The government has given the green light for St Patrick’s, the UK’s biggest private college, to continue receiving public-backed funding, lifting its previous suspension and allowing it to recruit new students.
However, in a separate development, the Home Office has said that the college’s licence to sponsor overseas students has been revoked.
In 2013-14, St Patrick’s received more public fee funding via the Student Loans Company than any other private college. Nearly 7,000 students claimed SLC fee loans to take the college’s sub-degree Higher National courses, awarded by Pearson.
Martin Donnelly, the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills permanent secretary, told the House of Commons Public Accounts Committee on 16 March that SLC fee payments to St Patrick’s had been suspended, pending the completion of a BIS investigation at the college.
“We do have a number of concerns about St Patrick’s which have been investigated,” said Mr Donnelly.
The BIS investigation has been completed but has not been published.
A BIS spokesman said this week that the department has written to St Patrick’s and confirmed that Vince Cable, the business secretary, “has decided to…lift the suspension of fee payments to St Patrick’s in respect of all students the college identified as actively participating in their studies”.
The spokesman also said that the college would be allowed to recruit new students for the remainder of 2014-15, “provided that Pearson, as the relevant awarding body, is willing to permit the registration of new students for these courses”.
The college’s visa sponsor licence was initially suspended in February.
A Home Office spokeswoman said: “St Patrick’s International College had its sponsor licence revoked on 20 April. We continually monitor all sponsors on the register, and where we find evidence that they are not fulfilling their compliance duties, we will take action.”