The UK’s quality watchdog will mount an inquiry into 14 British university branch campuses in London, after a minister threatened “further action” into student visa abuses.
The Quality Assurance Agency said the London campuses of British universities coming under the scope of its inquiry are those run by: Anglia Ruskin University, Bangor University, Coventry University, University of Cumbria, University of East Anglia, Glasgow Caledonian University, Glyndwr University, University of Liverpool, Loughborough University, Northumbria University, University of Sunderland, University of Ulster, University of Wales Trinity St David and the University of South Wales.
The QAA’s announcement follows a statement in the House of Commons by James Brokenshire, the immigration minister, which said the “worst abuse” of student visas was taking place at London branch campuses. Such campuses are often aimed principally at international students.
Mr Brokenshire said in his speech that the government was cracking down on suspect English language qualifications used to gain entry to educational institutions.
He said that Glyndwr University has had its visa licence suspended, while the University of Bedfordshire and the University of West London – which are not subject to the QAA inquiry - have been told they cannot recruit new international students pending further investigations.
Mr Brokenshire added: “Other universities are involved in the continuing investigation and further action may follow, although because of the steps they have already taken to improve their processes including voluntarily ceasing overseas recruitment to London sub-campuses, we will not at this stage remove their right to sponsor foreign students.”
He continued: “much of the worst abuse we have uncovered seems to be taking place at London sub-campuses of universities based in other parts of the country”, stating that the QAA “will examine these London campuses to see whether further action should be taken against their parent universities”.
The QAA said in its statement that it is “conducting an independent inquiry into the quality and standards” at UK higher education courses “delivered through London branch campuses”.
It added that a “rise in the number of London campuses has prompted QAA to check on the arrangements in place to safeguard students’ learning experiences. London campuses are home to a high proportion of international students, and QAA has been in discussions with the Home Office over the best way to protect their interests.”
Anthony McClaran, QAA chief executive, said: “We wish to understand better the trend of institutions from outside London setting up a presence in the capital and the implications for the assurance of quality and standards.”
The QAA said the inquiry would result in a published “overview” report.
UEA said earlier this year that it would close its London campus, a partnership with private firm INTO, in September.