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Government must restrict the term ‘college’ to safeguard its reputation, warns Commons Committee

MPs on the House of Commons, Home Affairs Select Committee are urging the Government to restrict the use of the term "college" to help crack down on bogus institutions.

According to its report, the Committee had "received no evidence that the Home Office has made adequate preparations" to stop bogus colleges supplying fraudulent visas".

"Bogus colleges may have allowed tens of thousands of foreign nationals to enter the country illegally. The government has been aware of their existence for 10 years and done nothing to stop them. This is totally unacceptable and frankly, quite unbelievable," says Committee chairman Keith Vaz.

As part of the report’s recommended measures, MPs want a tight leash on how a college is defined to protect their reputation against fraudulent institutions involved in visa fraud.

Martin Doel, chief executive of the Association of Colleges (AoC), welcomed the call as a move in the right direction.

Mr Doel said: "We are very pleased that the Committee has investigated the problem of bogus colleges. Whilst we welcome the recent action that the government has taken, it is impossible to underestimate the damage that these institutions do to the reputation of UK colleges.

"We strongly urge Lord Mandelson, Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills to follow the Committee’s recommendation and restrict the use of the term "colleges" under the Companies Act 2006."

Nicholas Saunders, senior associate at Eversheds, the international law firm, commented: "My feeling is that while bona fide colleges understandably want the term "college" restricted under the Companies Acts to those recognised by the Department for Children, Schools and Families (DCSF) this would be difficult as the term is in such wide use e.g. by schools.

"But ensuring that only institutions accredited by DCSF or The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (DBIS) could use the term "accredited college" and restricting student visas to those with places at such colleges would go a long way to addressing the problem."

(Pictured: Martin Doel, AoC chief executive)


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