Two Brighton and Hove language schools have today (Tuesday 8 November) demanded an apology from the government after they were included on a list of “banned colleges”.
A third language school, Regency College in Western Road, Hove, has closed since the list came out.
The list contained the names of 66 out of 474 “banned colleges” – that is, colleges banned from bringing international students into Britain.
The Border Agency said that the “banned colleges” had licences revoked, could not sponsor any new students or had been banned after an investigation.
English UK, the trade body for language schools, said that at least 22 of its 450 fully accredited language centres featured among the 66 “banned colleges”.
It said that the 22 language schools had decided to resign voluntarily from the register of sponsors.
Some quit because it was uneconomic after visa rule changes had pushed up inspection costs fivefold, others because they no longer needed to be on the register.
The trade body said: “English UK members have instructed lawyers to demand a full retraction and apology for wrongly including them on a list of colleges ‘banned’ from bringing international students into the UK.
“They meet high inspection standards, can still legitimately teach certain groups of international students and have not in any sense been banned.”
Tony Mills, English UK’s chief executive, said: “We are co-ordinating action over the way in which the Home Office allowed it to be inferred that all the colleges on that list were bogus, fronts for illegal immigration or of poor educational quality.
“This has been enormously damaging to the reputation of perfectly legitimate and high-quality businesses.
“We and our hard-working, law-abiding members are absolutely furious about this.”
English UK said that it was necessary to be on the register of sponsors only to bring in points-based visa students on longer-term courses, such as a university degree.
Summer schools, centres specialising in English courses of up to 11 months and those who take only students from the EU did not need to be points-based sponsors.
Some centres which did take small numbers of points-based visa students made the decision to withdraw from this market in September.
With inspection costs rising sharply, many smaller businesses that provide education of an exceptionally high quality could simply not afford to remain on the register.
Regency College, which has closed, had been removed from the register of sponsors.
English UK said that 140 students were signed up to courses at the school at the time it closed.
The 140 students would be able to continue their studies with other British Council accredited centres in the area.
They would not have to meet the costs of the new courses as they will be paid for by the Student Emergency Support Fund which English UK operates.
Regency College directors Toby Lindsay and Helen Murphy said: “The English language teaching market has become progressively difficult to trade in due to the restrictions on student visas.”