Magazine article The Times Higher Education Supplement : THE

Visa Licence Freeze: Sector Hit by Wave of Suspensions

Magazine article The Times Higher Education Supplement : THE

Visa Licence Freeze: Sector Hit by Wave of Suspensions

Article excerpt

Glyndwr University and 57 private colleges affected. David Matthews and John Morgan report

The higher education sector has been rocked by its biggest crisis over compliance with immigration rules since London Metropolitan University was stripped of its licence to sponsor overseas students in August 2012.

Glyndwr University and another 57 private colleges, including the London School of Business and Finance (LSBF), have had their licences suspended. The University of Bedfordshire and the University of West London have also been prevented from taking any new international students, although their licences are intact.

The shock move came after an investigation into fraud in English language testing. But the government probe, which began in February, appears to have been substantially wider in scope and looked into student tax records to uncover illegal working. An investigation into the London branch campuses of UK universities - where the "worst abuse" is alleged to be taking place - will now be carried out by the Quality Assurance Agency.

According to the immigration minister James Brokenshire, who announced the suspensions to the House of Commons on 24 June, as well as looking at language testing fraud, immigration officials looked into universities and colleges where there were "wider concerns about their conduct".

They used tax data to uncover a "number" of international students at universities earning more than £20,000 a year despite their being prohibited from working more than 20 hours a week.

He also highlighted that while international students at privately funded colleges "are not allowed to work at all", the LSBF had 290 foreign students who worked and paid tax last year.

In February this year, Times Higher Education reported that the Home Office had had concerns over a partnership between Glyndwr and the LSBF where the university sponsored international students for immigration purposes so they could work but the LSBF provided teaching and collected tuition fees. However, it is not clear if the current Home Office investigation considered this.

The government investigation into fraudulent language tests stems from a BBC Panorama investigation, aired in February.

After the programme, the Home Office suspended Educational Testing Service, an English language testing company, from administering tests for immigration purposes. …

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