Student loans fraud exposed by Panorama

The chairwoman of Parliament’s spending watchdog needs a police probe after the BBC’s Panorama uncovered proof of fraud within the scholar mortgage system.

One training agent was secretly filmed providing to get bogus college students admitted right into a government-approved personal faculty for a £200 payment.

This was to permit the bogus college students to fraudulently declare scholar loans.

Then for £1,500 a yr, the agent provided to faux attendance data and to supply all their coursework.

Public Accounts Committee chairwoman Meg Hillier stated: “There may be prison fraud occurring from what you’ve got proven me. It must be referred to the police.”

‘Horrible individuals exploiting training system’

BBC Panorama spent 10 months investigating dishonest training brokers and bogus college students who’re committing frauds that concentrate on personal schools – also referred to as various suppliers – which provide programs permitted for scholar loans.

Brokers had been secretly filmed supplying faux paperwork, together with a qualification certificates to a BBC undercover researcher posing as a bogus scholar, who needed to cheat their manner on to programs and apply for scholar loans.

The Nationwide Union of College students has additionally referred to as for an inquiry into the abuses uncovered by Panorama.

“These are horrible people who find themselves exploiting our training system,” stated NUS President Shakira Martin. “The coed finance system is finally damaged.”

About £400m-a-year is obtained by 112 personal schools via the coed mortgage system. The federal government is eager to develop the sector as a part of reforms designed to make diploma and diploma programs extra accessible to individuals who would possibly in any other case discover it tough to enter larger training.

College students on government-approved programs at personal schools in England, Wales and Northern Eire are entitled to – relying on circumstances – £11,000 in upkeep loans to cowl dwelling bills and as much as £6,000 in tuition payment loans, paid direct to schools.

This yr whole scholar mortgage debt, from universities and personal schools, topped £100bn.

‘You simply have to come back and sit like a dummy’

Performing on a tip-off, Panorama approached Imran Saeed Sheikh, an agent and fraudster who owns a series of barber outlets in east London.

Mr Sheikh stated that for a £200 payment he might get Panorama’s undercover college students on to a two-year Greater Nationwide Diploma (HND) enterprise course, at Grafton Faculty in central London, so they might get scholar loans.

He added that when a bogus scholar was admitted he might present all the things they would want to remain on their course, in return for an annual reduce of their mortgage cash. “When your first instalment comes we take £1,500,” he stated. “With this we maintain your attendance for the entire yr, get your eight assignments accomplished.”

He added: “We now have a relationship with the school. The cash you give us with that, we’ll make the system work inside.”

One of many BBC’s undercover college students stated they’d left college at 16 and so lacked the mandatory to fulfill entry standards for the course. For £600, Imran and his assistant Raza Abbas Sheikh provided them with a backdated certificates for a course they’d not studied, which was equal to A-Ranges.

The certificates apparently got here from an awarding physique based mostly in the identical constructing as Grafton Faculty. Imran Sheikh claimed he bought it from Asif Khawaja, Grafton’s head of operations.

Like his different declare about inside assist, the BBC doesn’t know if he’s telling the reality.

On the energy of the certificates, Panorama’s undercover scholar was accepted on to the course, for which Grafton Faculty costs £6,000 a yr. Inside days they obtained the primary £three,600 instalment of their scholar mortgage cash.

Imran Sheikh, who was on the faculty on the undercover scholar’s induction day, instructed them they’d barely must attend their course.

“Come at round 10.00, take two hours off out of your job, mark your attendance, tick mark your title, go away after two hours,” he stated.

“You simply sit like a dummy and maintain nodding alongside. When the school offers you assignments, you do not have to do them. These go on to our agent in Pakistan. He will get individuals to do them.”

Neither Imran Sheikh nor his assistant responded when approached by the BBC for remark.

Each the awarding physique and Grafton Faculty stated they’re unaware of any fraudulent actions. Asif Khawaja stated he completely denies any involvement.

The course that the BBC’s undercover scholar was enrolled on at Grafton Faculty is about and validated by Pearson, one of many world’s greatest training firms.

In an announcement, Pearson stated it takes all allegations of malpractice extraordinarily significantly. It stated that it had positioned an instantaneous block on Grafton, which implies that the school will be unable to register or certificates college students for Pearson whereas an investigation is carried out.

The Open College, which has lately begun providing diploma programs in partnership with Grafton, stated it was searching for “pressing clarification” from the school. Any partnership discovered to not be assembly its expectations on requirements and behavior could be ended with instant impact it added.

Evaluation by training editor Branwen Jeffreys

What’s a level from a UK college price?

When you’re a scholar borrowing tuition charges and dwelling prices, it is meant to be the proof of your onerous work to take to employers.

If it is doable to purchase a dodgy qualification to get on to a course, or pay another person to do the work, the minimal worth of a British diploma is in danger.

BBC Panorama’s investigation comes at a time of large change. The federal government is taking a look at whether or not new companies might supply levels from day one on a probationary foundation, which might appeal to curiosity from firms working elsewhere on the earth.

The prize, insist ministers, is the prospect of recent considering, extra quick diploma programs, higher worth for cash. The jeopardy is the danger of abuse of a taxpayer backed scholar finance system.

‘It will not intrude together with your work’

Panorama additionally filmed undercover inside one of many UK’s largest various suppliers, the Greenwich College of Administration – also referred to as GSM London – which has greater than four,000 college students at its Greenwich campus.

Most GSM college students are recruited by the school itself, the remaining come from freelance recruiters.

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An undercover scholar secretly filmed a sequence of conferences with one freelance, Charles Logan, who has a contract with GSM to recruit college students. The BBC understands Mr Logan receives roughly £600 for each scholar he helps to enrol, which is 10% of the tutoring charges paid to GSM.

After the undercover scholar was admitted on to a three-year honours course in enterprise administration, Mr Logan put him in contact with somebody who he stated might do his degree-level assignments for him.

The coed subsequently purchased two assignments for £526 and a 3rd from one other on-line firm. He submitted them as his personal work. The deception was not detected and the bought assignments had been awarded good marks by GSM.

These outcomes had been ratified by Plymouth College which validates and awards levels studied at GSM. The college instructed Panorama that GSM is accountable for scholar admissions and attendance.

It says it has “long-standing and sturdy educational laws and processes to stop educational dishonesty and make sure the high quality of its levels”.

GSM instructed Panorama that it has suspended its contract with Mr Logan and introduced in exterior consultants to research. It stated if the allegations in opposition to Mr Logan are true, his actions are “completely unacceptable”.

Charles Logan’s lawyer instructed the BBC that he “emphatically denies appearing fraudulently, both for revenue or to help college students in fraudulently claiming scholar finance.”

The Division for Training stated it takes allegations of fraud and malpractice extraordinarily significantly and was grateful to Panorama for bringing these instances to its consideration. “The usage of faux or plagiarised assignments is totally unacceptable.

“It not solely threatens to undermine the fame of our world-class larger training sector, but in addition devalues the onerous work of those that do not cheat,” it added.

Ms Hillier stated the personal faculty sector had expanded quickly and the federal government had not created a regulatory system that was match for function.

“It is bought to crack down on what’s occurred now, actually examine it,” she stated.

“But it surely additionally has bought to have a system that stops these chancers piling in and making a living from the taxpayer.”

The High quality Assurance Company stated the Greater Training and Analysis Act, handed earlier this yr, would create a robust new regulator for larger training in England referred to as the Workplace for College students.

It stated: “QAA suggested the Authorities on elements of this Act and supported the inclusion of essential new powers of search and entry for the Workplace for College students. The absence of those powers has made tackling fraud a problem for all events.”

You possibly can see extra on this story on Panorama, Student Loan Scandal on BBC One at 7.30pm on Monday 13th November and afterwards on iPlayer.

Revealed at Mon, 13 Nov 2017 18:05:37 +0000