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Last Updated: Tuesday, 8 June, 2004, 10:57 GMT 11:57 UK
College trading standards probe
By Sean Coughlan
BBC News Online education staff

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The college website quotes courses costing 5,900
A London college has been reported to trading standards officers by the Department for Education and Skills.

The department says that the London College of Technology and Business has no legal right to offer degree courses.

The college has also angered the University of East London (UEL) - by appearing to have used material from the university website.

The university is referring the website to its lawyers - but the college says it is a legitimate institution.

And the London College of Technology and Business says it is a "coincidence" that pages on its website are identically worded to other university websites.

The website of the Ilford-based college presents a range of undergraduate and postgraduate courses - and quotes fees of up to 5,900.

'Offence'

A Department for Education and Skills spokesperson says that this college is not authorised to issue degrees.

"If it claims to do so then it has committed an offence," said the DfES spokesperson. And the department says that it has notified trading standards officials in the London Borough of Redbridge.

It is illegal for a non-accredited higher education institution to offer UK degrees - and the Home Office has already announced plans to crackdown on "bogus" colleges.

But a college spokesperson, who declined to give a name, said that none of these degree courses advertised were actually available - and that the website was intended only to gauge interest from potential students.

The college said that it was in the process of applying for accreditation.

The London College of Technology and Business also defended the contents of its website - which include pages that are identical to pages on the University of East London website.

This includes payment information on the college website - with phone numbers, credit card hotlines, bank account numbers and sort codes which, when contacted, turn out to be for the University of East London.

'Coincidence'

A description of the college's aims and values is also identical to a statement on the website of the Harvard Business School in the United States.

The London College of Technology and Business says that this similarity is a "coincidence".

The college's downloadable prospectus also contains entry requirements that seem to be based on education authorities in Canada, rather than the UK.

The college gives an address in Cranbrook Road, Ilford. Although at a different number, this same road was the postal address of another controversial college website.

Britain College's website, which was subsequently almost entirely taken down, had angered a bona fide US university by appearing to claim that it was authorising Britain College's degrees.

BBC News Online had received e-mails from overseas readers, considering studying in the UK, who were concerned about how they could determine which institutions were legitimate.

Unregulated

And an organisation for students studying overseas says there is too little regulation over setting up a college in the UK - and that there needs to be a mandatory accreditation system.

Clive Saville, chief executive of UKCOSA - the Council for International Education, says that legitimate private colleges are suffering because of a lack of regulation - and that this is threatening the education export market.

He says that there should be a requirement for colleges to register and to face inspections - rather than the present system in which there are no restrictions on what is meant by a term such as "college".

The Home Office has already indicated that it wants to stop bogus colleges - not for educational reasons, but because of fears over their mis-use in obtaining student visas.

Unless colleges are on an approved list, from next year their courses will not be valid for students seeking a UK visa.

The Department for Education and Skills is expected to make further announcements about setting up such an approved list of colleges.

  • Transport for London is investigating whether the London College of Technology and Business should be on its list of institutions whose students are entitled to travel discounts.




  • SEE ALSO:
    Fake college degrees warning
    12 May 04  |  Education


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