Peer criticises government on private providers after QAA report

For-profit college stripped of right to receive public funds

July 11, 2016
Alison Wolf, Baroness Wolf of Dulwich

Fresh questions have been raised about the government’s ability to ensure oversight of private colleges as a for-profit institution was stripped of its right to receive public funding after a damning quality watchdog report.

West London Vocational Training College (WLVT) “failed to establish the authenticity of all applicants' academic qualifications”, admitted some students who were “not demonstrably qualified” to enter their course, admitted some students who “had not demonstrably met the English language proficiency requirements for entry” and admitted some students after qualifications awarding body Pearson had blocked it from registering new entrants, according to a report by the Quality Assurance Agency on its centre in Alperton, northwest London.

The report followed a QAA investigation into WLVT’s Cardiff centre that found that large numbers of students did not meet entry standards, that checks on attendance and plagiarism were inadequate and that a former principal falsely claimed to have a PhD from the University of Cambridge.

The QAA’s enquiries prompted a written question in the House of Lords from crossbench peer Baroness Wolf of Dulwich, who is Sir Roy Griffiths professor of public sector management at King’s College London.

She asked whether the QAA's investigation had led the government “to reconsider or amend current measures relating to alternative providers; and if not, why not”.

Baroness Evans of Bowes Park, replying for the government in an answer published on 1 July, said: “The government has revoked West London Vocational Training College’s designation for student support funding for higher education courses in England with effect from 3 June. Affected students will be supported so they can continue their studies with as limited disruption as possible.

“The cross-agency action in this case demonstrates the government’s continuing strong focus on improving quality and value for money across the Alternative Provider (AP) sector.”

The report into WLVT’s Alperton centre, conducted by the QAA under its Concerns scheme, also says that Pearson, the awarding body for Higher National courses, had “blocked certification” for the college’s provision of the courses in November 2015 and confirmed the move in February 2016.

“Nevertheless, despite this block on the registration of new students, there was evidence to indicate that five students were admitted to the HND course at Alperton in March and April 2016,” the QAA report says.

According to its accounts, WLVT made a profit of £128,541 in 2015. The owners of the company are Bharat Bageja and Indra Bageja, both of Lancaster Road, Northolt, London, according to documents lodged at Companies House.

john.morgan@tesglobal.com

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