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UK latest: 65 colleges lose licences, 600 students removed

More than 300 individuals have been removed from the UK, another 300 are on course to be removed and 65 private colleges have lost their licence to recruit Tier 4 international students as a result of a government crackdown on testing and visa fraud.

An image from the website of Citizen 2000 Education Institute, one of the affected institutions

More than 1,600 enforcement visits have been made and over 600 individuals have been served removal notices and detained

These are the latest statistics from a rolling investigation which started with licence suspensions at 57 private colleges and evolved to encompass at least 75 institutions.

And in all, over 5,000 refusal, curtailment or rejection decisions have been made due to a sustained investigation into fraudulent TOEIC exam results being used to obtain student visas that began in June 2014.

All but six of the original list of 57 colleges that had their Highly Trusted Sponsor status enabling them to recruit internationally suspended have since had it revoked or surrendered it voluntarily.

More than 33,725 invalid TOEIC test results have now been reported by ETS Global to the Home Office, along with 22,694 questionable results – up from 19,000 and 29,000 respectively at the time of the original announcement and investigation.

More than 33,725 invalid ETS test results and 22,694 questionable results have been reported

All the affected colleges have now had their licences either revoked or reinstated, though the Home Office has said it will continue to suspend the licences of any colleges suspected of wrongdoing in future.

The Home Office began sending out letters to students who were either studying at or had an open application from one of the colleges in question in December, instructing them to find a new provider within 60 days or to leave the UK.

If a student has travelled overseas since their sponsor’s licence has been removed, they have to apply for a new visa before re-entering the UK.

A working group consisting of peak industry bodies has been working to support affected students, and helping students to find alternative providers through an online Course Information Tool developed by the Higher Education Funding Council for England.

Some of the Association of Colleges’ members are among those that have signed up to take on new students, though the timing of the visa curtailment does present a challenge for some.

“The problem with the fallout coming now is that some of our members don’t have the flexibility to chop and change courses to accommodate new students,” the AoC’s International Director, John Mountford, told The PIE News.

The London School of Business and Finance, the most high-profile college to have received a suspension, resumed international recruitment in September after a three-month ban.

More than 1,600 enforcement visits have been made and over 600 individuals have been served removal notices and detained.

The government has also ramped up its visits to existing Tier 2 sponsors (employers) over the last year, three-quarters of which have been unannounced, according to the government.

A 50% increase in visits during the year, up to the third quarter of 2013, marks a “growing trend”, according to a government response to a query included in the Home Affairs Committee’s third report of 2014-15.

The same response noted that over 50 announced and unannounced visits to the UK’s four Secure English Language Test providers – Cambridge English Language Assessment, City and Guilds, Pearson and Trinity College London – have taken place this year.

Additional measures to crack down on bogus students include mandatory landlord checks on tenants’ immigration status, which are currently being trialled in the West Midlands.

An implementation panel is monitoring the progress of the pilot scheme in Birmingham, Walsall, Wolverhampton, Sandwell and Dudley. Dependent on its success, a national rollout may be implemented, but may not come into effect until after May’s general election.

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