A staggering 50 UK private colleges have had their licences allowing them to recruit international students revoked and almost 100 bogus students have been removed from the country as part of an ongoing Home Office investigation into exam and visa fraud. Of the 57 colleges whose Tier 4 licences were suspended in June, 46 have lost their licences.
Meanwhile, suspensions are continuing apace, with 11 more institutions having their licences suspended in the last month.
In June, Immigration Minister James Brokenshire said that analysis from ETS and UK test centres identified more than 29,000 invalid TOEIC results and 19,000 questionable results.
Pat Saini, Partner and Head of Immigration at Penningtons Manches LLP, said that the number has increased “a considerable amount” in recent months.
The latest figures published by the Home Office confirm that more than 90 bogus students have been removed from the country as a result of the investigation, and more than 300 removal notices have been served.
In addition, more than 800 ‘enforcement visits’ have been paid to individuals based on the Home Office’s knowledge of their whereabouts, which could include their home or place of study.
The Home Office will shortly be issuing all affected students from the visits with a letter outlining their options and a 60-day curtailment letter.
UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) has also asked education providers to withdraw students who have taken fraudulent exams, after which it will issue a curtailment letter. Saini anticipates this action will continue.
“Due to the large numbers of students who have allegedly taken a fraudulent ETS tests, enforcement action against sponsors and students is set to continue for some time to come,” she said.
Saini added that she has received reports of students with invalid exam results being offered temporary leave to enter the country despite plans to revoke their visas, as they could not be detained at the border due to overcrowded detention centres.
There is also concern that innocent students may be getting caught up in the investigation.
“Along with members of the education sector – including UKCISA – we are developing a list of alternative institutions offering similar courses that these students can be directed to,” a spokesperson told The PIE News. “It is up to students to follow up on these opportunities and it is entirely down to the institutions themselves whether they want to accept the students.”
The National Union of Students (NUS) has launched a petition calling for affected students to receive the same financial support that was given to students displaced when London Met lost its HTS status in 2012, for replacement visa fees to be waived and for “clear and consistent communication and support” from the government.
“The government has not taken sufficient and responsible measures to protect the many students who are completely innocent [of testing fraud] and can do nothing to stop from being forced from their institutions and the UK,” NUS International Students Officer Shreya Paudel wrote.
Dominic Scott, Chief Executive of the UK Council for International Student Affairs (UKCISA) said that some students have found other institutions “will not even consider their applications, either assuming that they must individually be suspect or guilty or that visa rejections may now impact on their 10% HTS refusal rate”.
He also said that the association has received “numerous reports” that other colleges have been advised by the Home Office not to recruit students affected by the college closures.
The Home Office denied this claim which goes against its guidance saying that students have 60 days to find a new place to study.