Members of the House of Commons Home Affairs Select Committee have criticised the Home Office for ignoring warnings about sham colleges selling places on bogus courses to economic migrants posing as students.
In March, the Home Office announced it had screened out almost a quarter of foreign student applications from independent schools, colleges and universities.
Tough new rules to crack down on bogus colleges mean institutions now have to
register with the UK Border Agency before they are allowed to sponsor
international students under Tier 4 of Britain's new points-based immigration
Each institution is assessed or visited by UK Border Agency
officers as part of the vetting process.
However, the Home Affairs Select Committee attacked the Agency's policy of giving private colleges advance notice of inspection visits.
Last year, Lord Tomlinson, chairman of the Association of Independent Higher Education Providers, said bogus colleges were providing an "easy vehicle" for illegal immigration, but an official backlash was damaging the legitimate private higher education sector and hampering government objectives.
"The good suffer with the bad. It encourages entry-clearance officers overseas to think that it is their job to stop people coming to the private sector," he said.
"It creates a siege mentality in some of the entry-clearance officers who have two pressures on them. On one hand, you have things such as the Prime Minister's Initiative saying, 'let's get as many people as possible into the welcoming environment of UK education', and, on the other, the Daily Mail-led campaign about illegal immigration."
Foreign students play a big role in the UK's cultural and economic wealth and help make the country's education sector one of the finest in the world. In 2008, tuition fees from international students totalled over £2.5 billion.
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