The comments by Julian Huppert, MP for Cambridgeshire, come six weeks after Immigration Minister James Brokenshire’s shock announcement that the Home Office had suspended Tier 4 licences at 57 private colleges and sanctioned three universities. UKVI has yet to issue any decisions on whether licences will be reinstated.
“Part of the lesson is that the Home Office should get its facts straight before it acts”
“It is unacceptable for the Home Office to take such action without any grounds at all and to suspect any wrongdoing had taken place,” he told The PIE News.
In a response to additional remarks from Huppert during a Home Affairs Committee meeting, the Home Office said that it has requested further exam data from ETS Global Ltd., the exam provider at the centre of the investigation, which it will use to make decisions on whether to revoke licences.
However, Huppert said he was “disappointed and frustrated” with the answer.
“Part of the lesson is that the Home Office should get its facts straight before it acts,” he remarked. “It’s a great shame that the Home Office is not willing to act quickly to correct its error.”
Huppert and the providers’ main gripe is that many of the suspended colleges have not yet been invited to submit a response to the accusations, including English language school Studio Cambridge.
Managing director Malcolm Mottram told The PIE News that UKVI “offered no evidence, no reason” for the suspension and failed to respond to emails requesting further information.
It was only after Huppert, Mottram’s representative MP, wrote to Brokenshire that the college was informed that its suspension was partially due to its status as a Secure English Language Test centre – a point the college contends as it only provides two of the four exam elements required to qualify as a SELT.
Mottram said that he is confident the issue will be resolved. “The premise itself is wrong, so I think things are beginning to move in the right direction,” he said.
“It isn’t really a matter of economics for us; it’s a matter of reputation,” he explained, as only a very small proportion of its students are on a Tier 4 visa.
“Students will leave and look for other colleges if we don’t have a decision soon”
Other institutions, however, are concerned that they may be forced to close, in which case students will have 60 days to find a new sponsor, according to the Home Office. The Home Office has added that it “cannot become involved” in fee reimbursement, which it says is a contractual issue.
One college which has submitted evidence to UKVI but has not yet received a response told The PIE News: “Students will leave and look for other colleges if we don’t have a decision soon.”
R K Gupta, Principal of the London College of Finance and Accounting, meanwhile said he feels colleges were unfairly targeted. LCFA unsuccessfully sought an injunction against UKVI and plans to take the Home Office to court if its licence is not reinstated, he added.
Gupta confirmed that the college will be forced to close and unable to grant refunds if its licence is revoked.
Meanwhile, Zahid Hussain, Director of Britain College in Bedfordshire, confirmed that students have begun to leave over fears that the college may close, though he declined to say how many.
“All of the students are panicking,” he said.