Bogus student drive 'a little bit too draconian'

1st April 2011 at 01:00
UK Government crackdown is unfair on Scotland, says college principal

The UK Government's crackdown on "bogus students" is largely a response to English problems and unfair on Scotland, believes the principal of Scotland's only private college for vocational studies.

Howard McKenzie, of Glasgow's West George College, supports the UK Border Agency's moves to make it tougher to get a student visa, but fears that some measures are "a little bit too draconian".

Home Secretary Theresa May last week underlined her intention to prevent bogus students from "studying meaningless courses at fake colleges".

But Mr McKenzie told TESS these institutions were concentrated in the south of England and that previous measures to counteract the problem had ensured it was no longer an issue in Scotland.

There was still a small number of students with an ulterior motive for coming to Scotland, but Mr McKenzie said they were relatively few; of 180 students, West George College had in the past year alerted the UKBA to four who stopped attending courses without any known legitimate reason.

He is concerned that there is not a level playing field for all institutions applying for "highly-trusted" status, which will soon become a requirement for all colleges.

While confident that West George College will attain that status soon, Mr McKenzie explained that his college had to account for the presence of individual students 800 times a year - several times each day of classes - whereas nearby Glasgow Caledonian University only had to do so eight times.

The new system also prevents West George students from taking any part- time work, Mr McKenzie said, while students across the road at Stow College could work 10 hours; students at equivalent institutions in countries such as Canada and Australia, were far freer to work, putting Scotland at a disadvantage in recruiting from abroad.

Tighter restrictions on working after graduation will rightly prevent former students from staying on to work in low-paid, non- essential jobs, but he says they leave little room for employment outside highly-skilled professions.

henry.hepburn@tes.co.uk.

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