Student Loan Scandal Panorama


Student Loan Scandal

Reporter Richard Watson investigates education agents recruiting bogus students to private colleges so they can claim loans they are not entitled to.


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Transcript


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Tonight the fraudsters helping bogus

students rip off student loans.

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They're targeting private colleged,

backed by the Government to open up

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higher education to all.

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For a cut of student's loan or cash,

fraudsters can fix everything.

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They will even help fake your course

work.

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At a time when student debt has

topped £100 billion, student scams

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are costing us millions.

From the

evidence you're shown me there is

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clear fraud going on and it needs to

be referred to the police.

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It is a proud day in many people's

lives - graduating from university.

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The Government is keen to help more

of us experience this. It is backing

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private colleges, called alternative

providers, to offer degrees and

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diplomas to people who might

otherwise not are the chance to get

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a higher education.

Participation is

very important. It is good that more

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young people are able to access

higher education and particularly

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young people from disadvantaged

backgrounds.

In England, Wales and

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Northern Ireland, these private

colleges like universities are paid

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for by taxpayer-funded student

loans. Students at private colleges

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can get up to £17,000 a year -

eleven to cover living expenses and

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six for tuition. It estimated that

three quarters of graduates may

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never pay back their student loans

in full. There are 112 private

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colleges and as they enrol more

students, that is leaving them

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vulnerable to fraud.

Over £400

million a year is going to support

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alternative higher education

providers. It is vital we track that

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is being spent as it should be.

Our

investigation starts in Greenwich,

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London at the Greenwich School of

Management. It has expanded and now

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has more than 4,000 students. A

whistle blower told us that an agent

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who recruits on college premise is

recruiting bogus students who are

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only interested in the money.

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His name is Charles Logan. We sent

in two undercover students.

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Sure enough we find him up stairs,

near the library.

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Our student has won BTEC, the

equivalent of A-levels. Enough to

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get a place. Logan gives him

application for a three year honours

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degree course in business

management.

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Our student says he is working

full-time. Logan tells him a student

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loan can be a nice little earner on

top.

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Logan, who has a contract with the

college, fills in our undercover

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student's loan application. His

admission to the course will be

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processed by GSM. Most GSM students

are recruited by the college itself.

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The rest come from free lance

recruiters. We have been told by a

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whistle blower than Logan is GSM's

No 1 recruiter and gets a commission

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of around £#6 00 for every student

he enrols and the college gets

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£6,000 in tuition fees per student

more year. More students, more

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money. Our bogus student, what does

he get? £5,300 a year for living

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expenses. Although some get around

£11,000. It is paid by for the

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Goth's eo' - Government's Student

Loans Company. We showed our study

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to Lord Storey.

The agent gets paid

for each person he recruits. The

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college gets public money. The

student gets student loan money and

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the Government can say, ticking the

box, we have disadvantaged people

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doing higher education.

We will find

out later how our undercover student

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gets on.

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Our next dodgy recruiter is based in

east London.

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Amir Raja runs this company: this

time our undercover student who we

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send in with a friend says she left

school at 16 in India, with the

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equivalent of GCSEs. Raja says there

are courses she can apply for.

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The course is for business

management.

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Raja said she will need to show some

professional experience. But she has

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already told him that she has been

working cash in hand in a beauty

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salon. Not a problem, Raja takes a

red pen to her CV.

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To help with this deception he

writes a fake reference letter

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saying she has been employed by his

company as a marketing executive for

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several years. He says it was sent

with her application to the the

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Central London Campus of Roehampton

University, which is run by a

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private company called QA higher

education. Later after an interview

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at which Roehampton said she did

well and her basic English test, she

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is accepted.

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Raja's fee for helping her cheat her

way on to a degree course and apply

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for loan - £200, paid in cash.

If is

were row Hamilton University I would

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be concerned. We boast we have the

best university sector in the word,

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but if these practices are going on,

that undermines our university

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sector.

We withdrew our undercover

student from the course before her

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loan application process was

completed. Roehampton University

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said it is disappointed an agent may

have acted inappropriately and said

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partnerships are continually audited

and reviewed and if procedures are

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not followed it takes immediate

action. QC higher education said it

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has suspended the agent pending an

investigation. Raja's company denies

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any wrong doing and say a

professional reference letter was

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sent in error and management

policies have been reviewed.

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Back at the Greenwich School of

Management, our undercover student

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has degree-level assignments to do.

Together with a friend, he pays

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Charles Logan another visit.

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Logan knows just the man to help

other undercover student with her

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course work.

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Logan, the Mr Fix It for bogus

students tells us how it works.

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He almost make makes it sound

legitimate.

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Logan gives us the number for his

talented friend, he is called Mike

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and runs a company called

Grammarholic. We give him a call. Is

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that Mike. I was given your number

by Charles at GSM.

Send me an e-mail

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and I will look at it.

We ordered

two assignments from Mike and

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another online. Here they are.

Mike's look impressive. One cost

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£356. The other £170.

I'm completely

disappointed that these people are

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exploiting students. It totally de

legitimises the work that students

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do, who worked hard for their

degrees.

There is 50,000 students

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are cheating by using essay mills to

write their essays. I feel feel they

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should be banned. Grammarholics say

they don't condone fraud and only

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provide essays as guides and their

term and conditions say students

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should not submit writers' work as

their own, although they have heard

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that some do.

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Later, GSM passed our undercover

student with flying colours, without

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him doing a stroke of work.

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We tell Charles Logan the good news.

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GSM says if the allegations are

true, his actions are totally

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unacceptable. It suspended its

contract with him and brought in

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external experts to investigate. It

says if its systems have been open

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to abuse it will take all

appropriate steps to strengthen

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them. Logan himself says he

emphatically denies acting

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fraudulently. Either for profit or

to assist students in fraud lntly

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claiming student finance.

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Most private colleges do not award

their own degrees so work in

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partnership with universities. GSM

pays Plymouth University to approve

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the coursework of students and

ratify their final marks. Plymouth

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University confirmed our undercover

student's marks and did not detect

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he had cheated.

If they are going to

license out their degree awarding

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status, they need to be very careful

and I think this will send warning

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signals right round the university

sector to make sure that they are

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really getting in there, as well as

government regulation, and looking

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at the quality of work.

Plymouth University says GSM is

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responsible for student admissions

and attendance and is launching its

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own ball and independent

investigation. It says it has...

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A Barbers shop in Ilford, East

London. The unlikely starting point

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for our final investigation into

student loan fraudsters.

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The man who runs the shop is called

Imran and we have been told he is up

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to his neck in fraud. Our undercover

student meets him in his Mercedes.

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He offers to get a college place any

two-year Higher National Diploma,

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HND course, but it will cost.

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But Imran has lots more to offer.

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As well as guaranteeing admission

for £200, he says once we got in, he

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can fake our attendance and supply

all the academic assignments we

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need. The cost, £1500 a year, paid

out of our student loan money.

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So how does Imran do it?

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This is Grafton College, on Oxford

Street. It is fully approved by the

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Government was student loans and has

just started offering degrees in

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partnership with the Open

University. We decided to test

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Imran's claims using two undercover

students. One says she is working on

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cash in hand and she is keen to get

some student loan money. He says he

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will meet us at the college.

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When we get there, we find he has

sent his assistant, Raza, instead.

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We tell him our student left school

at 16 so does not have the

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qualifications to get on the course.

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One solution is to make our

undercover student look like she has

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got more qualifications than she

actually has. Imran and Raza will

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get her a certificate to say she has

the equivalent of A-levels and that

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will earn them even more money.

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So £600 for a dodgy certificate.

Will we get away with it?

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With the agent's promise of a real

certificate fraudulently made out in

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our undercover student's name, a

member of college staff later fills

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out a loan application. He seems to

know the agents.

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Still in the college, our undercover

students pay Raza a £300 deposit for

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the dodgy certificate.

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A few days later, we paid the

remaining £300 to his boss, the man

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with the Mercedes, Imran. It is now

day one of our undercover student's

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HND in Business Management. Grafton

College teaches courses supplied by

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Pearson, one of the UK's biggest

agencies.

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Our undercover and her fellow

students are told they must attend

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lectures.

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The dodgy recruiters have a solution

for that as well. They downstairs.

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Imran says he will fix it so she

barely has to attend.

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After attending just one lecture,

our undercover student gets paid

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£3600, the first instalment of her

annual maintenance loan to cover

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living expenses of £11,000 a year.

And two weeks later, Grafton College

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is paid the first £1500 instalment

of its £6,000 a year tuition fee.

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Time to pay dodgy recruiter Imran,

who made it all happen. We are back

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in his Mercedes. A nice little

earner at the taxpayers' expense. In

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total, we paid Imran £2300, leaving

our undercover student with 8700

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from her £11,000 maintenance loan.

And with a shiny new certificate, it

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all looks legitimate.

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The logo on the certificate says

AVA, that is now the British

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awarding Association, a government

approved company based, wait for

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it... On the floor above Grafton

College. Imran says he got it from

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Asif Khawaja, head of operations at

Grafton. Here they are together at

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the college earlier.

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Like all his claims about inside

help, we don't know if he is telling

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the truth, but if he is, it is

shocking. It looks like a genuine

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certificate and it is a genuine

certificate.

No, it is a genuine

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certificate but that has been

arrived at by massive cheating and

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falsifying information. And it is

wrong, absolutely wrong.

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We now know that Asif Khawaja's

brother, Sarwar, owns the place

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whether certificate came from with

the wife of Grafton's Director. When

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we asked them about it, they said

they were unaware of any alleged

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fraudulent activities taking place

and the family relationships cannot

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be used to somehow implicate them in

alleged fraud. Asif Khawaja says he

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absolutely denies any involvement.

The college says bold Imran on the

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promises from time from time to

time, they are not authorised to act

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as agents. -- the college says

although Raza and Imran. How much to

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the agents get from the student loan

scams? Imran says he has been doing

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it for years at several colleges and

many clients restaurant workers and

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taxi drivers.

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A must for words. These are corrupt

educational practices, they have

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falsified information, they have

broken the law, it is just mind

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blowing. I am lost for words, quite

honestly.

It seems to me pretty

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apparent there is criminal fraud

going on. From what you have shown

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me, and it needs to be referred to

the police.

Neither Raza or Imran

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have responded to our allegations.

Macro -- Pearson says it has put an

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immediate block on Grafton College

which means it will not be able to

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register or certificated any further

students for Pearson qualifications

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until the investigations are

complete. The Open University

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says...

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It is expanding fast and the

Government did not set up a

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regulatory system that for purpose.

There has to be a crackdown, really

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investigate it and sending the

auditors, but it also has to have a

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system that stops the strands are

spiralling in and making money from

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the taxpayer.

The Government's

regulator, the quality assurance

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agency, was concerned about student

admissions at Grafton two years ago,

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but this summer, at the same time we

were investigating, they said

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Grafton was improving.

You went in June 2017 and said the

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college was making exceptional

progress, how on Earth cannot be

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true?

We are responsible for

assessing the quality of the

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education.

You are not worried about

fraud?

Let me be absolutely clear,

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Ford of any kind is absolutely

unacceptable and we have tools to

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investigate fraud. On several

occasions, we have investigated

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collars that colleges, sometimes in

partnership with other agencies.

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There has been a significant drop in

the number of money -- in the amount

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of money pay the ineligible students

over the last four years.

But at a

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time when students that has topped

£100 billion, our investigation

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shows how the student loan system is

still wide open to fraud.

The

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funding system is ultimately broken.

These are horrible people that are

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exploiting our education system. I

think that the Government needs to

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have more rigorous regulation to

ensure that they are delivering

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quality teaching and learning.

During this investigation, we

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received nearly £9,000 in student

loans we were not entitled to. All

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the taxpayers' expense. Unlike the

fraudsters we have uncovered, we

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will of course pay it back.

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As the government backs private colleges to help open up higher education to all, Panorama goes undercover to expose how fraud is costing the taxpayer millions. Secret filming reveals how shady education agents are recruiting bogus students to private colleges so they can claim loans they are not entitled to.

Reporter Richard Watson finds agents prepared to supply fraudulent qualifications, offer coursework for sale and fake attendance. It comes at a time when student debt has soared to one hundred billion pounds.