So after what transpires to be 27 years of no regulation for private education, the UK government has finally realised that a lack of regulation and “free market” principles are not necessarily in the best interests of the education industry. Education is such a high-stake and high-worth investment, and it is nothing short of an outrage if a student pays money in good faith, only to discover that their selected institution overseas is bogus, offering poor quality education and minimal welfare, in return for a significant investment on the student’s part.
This is one of the problems with the British market, according to Tony Millns, Chief Executive of English UK, who gave evidence earlier this year before a Home Affairs Committee enquiry into bogus colleges. He stated that it was in 1982 under the Thatcher government when a previous accreditation scheme for private colleges was dropped. Another danger and reality, in fact is the incidences of “visa factories” being set up, offering education as a front for a way for would-be migrants to enter the country, and with no intention to teach or educate.
The UK, of course, is toughening up its rules with its new accreditation-linked visa system, in part because the student pathway was exposed as a possible route into the country for potential terrorists, and in part because of concerns over a deluge of economic migrants. In the USA, the Sevis scheme, which records personal data for all international students on entry, was likewise introduced in the aftermath of 9/11 because of terrorism concerns.
However, certainly the bigger problems with unregulated schools and colleges are migrants seeking fraudulent ways of entering the country and quality misrepresentation, which is more damaging for a country’s reputation internationally than its volume of migrants, I would argue. This month, we hear about two school closures, which in one case left students out of pocket and stranded overseas.
It is still currently possible for non-visa nationals (Europeans) in the UK to enrol at an unaccredited or unregulated private school, and this danger also faces international students in the USA and Canada three of the largest English language teaching markets in the world. For this reason, voluntary accreditation schemes have always played an important role in our industry .
Perhaps it is no surprise that there seems to be good news coming out of Australasia at the moment. New Zealand and Australia have robust compulsory accreditation and tuition assurance schemes in place that cover all institutions, regardless of any quality club membership.