The Times have been running an investigation this week into fraudsters who set up a network of fake colleges which helped thousands of Pakistani nationals enter Britain on student visas.
The students at 11 bogus colleges included eight of the 10 suspects arrested last month in a terror probe in northwest England, the newspaper said.
One college sold hundreds of places to men from Pakistan’s North West Frontier Province, where fighting is raging between Taliban militants and the Pakistani army.
The three Pakistani businessmen operating the scam charged at least 1,000 pounds for admission places after creating a fictional university to issue degrees, the Times said.
One of the businessmen has been linked to two murders in Pakistan, it said, adding that the man was arrested on Wednesday, after the Times gave the Home Office a dossier implicating two of the colleges.
The Times said the scam exploited lax controls on student visas in Britain which are being tightened in the wake of the Pakistanis’ terror probe arrests last month.
Prime Minister Gordon Brown said the arrests were linked to a “major terrorist plot.” But none of the men were eventually charged with a criminal offence, but they face deportation.
The newspaper said eight of the suspects enrolled for 11 months at the Manchester College of Professional Studies, which issued hundreds of diplomas and degrees and stated that students had impeccable attendance records.
In reality, the college, set up in 2006, was a “front that provided cover for students to do whatever they wanted in Britain,” the Times said.
Its founders claimed it was linked to “Greenford University” and “Blackpool University” in Dublin. Neither university exists.
Nevertheless the ‘universities’ accredited the Manchester college with an array of undergraduate and postgraduate courses which the small three-classroom college was incapable of teaching, the Times said.
At one point, the Manchester college had 1,797 students on its books.
Immigration Minister Phil Woolas told the Times that the information it had provided “has been passed on to the UK Border Agency, which is investigating.”
Immigration Matters Comment
None of the Pakistani terror suspects have yet been charged with any offence, but face deportation.
International students are worth £8 billion to the UK economy and many universities would not survive without them. The vast majority of international colleges and educational providers are running legitimate courses and deplore these scams.
Under Tier 4 of the Points Based System, colleges and universities recruiting overseas students must go through a rigorous licensing process in order to be granted a sponsors licence by the UK Border Agency.
As part of the new requirements, educational providers are now inspected by accreditation bodies such as ASIC, BAC and the British Council, who go through everything with a fine tooth comb, before the UK Border carries out its own checks.
One NVQ provider, Majestic College, recently received its Sponsors Licence from the UK Border Agency after months of work and several inspection visits.
According to Centre Manager Cynthia Barker the process took nine months and cost thousands of pounds, which perhaps explains why only 1540 (out of 15,000) international colleges have so far appeared on the sponsors register.
If you need any immigration advice or help with Sponsorship or Work Permits, Visa or an appeal against a refusal please email: