.