Control required

October 12, 2007

Elsewhere in this issue, our chief inspector Gerald Vinten echoes the long-standing concerns that we at the British Accreditation Council have had about the weak controls the UK has had over degree and accreditation colleges that purport to offer an education but actually supply an entry ticket to employment without training in the UK.

It was embarrassing to find two experienced US degree mill investigators (Alan Ezell and John Bear) referring in their 2005 book Degree Mills: The Billion Dollar Industry that Has Sold over a Million Fake Diplomas to the very low odds of prosecuting Sussex College of Technology, "especially since British authorities were well aware of what was going on there and had done nothing".

Recent government initiatives under the aegis of the new Border and Immigration Agency of the Home Office are a significant step in the direction of effective control. The concept of a Register of Sponsor Colleges and a closer working relationship between all such accrediting bodies will usher in a culture of propriety so far as private colleges are concerned. Links between BAC, the London Trading Standards offices and the Metropolitan Police will help to combat the degree and diploma scams that continue to plague the capital.

But Vinten is right to remind us that it will be a further 18 months before all private colleges fall within the purview of the register and scope for continued abuse of the student visa system remains. BAC has been working with its partners to raise awareness of these issues. Without concerted action, it is genuine international students and private institutions that will continue to suffer at the hands of the less scrupulous.

Stephen Vickers
Chief executive, British Accreditation Council for Independent Further and Higher Education

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