Tens of thousands of foreign students may have entered the UK to study at bogus colleges, MPs believe, before the system of accreditation was tightened up this year.
One student, who wishes to remain anonymous, told BBC News how an offer to study for a degree in the UK turned out to be a scam.
I am an Indian citizen and came to the UK to study in 2005 at a college based in the heart of London.
Earlier that year I received an email from a person who claimed that my CV had been selected for a Masters in Business Administration (MBA) course in London.
I initially ignored it, but the prospect of a foreign education was just too tempting.
I contacted the man and secured admission to a UK college for the MBA.
The costs were much lower than for a normal UK college or university, and since I didn’t want to put too much financial strain on my parents, I decided it would be a good option.
I still needed a bank loan though and borrowed about £6,000 from a bank in India, which I had to start paying back immediately after the year-long course.
I got my student visa sorted and came to the UK with a dream of getting my postgraduate degree.
I visited the college to get the initial stuff sorted and to obtain timetables for the lectures.
I found the building to be quite small for a “college” building.
Lectures started and I realised that the majority of the students, say about 85%, were Indian.
In the next few weeks, I found their method of education weird.
No course materials were provided and the university to which the college claimed to be affiliated was “work in progress”.
The principal was a Sri Lankan national and so were most of the teachers.
Nothing about this college was up to the mark of an education institution and I knew it was all a sham.
All the students knew they had been tricked. But we were too ashamed to go back to India.
I was completely shattered, but I knew I couldn’t tell my parents.
Some students started doing part-time jobs to survive and in the hope that they could save enough for a proper college degree in the UK.
I joined them.
On a student visa you can only do 20 hours paid work a week – a proper graduate-level job was out of the question.
With a first-class graduate degree from India, I found myself working behind tills and serving burgers.
My self-confidence had taken a huge step back. I knew people in all jobs should be treated equally, but I had not slogged for four years in India to get a first-class degree and serve burgers in London.
Months passed by and I decided I had to get out of this, so I decided to gain some work experience.
It cost about £500 to gain an internship in a good company – for unpaid work.
I took my first step back towards the life I deserved and secured an internship with a renowned company based in central London.
I still needed money to survive, so I also took a job working nights with Royal Mail.
My employers were ok about it, and understood I had to earn money to live.
I could go home and sleep for a few hours before my night shift. I started taking pills which helped me stay awake.
Being in this position was dangerous, when I think about it – but I knew I would survive somehow.
Three months of work experience put me in a better place to find a job and I did eventually.
Today I am working in a good job I like with my head high.
I have put this experience behind me.
Many of the migrants we see working in fast food places and distributing free papers are students like me who were duped and are now trying somehow to survive.
They could be engineers, IT professionals or accountants in their home country. But these fake colleges have made them work in blue collar jobs in the UK.
I think the Home Office is blind and does not see through these scam colleges.
I have since found out, through articles in the Indian press, that these agents for bogus colleges can take 40% of the course fees themselves.
Obviously no UK university would pay this to an agent.
I survived this whole scam, but I hate these tricksters. Hate does not even encompass my feelings for them.
The college referred to in this article was never accredited to recruit students from outside the EU. The BBC has seen evidence that it was recruiting students from India until at least 2006.
Source : bbc