Bogus colleges - Home Affairs Committee Contents


Memorandum submitted by the Accreditation Service for International Colleges in response to the letter from Baroness Warwick

  In 2007 ASIC, the Accreditation Service for International Colleges, successfully applied to become a recognised UKBA Accrediting Body. The rigorous approval process over a period of three months was carried out by members of Ofsted and resulted in Ofsted recommending ASIC's approval to UKBA. This process was identical to that to which other accrediting bodies such as BAC and Accreditation UK were subjected. ASIC was the only new organisation of the several that applied to receive approval.

  The Committee can confirm that ASIC was registered with Companies House on 3 January 2007, Company No 06040297, and that ASIC's accounts are available for inspection by the public. The Company is a not for profit company and any surplus money is donated to various charities, including the Rose Education Foundation, established by Mr Dimmock and his wife, to support orphans and other disadvantaged children in Malaysia, Thailand and Sri Lanka and to provide scholarships for disadvantaged students. To date nine scholarships have been provided to enable such students to study at UK universities and colleges. It should be noted that none of the directors or officers of ASIC takes any fees or salaries.thereby increasing the Charitable donations. The Rose Education Foundation was registered in November 2008 with the Charity Commission no 1126903; the accounts have been submitted to the relevant departments.

  ASIC has adopted a rigorous, but supportive approach to the accreditation of private colleges, which has been much appreciated by the colleges themselves as evidenced by their written feedback on our process.

  Accreditation comprises three Stages:

    Stage 1: submission by the college of the Application and supporting documentation, which is scrutinised by an Inspector, who identifies any shortcomings in the application and requests the college to provide missing documents;

    Stage 2: an inspection visit is undertaken by one Inspector who concentrates on issues such as health and safety, statutory requirements, relations with the awarding bodies, the college's classroom facilities and student/staff files. Advice is provided on unsatisfactory documentation and records; Time is given to the colleges to correct any deficiencies found during the stage 2 inspection.

    Stage 3: a further visit, by two Inspectors, one of whom is the Reporting Inspector, who drafts the final report for consideration by the Accreditation Committee. This visit focuses on management structures of the college and meetings are held with the management team, a group of staff and two groups of students; the approach to learning and teaching, including classroom observations, and quality enhancement are also examined together with student welfare and the college's relations with the Home Office.

  The core group of inspectors, who are identified in the Handbook, comprises largely ex-university staff with extensive experience of international development procedures. All inspectors subsequently recruited have received appropriate induction and training to undertake the roles of Stage 2 Inspector, Stage 3 Reporting Inspector or Stage 3 Supporting Inspector as appropriate. The names of the visiting inspectors are given to the college before the Stage 2 and Stage 3 visits and all accredited colleges have completed the feedback questionnaires alluded to above.

  All draft final reports are checked and edited by the Accreditation Advisor to ensure that all relevant points have been covered, and that conclusions have been based on appropriate evidence.

  ASIC has externally modest but appropriately equipped and staffed offices. Priority has been deliberately given to investing in responsiveness to all stakeholders in the process, exemplified by the frequency of Accreditation Committee meetings, rather than unnecessarily glossy premises.

  ASIC has always worked meticulously to support UKBA's remit to protect UK borders and has endeavoured to ensure that only colleges which deliver genuine courses to genuine students have been accredited. Any behaviour by colleges which ASIC has considered to be inappropriate or suspicious in any way has regularly been reported to UKBA, leading in some cases to the college being closed. Records of the frequent contacts in this respect have been maintained.

  Finally, details of colleges which ASIC has accredited, together with those moving through the accreditation process are readily available on this website: www.asic.org.uk

RESPONSE TO SPECIFIC COMMENTS MADE BY BARONESS WARWICK

1.  ASIC did not exist in terms of a web presence until its approval was announced in July 2007.

  This is correct as we did not wish to misrepresent who we were and what authority we were operating under.

2.  There is a lack of management, governance and financial structures.

  This is totally incorrect as we are a Limited Company, limited by Guarantee and a not for profit organisation. Our accounts are available for inspection through Companies House. We have monthly management meetings which are formally minuted. These minutes are open for inspection by Ofsted as part of the ongoing monitoring procedures of the accrediting bodies.

3.  Its website provides no inspection reports for its accredited colleges.

  It was proposed by ourselves to the standards and consistency meeting that we would include a full report of each college on the web site. However, it was suggested that this may contravene Data protection. The Standards and Consistency meeting agreed to look at a standard format for inclusion of inspection reports on web sites. This process is near to completion and it is expected that a template will be available at the next meeting.

  ASIC's reporting has always been transparent and Final Reports for accredited colleges have been made available to UKBA, Ofsted, the Sponsors' Liaison Unit and members of the Serious Organised Crime Agency, all of whom have been impressed by the information contained and their presentation.

  All reports are carefully edited to ensure that all aspects of accreditation have been covered and appropriate evidence presented.

  It should be pointed out that none of the other accrediting bodies include inspection report on their websites.

4.  Its website does not include list of inspectors.

  This is totally untrue as all our inspectors are included in the Accreditation Handbook, which is downloadable from the website. Colleges also receive full details of inspectors prior to inspection.

  None of the other accrediting bodies list the names of their inspectors on their website.

5.  Several of the colleges it accredits have been linked with inappropriate activities.

  It should be pointed out that a very few of the colleges alluded to have indeed been accredited by ASIC. The main issue is that we need to give two weeks notice of an impending visit and obviously the college prepare accordingly in a similar way to schools prepare for an Ofsted inspection or Universities, a QAA inspection. Our decisions are based purely on evidence gained during the three stage accreditation process.

  The colleges alluded to in the Press and in the letter include one college in Manchester which we failed and alerted UKBA and other authorities as to our suspicions. This resulted in the college being closed down and several arrests being made. Another College in London, which has received considerable press coverage, was accredited by us under its previous owners. At this time the college were operating legitimately and had many genuine students registered with approved accrediting bodies. They had also just completed an agreement with the University of Gloucestershire for transfer of their students to the final year of a degree programme. It came to our notice that there had been a change of ownership and that the new owners were operating a scam. We decided to undertake an unannounced visit with two of our experienced inspectors. This resulted in identification of a problem and the various agencies informed. This again resulted in the college being closed down. Unfortunately, this caused a major problem for the genuine students studying at the college. ASIC, however, were able to assist in placing some of these students at other ASIC accredited colleges at no extra cost to the student. This has prompted us to set up a student protection scheme, similar to the Case Trust scheme in Singapore, to protect such students in the future.

  There have been many other instances where we have assisted UKBA in identifying possible problems. ASIC are in regular contact with UKBA and have had several meetings with regional officers, especially in the North West.

CONCLUSION

  We hope we have been able to demonstrate that these allegations against ASIC are unfounded and that there appears to be a conspiracy amongst some quarters to discredit what we are doing. It is rather strange that no mention has been made of the colleges in a similar position who have been accredited by other accrediting bodies.

  ASIC have been extremely vigilant in its accreditation and supportive of UKBA in implementing the new PBS.

  We would finally like to suggest areas in which a slight change in the regulations would allow us to undertake accreditation more robustly. The problem we had in Manchester is that we noted the college could only accommodate approximately 120 students. It was then discovered that over a thousand visas had been issued for this college. If we were informed of the number of student visas issued for each college before inspection then this would easily enable us to identify a scam. We think this will rectify itself when the "CAS" system is operational in February.

  Another potential area of concern is that students can still come into the country on a student visitor visa for a period of less than six months. The condition is that they may only study at an accredited college. This is going to be impossible to police. Those colleges not accredited will bring students into the country on programmes of less than six months and we know this is already happening. These colleges do have a visit by the compliance unit... we don't think.

  May we conclude by thanking you for this opportunity to respond to the letter from Baroness Warwick and hope it will help you with your evidence sessions.





 
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