Opinion: UK Border Agency plunges colleges into crisis

I wrote recently about the train-wreck that is happening before our eyes with the new student visa rules.  Well, there has been a new development. The UK Border Agency has abruptly suspended the visa-sponsoring licences of more than 50 private colleges without giving reasons. All over the place, crisis talks are taking place in the colleges affected, as people try to work out what on earth is happening. Is this more of the deep-rooted incompetence that we have all come to expect from the Home Office, or has a political decision been taken to expel lots of dark faces and damn the consequences?

From where I sit, helping to administer a small college, it is hard to discern any rational basis for this action. Among the 50-plus colleges some are seriously dodgy, but the honest ones are utterly infuriated at being associated with the bad ones. Meanwhile, plenty of dodgy colleges still keep their licences. As ever, the UKBA is its inscrutable “don’t’ call us, we’ll call you” (or should that be “never explain, never apologise”?) self.

Let’s put this in practical, human terms. We have students whose visa renewals are due in ten days. What can they do? Look for another college that still has its licence and spaces available? Go back home with tail between legs and without the diplomas they came for? Or go underground for a while? These are serious, hard-working, intelligent students, not the black economy workers who so exercise the right-wing press. They have employers who really value them at their part-time jobs too.

Multiply that up across the country and there must be thousands of students in deep trouble. I hate to think how many court cases against the government are being hatched right now, especially in the colleges that specialise in teaching law. Students with months or years of visa still to run will carry on being taught properly, but inevitably they will worry. They know that mud sticks, and that the owners of this college instantly have less money to spend on library books, IT facilities, student welfare, and so on.

Despite what some people say (including Matthew H commenting on my last piece) many small colleges do a fine job of teaching, with small class sizes and without the useless but tenured staff that blight some universities. Our students are often poor, and in need of a lot of remedial English tuition, but they are not stupid, nor criminal, nor inclined to be terrorists. At least not now, but I cannot speak for how they will feel if they are utterly shafted by UK plc failing to deliver the decent education they were promised.

The root of the problem appears to be that the UKBA is still “not fit for purpose”. It does not have enough brainpower to behave rationally and is just lashing out like a wounded animal. Policing private colleges is actually quite an easy task. It is not as if colleges hide their existence. Just send round inspectors on unannounced visits to sit in on a couple of classes, talk to a few students, and sample a few college administrative records. That would rapidly identify which colleges need to be shut down, which are altogether different from the 50-plus who have (one hopes temporarily) lost their licences.

* Editor’s note on the author: this article was written by the head of a private college, who also authored this post and understandably prefers to remain anonymous. They are a long-standing Liberal Democrat member.

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This entry was posted in Op-eds.


  • I applied on 4th December 2009 for visa. Now on 22 January 2010 i find my college expelled from the list of registered sponsor. I haven’t received any response from the embassy up till now. most likely it will be a refusal. Is there anyone to ask the British embassy they have ruined my time and now refusing my application. when i got the visa letter from the college it was registered. now refusing my visa would be unjust. isn’t it?

  • Philip Young 23rd Jan '10 - 8:05am

    A vast shoal of these colleges are bogus shams – if you pick up a newspaper in Pakistan you see adverts saying “we can get you into the UK” …and “we can help process your visas”….clearly a blatant ruse. Once registered, and once in the country, the “students” bunk off having got what they needed.

  • You are absolutely right. but for students like me have education as their primary objective. this situation is frustrating them.

  • ali al rimmer 23rd Jan '10 - 11:17am

    Problem is that there has been massive abuse,we are about to have an election and the government wants to be seen to be doing something for PR reasons.

  • narayan tiwari 23rd Jan '10 - 3:30pm

    is south london college suspended from the list of uk boader agency

  • is United college suspended from the list of uk boader agency?

  • I want to get the full list of suspended colleges from UKBA and the list of possible other colleges to be suspended in near future??!! It will b very halpful for me. thanks.

  • Basically the UKBA is itself not clear of what it is doing. Rather than suspending all the colleges (just to prove it to the opposition) it should go by the business plans of the colleges – see which colleges are serious and genuine and which colleges are not. Most of the colleges are suspended with the reason – their new premises is not yet accredited. But the ukba cannot see that these colleges are really investing in the economy and creating employment by expanding their operations, whereas they are still issuing new licences to colleges that are operating from office blocks and 2 rooms. Most of the suspended colleges are actually investing heavily in the infrastructure, and after making such huge investments they are forced recruit more students without waiting for the lousy UKBA and BAC/ASIC to inspect them and accredit, as it takes about 6-9 months for the whole process. Anyways, how would it matter to the ukba if the college is already accredited and just expanding its facilities. But i believe they want to have a feel of the ultimate power and therefore want to give a final go at their convenience after creating unnecessary hurdles.

  • What do the students of the 140 suspended colleges (140 x 1000 = 200,000 approx) do? and why were the visas issued and the colleges licensed if they had to harass us after coming to uk. UK will turn out to be another Australia, where no Asian student is now going. It will be banned and become a joke

  • There is no meaning for just tipping the keyboard and commenting on others comments. Student who are suffering are still in trouble and waiting for the dawn. Isn’t there any one who can help out? I have seen some of the college are approved and publishing there approval proudly. That means the colleges who are not up to standard must be shut down and the affected students must have appropriate placement in approved colleges. I think now it is the responsibility of UKBA to solve the problem because they are the main entrance for every students.
    Hope for the best.

  • hi,
    hi i have gate a visa but my friend say my collage is suspended ( London collage of business and management ).
    but can you confirm it is real and what are do now can you advice me. this suspended how long time.

    Md. Mahmud Hossain

  • Dear sirs,

    It seems as there is no college in the which is more bogus than the peanut brain individuals driving the UKBA policies on student recruitment. Why suspend the colleges now when you knew this problem coming before even the PBS was introduced? Trying to implement the system that failed on Australian trial here in the UK at the expense of poor students from the third world is hegemonism, and at the heart of those 150,000 students who have no college to go to now, a state terror. They never know when the College actually closes and when they try and find an alternative to move to, they will have to fork out large sums of money but will still be unable to find one. This results in, as the author of this article has said, either them going underground or going back home for no fault of their own. One should not just blame the colleges. If there is loophole even MPs of the ‘civilised’ first world country use it, forget the nonsense of patronising independent colleges. Universities are getting a free ride and in cmparision are probably just slightly better. All the UKBA had to do 1 year ago was to come up with a good system through which the activities of all colleges, students and their immigration officers could be easily seen by all concerned. There is a question in the circle of these unjustly and inhumanely treated overseas students, would UKBA planners treat the same way if it were American, French or other European students. Where is the human rights watch and similar so called human rights organisations now, which would raise the loudest voice if the British citizens were treated that way in a foreign country. Are those organisations sponsored by the ukplc too? It’s just ridiculous. The Libdem has always been the saviour in this sort of unjust and autrocatic action of the government. All our MPs must rise now if we are not to carry the sin of harrassing hundreds of thousands of overseas students. God bless!

  • rajendra kunwar 29th Jan '10 - 11:01am

    Is Clydebank college, clydebank,scotland, UK suspensed?

  • London collage of business and management suspended from the list of uk boarder agency.

  • Critical Friend 30th Jan '10 - 12:07pm

    I work in a university but have extensive experience of working with independent colleges through franchise and validation activity. I agree entirely that the UKBA actions are politically motivated, and that they are not fit for purpose. If they were to provide the same level of rigour on more ‘trusted’ universities instead of colleges then this would reveal that the holes in the system are in both private and public sectors, but that would not make good press for education minister and the unruly processes implemented. There will be a tremendous hit on higher education, at a time when this is much in demand in the developing world. Yes, there are flaws, but you work with the colleges AND universities to improve those flaws, not suspend their licence causing untold damage to those already in the system, and causing irreparable damage to reputation over a longer period of time. Madness. And UKBA are so poorly organised with intelligence systems that are so out of date that the most sinister of operations will go totally unchecked … even when UKBA have received tip-offs, they do not always act … now why is this?




  • I agree suspension of private colleges are politically motivated UKBA is not serious in finding any solution to the problem, it can only happen with third world countries it’s purely racism. How can they target only north students with a bold comment that they are not serious applicants . If they are serious they should make IELTS mandatory for studies I am sure they will receive 1000 applications instead of ad of 13000/ application in a month.

  • UK education is a scam . the universities charge three times the local student fee and colleges offer qualifications which can not get you any jobs.my advice to everyone no need spend hard earned money on uk education. many people are still having the colonial mindset.

    tony blair relaxed the system when there was need for cheap labour to fill the jobs in uk now since economy is in bad shape uk doesnt want cheap labour. instead they want people to study at their universities which are no better than the private colleges.

    if these colleges and universities are so good than why dont local students want to study there. UKBA just keeps the rules vague and collects the visa application fees. If you ask its not fair well UK doesnt know the meaning of fair.

    If the UK education is so good than why don’t they say that international student proportion to local student can not exceed 5% , so that if a university/ college has 100 places not more than 5 can be offered to international students.
    That way we can find out how many people really want to study at these places.

    Even then I dont think it justified to charge more from international student. It doesnt make economic sense that a person from india pays 10, 000 pounds for a course and go back to india for work. Where he can not get more 300 pounds a months after doing that course. Students are being exploited by UK goverment , colleges , agents . They have to work and study at the same time . And still they are being bashed up in the british media. Why ?

    This whole world economy is a myth. A person from developing country is stopped from employment oppurtunities in the west but at the same time these companies want to sell arms, soft drinks and crisps to them.

    Please dont waste money on UK , in this country only thieves survive. That is the reason why UK will continue to attract wrong kind of people and be shunned by the genuined lot. If you are honest and play fair never even think about UK but if you can work around the rules like their MP’s than you would flourish.

    I rest my case……..

  • Sarah McQuillan 6th Feb '10 - 11:26am

    I work for the newly opened Marbella University, in Spain. We have a number of places available to for study on courses beginning 15th February and we would be happy to offer them to these students who have found themselves in this terrible situation. For more information please contact me as soon as possible: [email protected] or [email protected].

  • A thriving college in london has recently had their licence revoked by UKBA on the grounds that their law degree is not affiliated with the awarding university.The students(about 300) were given 60 days to either change their course or go back to their country.Final year students have only 2 months to finish their degree and most of them have been accepted on the prestigious Bar course(costing avg. £13000)There is no institutions that will enrol those students at this time of the year. We all want to know why UKBA has been granting those students a visa since the past 3 years, knowing it is a structured open learning programme.How can they turn around and change their rules now?They could have waited for those students to finish their courses. The students are in the middle of revision for their exams which is very close and i wonder who can study in this frame of mind, not knowing if they will be here next month or in their country. I would like to personally thank UKBA for pushing all the foreign students away so that they can invest their money wisely in another country where students can study in peace and not become scapegoats during election.

  • Mukibii Hasser 26th Mar '10 - 12:01pm

    I astudent got avisa and at the time of his departure he or she was sick,and by the time he would depart finds his college suspended.Are there chances for the UK BA togive back the licence to those colleges.

  • why most of students visas are extend for very short period ?

    what does that noticed to other student ?

    what will happens if our collages licensed will be cancelled ?

    i will be pleased if i got this answer
    kind regards

  • Hi

    iam amrit from nepal i apply for London College of Business & Management 6 november 2009 for january intake but unfortunately at the starting of january the college removed from register sponsors and i pay all my fees which was 3700 pound.when i contact college the admission officer mr. Qursham says me that the college removed for self assisment.and says me that ukba visit us on 10 march 2010.but until today ukda didnt update to college regarding licence.its exceeded 3 months to visit ukba in London College of Business & Management.

    From few days the college website an telphone didnt work ! Plz advice me what can i do ?? Should i withdrawn my visa application ? If i withdrawn my visa application how much money the deduct ? If u have any update about London College of Business & Management plz inform me.

    Is there is any chances to come London College of Business & Management in register sponsorr list ??

    Your suggestion should be appreciated !

  • UKBA is not giving licenses to geniune colleges such as Centre for alternative technology,wales.I finished my masters from there and cannot apply for PSW letter because college has no license.What is the solution ? why i should suffer without no mistake from me.What is the transitional arrangement regarding this ??

    Please help me.


  • i hav a question…how can i change my college my classes r starting frm 11 october..plz reply me as soon as possible

  • Naresh Kandel 15th Jul '11 - 1:04pm

    Things are getting worse again. Many colleges are suspended again. unsuspended collges could not continue due to finance. Most of those students are going to be illegal due to UKBA action.

  • Patrick O Sullivan 6th Oct '11 - 9:41am

    Illegal immigration has indeed become a serious issue in particular
    But surely it requires a much more humanitarian approach not only in Europe
    but world wide and at the countries where human rights violations are at the core
    Not long ago did only did European citizens but citizens from the UK in general flee to America
    for both economic as well as human rights reasons

  • they just think about the fraud but they dont think about the other students who are genuinely studying in colleges or universities. have they ever thought about this ? they are playing with the future of students. one side they talk about human rights but here they are playing with students life. they care only about one thing afterall it seems it is a strategy and good excuse to reduce the immigration. before you make any decision they should make sure that they are not affecting others

One Trackback

  • By The LDV Friday Five: 29 January 2010 on Fri 29th January 2010 at 5:04 pm.

    […] rules (4) by Mark Pack 2. Oaten reduced to tears in new Channel 4 documentary (29) by The Voice 3. Opinion: UK Border Agency plunges colleges into crisis (15) by the Head of a private college 4. What the pollsters think will happen at the general […]

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