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.