Examination of Witnesses (Questions 20-39)
WEDNESDAY 4 APRIL 2001
SIR JOHN BOURN, KCB, MR GLENN HULL, MR NIGEL CRISP AND SIR BRIAN FENDER
20. Let us try with you as you provide the funding for the courses. The Health Service will benefit from their expertise but expertise I doubt because one of them said that if I could get the deportation order reversed he would be on the first plane home as soon as his training had finished.
(Sir Brian Fender) Let us try to understand your particular constituent's problem. There are rules in effect governing all students and their residence in this country and their ability to participate in our courses.
21. I am fascinated to hear that, Sir Brian, because when I raised this with what I thought were the relevant authorities they did not seem to be as concerned as I was and did not seem to think it was that much of a problem and nothing was done.
(Sir Brian Fender) I do not think I can help you with that.
22. Do you not think, though, that if we have students being paid for by the taxpayer who have deportation orders against them from the Immigration Service that that is not a particularly good use of taxpayers' money?
(Sir Brian Fender) You have to assume that if a student is clearly not going to be able to take employment in this country then that does on the face of it look like not a good investment.
23. But do you not with non-British nationals want to have any proof before agreeing a course that they have the correct visas and rights to be in this country to participate on that course?
(Sir Brian Fender) Yes they do and overseas students, for example, who come here do have to have the appropriate qualifications and appropriate agreement for them to study in this country.
24. What about students who do not come from overseas to take part in the educational process in this country but come here for other reasons and then decide that they would like to train as a nurse in this country? Do you check their visas to see if they are eligible to be in this country for the three years of the course?
(Sir Brian Fender) There are something like 1.8 million students in the UK and I think trying to probe their motives and what they are going to do when they have completed their course would be a formidable and unrewarding task.
25. I did not say motives when they leave the course, I am saying do you not check that they are legally eligible to take part in the course to start with as it is taxpayers' money that is funding it?
(Sir Brian Fender) If they are a United Kingdom national
26. These people are not UK nationals.
(Sir Brian Fender) Then they must have a right to be in this country
27. You can have a right to be in this country on holiday.
(Sir Brian Fender) Yes, but you have to have a right to be in this country for the period of time necessary to complete your studies.
28. What checks do you do to make sure that that is the case with the individual students applying for courses?
(Sir Brian Fender) You would have to ask individual students (sic) if they check the records of every student that applied.
29. Individual students?
(Sir Brian Fender) The responsibility for identifying bona fide students would lie with the institution admitting the student.
30. I have a little problem with that because I obviously did ask the institution and they seemed to think that it was the responsibility of those providing the funding, ie your Council, and nobody seemed in fact, as I pursued the matter, to be prepared to take the responsibility. I just find it extraordinary that individuals with a deportation order against them can be on courses at the taxpayers' expense to train as a nurse. If they then complete their training and return home immediately with the benefit of being a fully trained nurse, the National Health Service will not benefit for one single day from their training and, to put it even more crudely, nor will the taxpayer.
(Sir Brian Fender) You are certainly taking me beyond my competence but if there is a deportation order, is that stayed in order that they can complete their course?
(Sir Brian Fender) If there is a deportation order why is it not effected? Why does the student stay in this country?
32. Because when they started their courses they were still in the process of seeking to remain in the country and it had not got to the point in the procedures where the deportation order was going to be issued, but the two students I am thinking of were at the beginning of their second year of a course and during that time the deportation order had been issued against them and they came to me saying could I stop it and could they finish their course and then they would go. It seemed to me that there was not a very close watch and hand on the doling out of money to students in these two cases. I assume you would agree.
(Sir Brian Fender) I think the funders whoever they happen to be would assume that the processes of deportation took priority in this. Either the student would be allowed to stay, in which case it was not unreasonable that they could study, or they would be deported.
33. That may be the case but if they have already had 15 months of education at the taxpayers' expense before the deportation order comes, the funder or the college is not arguing that the deportation order should not be administered because that is the law. The question I am asking is how can you get to a situation where people who clearly had no right to be on a course of that nature funded by the taxpayer could carry on a course without any proper checks before they stated the course that they were allowed to be in this country and would be able to stay here for three years completing the course that is being paid for?
(Sir Brian Fender) Are you not pre-judging whether they would be allowed to stay in this country or not?
34. Not necessarily, it depends on what status of visa they would get from the Home Office to allow for their education or whatever.
(Sir Brian Fender) I would maintain my position that the university or college would look at the credentials of the student. If the student is entitled to be in this country and entitled to study then I think the college is reasonable in admitting them. What happens subsequently seems to be a different matter.
35. What does the college do then to look at the time to see if they are eligible to be in this country? Or what do you do or what does the funding body do before it grants a bursary to an individual?
(Sir Brian Fender) First of all, I do not grant bursaries. The support of individual students is done through the Department for Education and we are supporting institutions in order that they may have the money to educate students.
36. I understand that you pass the money to them to be administered on the ground, but presumably there are checks and balances in system, are there not, to make sure that the money you are making available is spent on the purpose for which it is intended?
(Sir Brian Fender) Yes of course.
37. One of those must be, presumably, to fund students who have a right (for whatever reason) to be in this country and to attend courses for three years?
(Sir Brian Fender) No, we fund students who are participating in courses. We do not fund individual students; we fund institutions on the basis of the number of students and indeed the particular kind of course they are following.
38. Then who or what organisation is responsible for checking that the money that is given to support students is being given to students who are eligible for it?
(Sir Brian Fender) If they apply for loans or student support that will go through the normal checking process. If they are not receiving any student support then it would be for the individual institution to accept them on the basis of their current residency status. If that was in order I cannot quite see why it should be a difficulty for the college or university in taking that student.
39. How do they find out if it is in order?
(Sir Brian Fender) The student will present a dossier. I do not know what the individual screening operations of every single institution are with respect to an individual student but universities will normally, of course, make sure that the student is indeed a valid student who they can legitimately admit. They will look at their educational qualifications, they will look at their residence qualifications.