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Baroness Carnegy of Lour: My Lords, the noble Lord has made some very important points, as has my noble friend. She mentioned to the Minister that he had undertaken to tell us how the list of colleges was going to be extended to the whole of the United Kingdom. There is a lot of anxiety across the country, particularly in colleges which want no muddying of the waters between their bona fide activities and their dependence on the custom of people from outside the European Union. There should be clarity in all this. If the Minister can tell the House how this is being dealt with and by what dates, it would be enormously comforting.
Lord Rooker: My Lords, I cannot tell the House about recent action in regard to the 100 so-called bogus colleges because there is a possibility of legal action. That is one of the reasons why no list has been published. Also, some of the addresses have proved to be completely fictitious. These matters are under active consideration and inquiry. It is self-evident that once the list is available, people will know which colleges are which but, at this point in time, those are the reasons why no list has yet been published.
I certainly understand the reasons behind the amendment. I undertook to provide more details of the Government's intention to address the problem of students who enrol at bogus colleges or at establishments that do not maintain proper attendance checks.
We are looking at the possibility of creating a register of bona fide or approved colleges and making enrolment at a registered college a requirement of the Immigration Rules. The order-making power provided by the new Clause 29 could then be used to specify this requirement. The consequence of such a specification would be that an entry clearance application refused on these grounds would not attract the right of appeal. As I have said before, it makes no sense to provide a right of appeal in these circumstances as there are no arguable issues to be addresseda college either is or is not registered.
During the debate in Committee I said that I would answer a number of concerns. I hope to do so now. I was asked what work the department has carried out with educational institutions on addressing the problem of student migration abuse. On 22 April we announced a raft of measures designed to tackle the problem as part of our wider review of managed migration. We have consulted extensively with sector representatives on our proposal and are continuing to work with stakeholders on the development of the new measures.
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In doing so, we recognise that the vast majority of overseas students are genuine and we value the substantial economic and cultural benefits that they bring to the UK. We are determined to ensure that our international reputation overseas as an education provider is not undermined by those who seek to abuse the student migration system. Our proposals are designed to protect genuine students and genuine establishments by targeting the unscrupulous providers.
I was asked to confirm that the Home Office intends to launch immediate checks on all claimed educational establishments and to set up an accreditation and monitoring scheme for all colleges by the end of the year. As part of the managed migration review, the Students Taskforce is investigating colleges which appear to be suspect and, as has already been said, it has recently made an initial assessment of 400 colleges. The result of these further enquiries is that applications to those institutions which were found to be illegitimate can now be refused.
In addition to that work, the new registration scheme for all genuine colleges that was announced by the Secretary of State for Education and Skills on 18 June will be operational by the turn of the year. The scheme will include all publicly funded institutions. Once the register is operational, student visas will not be issued for colleges that are not on the register. We are also working with the English language sector to encourage comprehensive accreditation of English language schools so that, in due course, visas will be issued only to English language students who are coming to the UK to study at an accredited school.
I do not think that we will be accrediting schools on the basis of quality. It is not our function to adjudge the quality of the education on offer. We have a world-class record in providing education services to overseas students, but quality is not the issue.
I was asked also for an assurance that the Immigration and Nationality Directorate will provide colleges with a list of students who have been issued with visas on the basis of an offer letter from a college. The Department for Education and Skills is consulting with representative bodies from the education sector on establishing a system for colleges to notify the Government of students who do not turn up or fail to attend. I am not able to give an assurance about how the system will operate, because the detail is still being worked out. I have played that record many times this evening, but there will be plenty of opportunities to put the detail to the House. All concerned are anxious to ensure that any notification system will result in the minimum possible resource burden on colleges, whether they be public or private, and that only the genuine no-shows should be reported to us.
We have discussed our proposals with representative bodies in the education sector, including the Association of Colleges, the United Kingdom Council for Overseas Student Advisors and the Association of Registered English Language Schools. They support our aim of preventing the reputation of the UK education sector being undermined by fraudulent students or colleges. Some of the bodies have expressed concerns about resource burdens on the institutions that arise from the
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proposals. The Association of Registered English Language Schools is fully supportive of our plans for accreditation of English language colleges and the Department for Education and Skills' proposals to introduce a register of genuine providers have been widely welcomed.
I was asked also how the registration of colleges will be earned or achieved. In checking the legitimacy of providers, the Department for Education and Skills will look at the evidence that any genuine learning provider will be able to provide, such as the details of their premises, accounts and exam achievements. Work on developing the criteria and the process for accreditation for registration is ongoing, and the Department for Education and Skills is committed to providing further details about the scheme later in the summer.
Whether there will be a right to appeal for establishments which are not included in the register will depend on the detail of the scheme. It is clear that a set of criteria is needed and that those criteria must be met. I cannot go so far as to say that there will be an appeal system, but consultation is taking place. Providers and their representative organisations will have every opportunity to feed into the consultation before more details of the scheme become available.
I can therefore assure the noble Baroness, Lady Anelay, and the noble Viscount, Lord Bridgeman, that the proposition in Amendment No. 26 that the power in Clause 29 could be used to specify a requirement relating to approved educational establishments is one with which the Government are in full agreement. That can be achieved using Clause 29 as drafted. It is not considered to be necessary to refer to the example in the legislation.
I hope that with that further explanationI accept that it is not completenoble Lords will accept that we are moving forward. The register which is being developed by the Department for Education and Skills will be used by the Home Office to verify that providers are bona fide for the purposes of immigration. The department has fully consulted the Home Office in developing the register. We are confident that the criteria being developed will allow the Home Office to ensure that bogus operators, who have no intention of providing learning, are not able to bring visa students to the UK. The register is not intended to address issues of quality.
A great variety of learning is available in the UK in both the public and the private sectors. That is one of our strengths. The register will help remove the risk of bogus providers while still being useful to the Department for Education and Skills in bringing together information on all providers. I hope that the House finds that further information to be useful, but I suspect that we shall come back to the issue, as we must do, when we have worked out the scheme in some detail.
Lord Rooker: My Lords, I have a feeling that the United Kingdom Council for Overseas Student
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Advisors may well cover Scotland. I referred to the UK education sector being undermined by fraudulent students from fraudulent colleges. Therefore, I have to take it as granted that consultation will be carried out with the special Scottish interests among colleges. Some colleges may be based in England; some may be based in Scotland. Therefore, they must all be included in the consultation.
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