Bogus colleges in the United Kingdom

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In the United Kingdom a bogus college is a fake college or university used as part of an immigration and visa scam, whereby people from overseas can apply for a British student visa and illegally reside in the United Kingdom.[1] They have also been set up as a money making scam, selling fake qualifications which have no official accreditation, often at the taxpayer's expense.[2]

To tackle the problem of bogus colleges the British Government established a register of approved education providers in 2005. The register requires potential applicants for student visas to prove that they would be attending a legitimate college or university during their stay in the United Kingdom.[1] The Home Office appoints accreditation bodies to inspect any colleges which wish to take international students.[3] However, the register came in for criticism in 2008 after the government admitted that since the register's establishment almost half of the institutions on the list had been struck off following inspections.[1] The system has been revised a number of times since its establishment.[3]

In April 2009 the UK Border Agency introduced tougher rules for international students coming to the United Kingdom. These included fingerprinting and checking potential applicants against security and immigration watchlists.[4]

Notable examples[edit]

One of the most high-profile cases of a bogus college is the East London–based Cambridge College of Learning, which sold several thousand fake postgraduate diplomas in business management and IT, charging between £2,500 and £4,000 for each qualification. Immigration officials became suspicious about the college – which is unconnected to Cambridge University – after the Home Office received 2,542 applications for post-study visas in a period of two months. When the UK Border Agency subsequently raided the premises in December 2008 they discovered just three classrooms and eleven desks. Students registered with the college were told that their visas were invalid and that they must return home.[5][6]

In another instance of bogus college activity, a 2009 Home Office investigation was launched after the British newspaper The Times presented evidence that hundreds of men from Pakistan's North West Frontier had paid at least £1,000 to a gang to be admitted into bogus colleges, while some paid £2,500 for fake diplomas, attendance records and degrees.[4] A total of eleven colleges were established in London, Bradford and Manchester, including one which had enrolled eight terrorism suspects arrested in Manchester and Liverpool in April 2009.[7] The college had three small classrooms and three teachers for 1,797 students.[7][8]

The Home Office inquiry followed an investigation by The Times which compiled a dossier on bogus colleges that included details of another college which claimed to have 150 students, but secretly enrolled 1,178 and offered places to an extra 1,575. Two Liverpool universities admitted they had given places to four "graduates" from one of the bogus colleges, the Manchester College of Professional Studies.[4]

Other examples[edit]

An example of a bogus college run as a scam is the Middlesbrough-based National Distance Learning College, which operated between 1999 and 2001 and offered distance learning courses in computing and business related subjects which it claimed were accredited by official qualification bodies such as BTEC and City & Guilds. Some 80,000 students signed up for courses, paying an estimated £16 million in fees, only to later discover that their qualifications had no official recognition. Money paid to the college by students – and government grants – were transferred into the personal bank accounts of its directors.[9]

Higher Education Degree Datacheck, the UK's official service for candidate verification and university authentication, has named a number of 'bogus universities' on its blog, often with names similar to genuine UK universities. These include:[10][11]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c "Bogus college check catches 124". BBC News. 8 January 2008. Retrieved 8 February 2010. 
  2. ^ Malik, Shiv; McGettigan, Andrew (2014-12-01). "Thousands of ‘fake’ students at UK's new higher education colleges". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 2017-02-18. 
  3. ^ a b Sakr, Sharif & Morris, Nigel (22 June 2009). "'Bogus' college students face removal". BBC News. Retrieved 8 February 2010. 
  4. ^ a b c Shepherd, Jessica (21 May 2009). "Pakistani gang 'pocketed millions' in bogus college scam". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 11 February 2010. 
  5. ^ McDermott, Nick & Newling, Dan (4 June 2009). "Bogus college sold fake diplomas to help migrants stay in Britain". Daily Mail. Retrieved 8 February 2010. 
  6. ^ "Tough new rules target bogus colleges and education cheats". BIA. Archived from the original on 3 April 2009. Retrieved 17 February 2010. 
  7. ^ a b Norfolk, Andrew (21 May 2009). "Sham colleges open doors to Pakistani terror suspects". The Times. London. Retrieved 11 February 2010. 
  8. ^ "Pakistani immigrants exploit bogus colleges to enter UK". The Daily Telegraph. London. 21 May 2009. Archived from the original on 13 December 2009. Retrieved 17 February 2010. 
  9. ^ "Bogus college made £16m by signing up 80,000 students... but only 18 left with a qualification". Daily Mail. 11 June 2008. Retrieved 11 February 2010. 
  10. ^ "Category: Naming and Shaming". Higher Education Degree Datacheck. Graduate Prospects. Retrieved 22 October 2016. 
  11. ^ "Higher Education Degree Datacheck". Graduate Prospects. Retrieved 22 October 2016. 

External links[edit]