Education Scotland joins crackdown on bogus colleges
Education Scotland, the new agency created by the merger of HMIE and Learning and Teaching Scotland, has been given the task of inspecting private colleges and language schools as part of the Government's crackdown on bogus colleges.
The appointment of Education Scotland as the "educational oversight body" has been confirmed by the UK Border Agency, following talks with the Scottish Government.
The move is the latest in the UK Government's campaign to tighten up rules for student visas. From the end of 2012, sponsoring colleges will need to have had a satisfactory inspection or review by one of a number of designated bodies: Education Scotland will be the only educational oversight body for colleges in Scotland, although the QAA (Quality Assurance Agency) will have a similar responsibility for higher education institutions.
Application forms for private college and language school inspections will be posted on Education Scotland's website on Monday. The agency's fees are likely to mirror the charges south of the border by its equivalent body, the Independent Schools Inspectorate - inspection fees from pound;8,230 to pound;12,070, plus a registration fee of pound;1,125.
A spokesman for Education Scotland said: "We are now involved in developing quality arrangements that will ensure consistency of inspection standards throughout the UK.
"It is important that we emphasise that these inspections will only be to vouch for the quality of the education on offer and will not involve any other aspect of the colleges' and schools' work."
Howard McKenzie, principal of the private West George College in Glasgow, said he was "personally overjoyed" by the news.
In his former positions as principal of Jewel and Esk College and acting chief executive of the Association of Scotland's Colleges, he campaigned for better quality-assurance procedures to be introduced to root out bogus institutions.
Now, however, "rogue colleges have gone in Scotland", he insisted.
When he began his campaign three years ago, there were 67 registered private colleges in Scotland - now his own college, West George College, is the only one - while there are around 50 language schools, he claimed.
"One thing I do know about HMI is that they are thorough, fair and very professional. To be inspected by someone with those credentials is ideal," he said.