Dear Editor, It is a pity that your report on 62 Midlands colleges being banned from issuing visas (Post, September 6) is seen only in the context of visa abuse or immigration abuse.
Far more worrying is the wider abuse of the term “college.”
Indeed, it would have been better if your sub-editor had used inverted commas in the headlines.
My old friend, Khalid Mahmood MP, has fallen into that trap when he talks of “these institutions have hundreds, thousands of students each...”
How does he know? I suspect he is looking at it from his own experience of what a real college is.
One reason why the UK Borders Agency should name the 62 is so that they can be properly investigated. How many of them will turn out to be short lettings on offices and shops with a “staff” of unqualified or semi-qualified administrators, rather than proper teachers?
The changes made over the last 30 years have allowed almost anybody to set him/herself/themselves up as a “college” and bid for grants from public funds.
Remember how, only a few years ago, one of Birmingham’s most prestigious higher education colleges allowed its reputation to be sullied by sub-contracting some of its courses to “colleges” which existed sometimes solely on headed notepaper (such as I can easily simulate on my computer).
None of them were proper colleges and some had no actual students, but claimed grants on student enrolments which existed only on paper.
The cash nexus around higher education encouraged senior staff at London Metropolitan University recently to prize recruitment over educational rigour.
That kind of activity must be condemned, but it should not be taken as a general picture of what is happening in real colleges and universities in this country.
Some newspapers, of course, have their own agendas and have leapt on the LMU case to attack further and higher education institutions at large and foreign students in particular.
Britain has a well-earned reputation for educating young people from abroad, who go home with great respect for this country and help spread the influence of the English language and our culture, science and invention, and industry.
We hear too much about “bad apples,” but it is worth safeguarding the healthy fruit in the barrel.
David Spilsbury, via email