Feeding Racism: The Staggering Incompetence of English UK.

The Guardian report that English UK are threatening to seek a judicial review of new changes to Government immigration policies which came into effect 03/03/10. We had reported these changes previously on MTG. We were struck, however, by the words of Tony Millns, the Chief Executive of English UK

No evidence has been published to substantiate the ministers’ claim that lower-level English language courses are more open to abuse than higher level courses.”

And the joint statement he was signatory to, which, according to The Guardian:

“accused the government of failing to consult with the sector”.

Now here is Tony Millns giving evidence, alongside Nick Lewis (Association of Colleges), to the Home Affairs Committee on “Bogus Colleges and Courses” at pre-university entry level:

Q1 Chairman: Could I bring the Committee to order for this one-off inquiry into bogus colleges. Can I begin by declaring my interest: my wife is a solicitor and a part-time Judge. Thank you very much for coming to give evidence today. This inquiry is a revisitation of a previous inquiry that the Select Committee conducted some years ago but is being conducted within the context of the new points-based system. The Committee was very concerned to see newspaper reports, especially those in The Times newspaper, about the number of bogus colleges that are in existence in England and Wales, and that is why we are holding this inquiry session. Following your evidence we will be hearing from the Immigration Minister, Mr Woolas. Could I start with you, Mr Lewis, perhaps both you and Mr Millns could within 30 seconds of giving your reply tell us a bit about your organisations so that the Committee is fully aware of your remit. Do you believe that there are many bogus colleges in existence and that there are many students who are in this country claiming to be students who are in fact not students at all?

Mr Lewis: There are and it has been something that my Association, the Association of Colleges, has been aware of for some time. It has been something of a problem because of the impact on the UK’s reputation internationally and the reputation of our institutions.

Q2  Chairman: I wonder if you could tell the Committee how many colleges you think are bogus colleges and a rough estimate as to how many students you think are affected? It can only be a guess and an estimate based on information.

Mr Lewis: I could not hazard a guess on this particular one. I do not know whether my colleague could. Certainly my Association has 359 members and they are legitimate further education colleges in England whom we represent, but apart from walking down certain streets in London and seeing the college of this and college of that and so on, I do not have an estimate.

Q3  Chairman: Presumably you have followed this subject for a while because you alerted the Home Office to it. Are we talking about five, a handful, hundreds, just give us a rough idea?

Mr Millns: Perhaps I could help. English UK is the association of accredited English language centres which covers language centres in universities, further education colleges (and I am pleased to say Castle College, Nottingham is a member) and also the private sector, including charities and educational foundations and trusts. There are 421 members and 490 centres currently accredited under the accreditation scheme which we run with the British Council. However, we have been aware and have actually been campaigning for some 10 years or so on the issue of bogus colleges. We have a database of non-accredited English language centres in the private sector. That database covers some 560 institutions. Around 450 of those have not made any move to get accreditation and a significant proportion of those 100 or so that have made a move to get accreditation have failed because of low standards. You are left with around 450 colleges, not all of which are necessarily bogus, but, how shall I put it, would benefit from further investigation.

Q4  Chairman: Dodgy? Potentially dodgy?

Mr Millns: We cannot be absolutely certain that they are but the chances are, if they have not come forward for accreditation or made any move to gain it in the last four or five years particularly, when the Government has been making moves towards setting up the new register of sponsors, you do get the impression that a lot of them are probably sub-standard at the very least.

Q5  Chairman: So we are talking about roughly 450?

Mr Millns: Yes.

Q6  Chairman: Covering how many students?

Mr Millns: That again is extremely difficult to say. The whole problem with this area is that there is no Association of Bogus Language Schools to speak for them, so it is rather difficult to a get a handle on it. Some of them are undoubtedly very small with possibly only 20 or 30 students, but the problem is that of course until the end of March this year they were, if they were on the Register of Education and Training Providers maintained by the Department of Innovation, Universities and Skills, able to bring in international students who required visas, and it is simply unknown how many of those students they might have bought in over the last four, five or six years.

Q7  Chairman: Are we talking about numbers of hundreds?

Mr Millns: .It could be tens of thousands quite easily.

Q8  Chairman: There are tens of thousands of bogus students in this country at the moment?

Mr Millns: Quite easily.

The full interview is available here. Needless to say the chairman summed up the committee’s appreciation for Millns’ “If I ruled the world rant” with:

Q53  Chairman: Thank you very much, Mr Millns and Mr Lewis, you have been extremely helpful in giving evidence to this Committee and you have given us food for thought. We may well decide to call an Education Minister as part of this inquiry. We were hoping that this would be a one-off session but it may be slightly longer than we anticipated based on what you have told us. In summary, you have said that there are hundreds of colleges and thousands of students who may well be bogus students and bogus colleges in the United Kingdom.

Now clearly, Millns was attempting to extend the tentacles of the English UK Accreditation Scheme rather than cripple his own industry but his naivety only fed into MPs’ hidden racist agenda. Indeed, it just took a couple of Sunday Times investigations into a couple of BAC accredited schools (the ESOL equivalent of TEFL and child of the British Council) , to give the green light to the Government tightening its draconian immigration policies.

Quite simply, Tony Millns had played into the wrong hands, in his greed to extend the powers of his own quango, he had helped damage the industry to the tune of 600 million pounds. In any normal organisation he would have been shown the door, but then again, English UK and the organisation it is parasitic upon, the British Council, are not normal organisations.



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14 responses to “Feeding Racism: The Staggering Incompetence of English UK.

  1. There are many ‘bogus’ colleges in the UK: I used to live near one, featured in the Times, called “Oxford College of Management” or somesuch. Two months previously it had been a pub. Currently, after closure, it is an Asian supermarket. There needs to be better accreditation and you shouldn’t really be allowed to call yourself a “college” unless you actually teach people. Now I am not against small-scale businesses setting-up as language schools, but these places just bring the already shaky reputation of ESOL/EFL down even further.

    However, this should not be used as an excuse to bar genuine students unless they have GCSE-equivalent English (which renders the point of English courses pretty useless). Imagine if France said that if you want to study French there you needed C2-level French already.

    Of course, like you mention in the post, this is a handy excuse for the Home Office to crack down on immigration and score some points on the “war on terror.” Meanwhile, they will devastate an already tenuous EFL sector in the UK.

    • marxistelf

      Thanks 26 letters as always for your keen observations.

      We agree that there is a problem with “bogus colleges”, (bogus qualifications too) unfortunately English UK contributes to the problem rather than tackles it.

      For example, under the TESOL cert or CELTA, there is no independent assesment of teachers. The candidate teacher is only interviewed briefly and their coursework glanced over by an outside inspector. The grammar/phonology test is replicated from course to course and it is not that difficult to get hold of a copy if the heavy pre-teaching (“mock” exam) fails.

      With the TEFL International certificate (enabling teachers to teach in Enlish UK schools) the moderation is organised and paid for at a local level. Check out the below link for examples of the questionable results of this practice


      “This is a well run course, all of the trainees said that they would recommend this highly intensive and rewarding course. The teaching staff were praised for their dedication and professionalism, in particular Dylan Gates (the lead trainer) who was considered to be an excellent teacher, mentor and role model. Many said that this course had not only helped with their professional development but also their personal development, they felt they had learnt much about themselves and had acquired valuable life skills. All the trainees stated that this course had met or exceeded their expectations.”

      The British Council (it is rumoured!!) did try to introduce a scheme a few years back which insisted on a key number of teaching hours in each UK institution being provided by diploma-qualified staff or staff with over five years of proven experience. Their paymasters at English UK rejected this proposal as they felt it would be “unworkable” (ie give more bargaining power to “career teachers”).

      We could qoute Tony Millns and say it’s a “national scandal” but we prefer instead to call it an international scandal.

      This is not to dismiss the good work many trainers do on all these courses but to question the motives and morality of those like Millns who grow fat on the profits rather than improve the system.

  2. What a painful exchange…..

  3. It’s a horrible feeling reading that. It reminds me of how often I feel torn by loving the job and hating the industry.

  4. alexcase

    Some “great” figures for TEFLstats.com there, once it’s up and running

    • marxistelf

      We particularly liked this statistic from Millns in his reply to question 19 (David Davies):

      “International students bring in around £8 billion a year to the UK and they are growing. We have just looked at our first quarter statistics for 2009 for our core group as against the first quarter of last year and it is 14.6% up on the first quarter of 2008, which was our best year for many years. Show me another industry sector that is growing at 14.6% year-on-year.”

      It would be interesting to compare teacher salary increases/freezes/decreases with this picture of booming ELT.

  5. Oh, that’s wonderful, that is – “It would be interesting to compare teacher salary increases/freezes/decreases with this picture of booming ELT.”

    Interesting? No, it’s bloody depressing! But thanks for giving me some stats for my next blog posting, Melf.

    I think the question we need to be asking ourselves is this: What sort of EFL sector do we, as teachers, want to see in the UK?

  6. I love your blog, and appreciate your championing of the downtrodden tefler but, forgive me if I am missing something obvious, what exactly is so bad about what Mr Millns said?

    He told the government that there were bogus colleges. Everyone knew that. That is what we need to get rid of. Bogus colleges drive down course fees, quality standards, and teachers’ salaries across the sector. They give genuine EFL schools a bad name; students and teachers suffer.

    The problem is that the UKBA regulations do not get rid of them. They have been so ill thought out and poorly implemented that bogus colleges can still exist yet bona fide schools have been expelled from the register of sponsors.

    EFL schools have to jump through hoops to verify student’s intent, report attendance, etc. yet universities are almost exempted from any kind of compliance (they don’t keep registers, you see).

    The root of the problem is not EnglishUK but government incompetency for the last 10 years.

    The DIUS had a list of schools authorised to issue student visas and even if you contacted them to inform them one was not in fact a genuine school, even after it had been exposed in a national newspaper, they stayed on the list for years! Total idiocy.

    There are bogus colleges, its the government’s fault, and now UKBA are doing a botch job trying to fix it in an election year.

    If you think EnglishUK are to blame, you’re attacking the wrong person.

    PS. The TEFL International certificate is not accepted at BC accredited schools. I don’t understand the point you are trying to make.


    • marxistelf

      Hi Tony,

      Thanks for the comments and the compliment, we also find your blog extremely interesting and informative. Indeed, we can see from your blog that you wouldn’t give air to the flames of racism we are accussing Millns of fanning and that you are alert to the “subtleties” of racist propoganda (one only has to read your piece on “the burka in the classroom”).
      We would, however, say you are wrong to defend Millns. Millns’ appearance at a Home Office committee (the home office has no remit, at least none which we are aware of, for education) alongside the immigration minister Phil Woolas, can be nothing but an intervention into issues of migration. English UK have a commitment to the free movement of peoples internationally to study, at no point did Millns argue this point. Indeed, he and his “mate” seemed to be suggesting the purpose of studying in the UK was merely to educate leaders in British ways so they could lead in British ways when they return to their own countries. (We find this extremely offensive!)
      Of course, Millns could give no figures on bogus students only bogus colleges (defined as non-members of English UK). This did not stop Millns from suggesting/implying that there are tens of thousands of bogus students in the UK.
      What Millns was doing was indulging in a moral panic: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moral_panic
      It is not the job of English UK to pontificate on the numbers of “illegal migrants” in the UK, nor their reasons for being there (Millns debates elsewhere how many are here for economic reasons and how many for terrorism!).
      Millns’ job should be to devise a scheme of accreditation which has the support of all in the industry (including workers and students) and to argue for that with those in charge of education, not use racism as a means of promoting English UK’s low quality accreditation scheme.
      On the final point of TEFL International, we would ask you to read again the typical fudged nonsense of the British Council (who run the scheme after all) before disclaiming what is to us is self-evident:
      Also read Tefl International’s claims here:

      In conclusion, we suspect standards in teaching (in the short term) are even more important to you than they are to us Tony, and we believe you do yourself a great disservice by defending this incompetent unprincipled bigot, who has no real interest in standards whatsoever.

  7. Pingback: PLNs and The Grapes of Wrath « Marxist TEFL Group

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  9. alexcase

    You’ve started your occupation of the site by allowing spam comments?

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