Another view - Take the crooked road for Counterfeit College

3rd July 2009 at 01:00

It seems that anyone with a couple of rooms above a chip shop and a nice line in patter can open a college in Britain today. Unlike the term "university", there are no legal obstacles to the use of the word: hence the current brouhaha about what are being called "bogus colleges".

Many are simply visa factories - scams that use the promise of education to make money out of people wanting to enter the UK. "Students" attend a class or two before disappearing into the black economy.

The Government is pondering what to do about it. One way to clamp down would be to create a list of accredited institutions. If you are not on the list, then you can't call yourself a college.

But what is a bogus college? And how would such a judgment be made? Maybe it issues bogus qualifications. You must have seen those adverts for "instant degrees". For the right fee you receive through the post a BA or BSc freshly issued by the University of Oxenbridge.

Opportunities for issuing soundalike qualifications must also exist. Instead of AS or A2, you could issue ASSes or U2s. Or how about GSCEs? Only the most vigilant would spot the anomaly. And hasn't the Daily Mail been telling us for years that the real thing is a bogus qualification anyway? On the vocational side, there could be the Bo.Tox in facial improvement or an NVKew in garden centre technology.

But the tone of any educational institution will be set by those who attend it. Not that bogus students are anything new: some of us think we have come across a fair few in our time. Mostly they are conspicuous by their absence.

But surely any bogus college worthy of the name is going to set higher standards than that?

How about penalties for any student who doesn't plagiarise coursework. "Sorry," Sir would say as he handed back the paper with "fail" written across it. "I've checked on Google and can't find a single website you've cut and pasted from. Sadly, it appears to be all your own work."

The college's student of the year ceremony would be fun. None of the winners would turn up on time to pick up their certificates. Instead, they would arrive at 15-minute intervals, clutching their breakfast and blaming "the buses, Miss!"

Selecting the right lecturers will call for special skill. To have teaching qualifications will clearly be a no-no for any applicants, unless they can prove that these have been forged.

At interview, the successful candidate will be the one who answers the "What can you bring to this college?" question with: "Low cunning, scuffed shoes and an unhealthy interest in young women." Even then he could still fall at the last hurdle: "I'm afraid you're not going to make the grade here, Brown. We've run a CRB check and you don't have a single criminal conviction."

To fund a bogus college's bogus development plans, we would need a bogus funding body. It could employ experts from one of the world's overstretched banks. Imagine their presentations to the board: "In our coffers we have Pounds 1.6 billion. And we've promised colleges Pounds 5.3 billion. Hang on a minute, I can't quite get that to add up!"

So here it is, the dream team for running our archetypal bogus college. Arthur Daley combines the role of principal and head of public relations. He's the man to persuade punters that a couple of Portakabins on a Dalston backstreet is really an ivy-covered mansion in Berkshire.

Derek "Del Boy" Trotter would make a good chair of governors. And maybe you could secure the services of Bernard Madoff - if he gets parole - to complete the line-up. With his record, he'd be a shoo-in for chief accountant.

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