Documentary exposes how private colleges exploited student loans system for profit
PROFITEERING universities were shoved under the spotlight yesterday following Panorama’s exposé of private institutions allegedly recruiting bogus students to fraudulently secure loans.
The BBC programme, aired last night, lifted the lid on “shady agents” working with profit-making colleges to enrol “students” who then claim loans they are not entitled to.
An undercover investigator posed as a potential student at the private institution Greenwich School of Management (GSM).
He secretly filmed freelance recruitment agent Charles Logan, who works from an office at the college and gets commission for every person he enrols.
Mr Logan told the reporter: “There’s a guy here who’s never been to a class. He’s never done an assignment in his life, but he’s used the [student loan] money to buy two restaurants.
“And he graduated with honours with a degree in law last year.”
GSM and its students collectively receive around £66 million a year in maintenance and tuition fee loans. According to the BBC, the college gets £6,000 per student each year in tuition fees.
It said that Mr Logan is paid around 10 per cent in commission — £600 per student.
He tells the BBC journalist that a contact he uses has “a team” of writers who will write assignments for a fee.
The reporter bought two assignments from Mr Logan’s contact for £526 and got “great marks.”
Mr Logan’s lawyers told the BBC he “emphatically denies” acting fraudulently.
Plymouth University, which has an academic partnership agreement with GSM, said it was launching a “full and independent investigation” following the revelations.
GSM London told the BBC in a statement: “If the allegations are true, [the agent’s] actions are totally unacceptable.
“GSM London has suspended its contract with him … and is conducting an urgent investigation, involving external experts.”
University and Colleges Union general secretary Sally Hunt warned that the BBC programme was just the latest exposé into private universities profiting from public funds.
She called for a “powerful regulator” to be set up to deal with the “extra risk they pose.”
Ms Hunt referred to a Guardian report in 2014 on the London School of Science and Technology. It said that the institution employed street recruiters, did not screen applicants for ability and that a former lecturer claimed that it was locally referred to as the “cashpoint” because it was a quick way for students and the school to get money.
“The British taxpayer is being hoodwinked,” the lecturer is reported to have said.