From education to employment

Chief of ASC petitions Scottish Education Minister to protect legitimate education providers

A simple accreditation process could protect Scotland’s further education sector from bogus “colleges” masquerading as fully-qualified institutions.

The Association for Scotland’s Colleges (ASC) last week called on the Cabinet Secretary for Education, Fiona Hyslop MSP to introduce a formal accreditation procedure in the wake of recent alarms that fake business schools were being set up to extort fees from foreign students.

One college, the Kelvin Business School was last week reported in Glasgow paper, The Herald, as running a similar scam, and the paper investigated other colleges – the “Commonwealth College” and “Great Regent College” – which also claimed to offer unavailable courses.

Howard McKenzie, Acting Chief Executive of the ASC, wrote to Ms Hyslop: “It is time that we protect the use of the title “college” in Scotland in a similar way to that in which “university” is currently restricted. I am therefore asking that the Scottish Executive considers what measures it can take, working with the other agencies involved, to ensure a case such as that of Juliana Vasquez does not happen again,” he added.

“I know the issue is not an easy one,” he continued, “but I believe that the situation is now so serious and potentially damaging that immediate action to protect legitimate education providers needs to be taken without delay”.

At the moment, the Government’s register of education providers, run by the Department of Education and Skills (DIUS) states that institutions recruiting international students only have to produce fairly basic documentation to be on the register, including a prospectus, details of fees and other certificates.

Although the ASC first alerted the Scottish Executive to the problem of quality-control in 2005, the services offered by colleges still aren”t thoroughly vetted. The Home Office has stated that as of next year, applicants will have to be affiliated to a recognised independent body.

In advance of this, the ASC is now recommending that an accreditation process would ensure that the FE institution must fall under the Education Act, or the Further and Higher Education Act and be subject to inspection by HMIE. Scotland has 43 further education colleges which provide training to over 500,000 students a year.

Annabel Hardy

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