English UK, the association for 450 language colleges, seeks apology saying remark implied institutions were fronts for illegal immigration.
The Home Office has been threatened with legal action amid claims it mistakenly implied that 22 colleges were bogus or sub-standard.
English UK, an association representing more than 450 language colleges, said the alleged error could bankrupt the institutions. Its lawyers are demanding senior Home Office officials issue an immediate apology and retraction.
Last week, the Home Office said scores of colleges had lost their right to recruit overseas students because they could not meet the standards of a new inspection regime or had not applied to be on a compulsory register of institutions authorised to enrol overseas students.
Damian Green, the immigration minister, warned that “widespread abuse of the student visa system has gone on for too long”. Too many students had come to the UK to find paid work and bring over their family, rather than to study, he said.
English UK said its colleges had not signed up for the register because their courses lasted less than a year. Only institutions that offer courses that last a year or more have to be on the register.
The association said institutions had decided not to voluntarily apply to be on the register because it would have been expensive.
Tony Millns, chief executive of English UK, said the Home Office had “allowed it to be inferred that all the colleges on its list were bogus, fronts for illegal immigration, or of poor educational quality”.
“This has been enormously damaging to the reputation of perfectly legitimate and high-quality businesses,” he said.
A letter sent by English UK’s lawyers to the Home Office states the government published information that was “untrue, defamatory and gravely damaging to [colleges’] goodwill and reputations”.
“The potential damage is potentially substantial, irreparable and unquantifiable,” it said.
The Home Office wants to curb overseas student numbers to reduce total net migration to Britain by 230,000 between now and 2015. A spokesman for the UK Border Agency said senior officials would not be making an apology or retracting their statement. Ministers had made it clear that colleges not on the register were not necessarily those with poor educational standards, he said.
“Some simply failed to submit an application to demonstrate they meet our new higher standards,” he said. “Widespread abuse of the student visa system has gone on for too long which is why we’ve made changes to ensure only first-class education providers should be given licences to sponsor international students.” Source: The Guardian.
Last week Immigration Matters said that the reason that 400 private college owners have not applied for Highly Trusted status is that many have simply decided that ‘enough is enough’ following stringent new Tier 4 visa rules, implemented on 4 July, which basically means that any new international students studying at a private college (as opposed to a government publicly funded institution) can no longer work or sponsor dependants.
Under the new rules, students studying at government colleges and UK universities will be allowed to work and sponsor dependants putting the private sector at what college owners see as an unfair disadvantage.
The combination of new UK Border Agency ‘Highly Trusted Sponsor’ regulations introduced this year and the new Tier 4 student visa rules, has increased costs whilst destroying the market for private education providers – hence the 400 closing their doors or simply opting out of the new Highly Trusted regime.