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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Tonight the fraudsters helping bogus
students rip off student loans.
They're targeting private colleged,
backed by the Government to open up
higher education to all.
For a cut of student's loan or cash,
fraudsters can fix everything.
They will even help fake your course
At a time when student debt has
topped £100 billion, student scams
are costing us millions.
evidence you're shown me there is
clear fraud going on and it needs to
be referred to the police.
It is a proud day in many people's
lives - graduating from university.
The Government is keen to help more
of us experience this. It is backing
private colleges, called alternative
providers, to offer degrees and
diplomas to people who might
otherwise not are the chance to get
a higher education.
very important. It is good that more
young people are able to access
higher education and particularly
young people from disadvantaged
In England, Wales and
Northern Ireland, these private
colleges like universities are paid
for by taxpayer-funded student
loans. Students at private colleges
can get up to £17,000 a year -
eleven to cover living expenses and
six for tuition. It estimated that
three quarters of graduates may
never pay back their student loans
in full. There are 112 private
colleges and as they enrol more
students, that is leaving them
vulnerable to fraud.
million a year is going to support
alternative higher education
providers. It is vital we track that
is being spent as it should be.
investigation starts in Greenwich,
London at the Greenwich School of
Management. It has expanded and now
has more than 4,000 students. A
whistle blower told us that an agent
who recruits on college premise is
recruiting bogus students who are
only interested in the money.
His name is Charles Logan. We sent
in two undercover students.
Sure enough we find him up stairs,
near the library.
Our student has won BTEC, the
equivalent of A-levels. Enough to
get a place. Logan gives him
application for a three year honours
degree course in business
Our student says he is working
full-time. Logan tells him a student
loan can be a nice little earner on
Logan, who has a contract with the
college, fills in our undercover
student's loan application. His
admission to the course will be
processed by GSM. Most GSM students
are recruited by the college itself.
The rest come from free lance
recruiters. We have been told by a
whistle blower than Logan is GSM's
No 1 recruiter and gets a commission
of around £#6 00 for every student
he enrols and the college gets
£6,000 in tuition fees per student
more year. More students, more
money. Our bogus student, what does
he get? £5,300 a year for living
expenses. Although some get around
£11,000. It is paid by for the
Goth's eo' - Government's Student
Loans Company. We showed our study
to Lord Storey.
The agent gets paid
for each person he recruits. The
college gets public money. The
student gets student loan money and
the Government can say, ticking the
box, we have disadvantaged people
doing higher education.
We will find
out later how our undercover student
Our next dodgy recruiter is based in
Amir Raja runs this company: this
time our undercover student who we
send in with a friend says she left
school at 16 in India, with the
equivalent of GCSEs. Raja says there
are courses she can apply for.
The course is for business
Raja said she will need to show some
professional experience. But she has
already told him that she has been
working cash in hand in a beauty
salon. Not a problem, Raja takes a
red pen to her CV.
To help with this deception he
writes a fake reference letter
saying she has been employed by his
company as a marketing executive for
several years. He says it was sent
with her application to the the
Central London Campus of Roehampton
University, which is run by a
private company called QA higher
education. Later after an interview
at which Roehampton said she did
well and her basic English test, she
Raja's fee for helping her cheat her
way on to a degree course and apply
for loan - £200, paid in cash.
were row Hamilton University I would
be concerned. We boast we have the
best university sector in the word,
but if these practices are going on,
that undermines our university
We withdrew our undercover
student from the course before her
loan application process was
completed. Roehampton University
said it is disappointed an agent may
have acted inappropriately and said
partnerships are continually audited
and reviewed and if procedures are
not followed it takes immediate
action. QC higher education said it
has suspended the agent pending an
investigation. Raja's company denies
any wrong doing and say a
professional reference letter was
sent in error and management
policies have been reviewed.
Back at the Greenwich School of
Management, our undercover student
has degree-level assignments to do.
Together with a friend, he pays
Charles Logan another visit.
Logan knows just the man to help
other undercover student with her
Logan, the Mr Fix It for bogus
students tells us how it works.
He almost make makes it sound
Logan gives us the number for his
talented friend, he is called Mike
and runs a company called
Grammarholic. We give him a call. Is
that Mike. I was given your number
by Charles at GSM.
Send me an e-mail
and I will look at it.
two assignments from Mike and
another online. Here they are.
Mike's look impressive. One cost
£356. The other £170.
disappointed that these people are
exploiting students. It totally de
legitimises the work that students
do, who worked hard for their
There is 50,000 students
are cheating by using essay mills to
write their essays. I feel feel they
should be banned. Grammarholics say
they don't condone fraud and only
provide essays as guides and their
term and conditions say students
should not submit writers' work as
their own, although they have heard
that some do.
Later, GSM passed our undercover
student with flying colours, without
him doing a stroke of work.
We tell Charles Logan the good news.
GSM says if the allegations are
true, his actions are totally
unacceptable. It suspended its
contract with him and brought in
external experts to investigate. It
says if its systems have been open
to abuse it will take all
appropriate steps to strengthen
them. Logan himself says he
emphatically denies acting
fraudulently. Either for profit or
to assist students in fraud lntly
claiming student finance.
Most private colleges do not award
their own degrees so work in
partnership with universities. GSM
pays Plymouth University to approve
the coursework of students and
ratify their final marks. Plymouth
University confirmed our undercover
student's marks and did not detect
he had cheated.
If they are going to
license out their degree awarding
status, they need to be very careful
and I think this will send warning
signals right round the university
sector to make sure that they are
really getting in there, as well as
government regulation, and looking
at the quality of work.
Plymouth University says GSM is
responsible for student admissions
and attendance and is launching its
own ball and independent
investigation. It says it has...
A Barbers shop in Ilford, East
London. The unlikely starting point
for our final investigation into
student loan fraudsters.
The man who runs the shop is called
Imran and we have been told he is up
to his neck in fraud. Our undercover
student meets him in his Mercedes.
He offers to get a college place any
two-year Higher National Diploma,
HND course, but it will cost.
But Imran has lots more to offer.
As well as guaranteeing admission
for £200, he says once we got in, he
can fake our attendance and supply
all the academic assignments we
need. The cost, £1500 a year, paid
out of our student loan money.
So how does Imran do it?
This is Grafton College, on Oxford
Street. It is fully approved by the
Government was student loans and has
just started offering degrees in
partnership with the Open
University. We decided to test
Imran's claims using two undercover
students. One says she is working on
cash in hand and she is keen to get
some student loan money. He says he
will meet us at the college.
When we get there, we find he has
sent his assistant, Raza, instead.
We tell him our student left school
at 16 so does not have the
qualifications to get on the course.
One solution is to make our
undercover student look like she has
got more qualifications than she
actually has. Imran and Raza will
get her a certificate to say she has
the equivalent of A-levels and that
will earn them even more money.
So £600 for a dodgy certificate.
Will we get away with it?
With the agent's promise of a real
certificate fraudulently made out in
our undercover student's name, a
member of college staff later fills
out a loan application. He seems to
know the agents.
Still in the college, our undercover
students pay Raza a £300 deposit for
the dodgy certificate.
A few days later, we paid the
remaining £300 to his boss, the man
with the Mercedes, Imran. It is now
day one of our undercover student's
HND in Business Management. Grafton
College teaches courses supplied by
Pearson, one of the UK's biggest
Our undercover and her fellow
students are told they must attend
The dodgy recruiters have a solution
for that as well. They downstairs.
Imran says he will fix it so she
barely has to attend.
After attending just one lecture,
our undercover student gets paid
£3600, the first instalment of her
annual maintenance loan to cover
living expenses of £11,000 a year.
And two weeks later, Grafton College
is paid the first £1500 instalment
of its £6,000 a year tuition fee.
Time to pay dodgy recruiter Imran,
who made it all happen. We are back
in his Mercedes. A nice little
earner at the taxpayers' expense. In
total, we paid Imran £2300, leaving
our undercover student with 8700
from her £11,000 maintenance loan.
And with a shiny new certificate, it
all looks legitimate.
The logo on the certificate says
AVA, that is now the British
awarding Association, a government
approved company based, wait for
it... On the floor above Grafton
College. Imran says he got it from
Asif Khawaja, head of operations at
Grafton. Here they are together at
the college earlier.
Like all his claims about inside
help, we don't know if he is telling
the truth, but if he is, it is
shocking. It looks like a genuine
certificate and it is a genuine
No, it is a genuine
certificate but that has been
arrived at by massive cheating and
falsifying information. And it is
wrong, absolutely wrong.
We now know that Asif Khawaja's
brother, Sarwar, owns the place
whether certificate came from with
the wife of Grafton's Director. When
we asked them about it, they said
they were unaware of any alleged
fraudulent activities taking place
and the family relationships cannot
be used to somehow implicate them in
alleged fraud. Asif Khawaja says he
absolutely denies any involvement.
The college says bold Imran on the
promises from time from time to
time, they are not authorised to act
as agents. -- the college says
although Raza and Imran. How much to
the agents get from the student loan
scams? Imran says he has been doing
it for years at several colleges and
many clients restaurant workers and
A must for words. These are corrupt
educational practices, they have
falsified information, they have
broken the law, it is just mind
blowing. I am lost for words, quite
It seems to me pretty
apparent there is criminal fraud
going on. From what you have shown
me, and it needs to be referred to
Neither Raza or Imran
have responded to our allegations.
Macro -- Pearson says it has put an
immediate block on Grafton College
which means it will not be able to
register or certificated any further
students for Pearson qualifications
until the investigations are
complete. The Open University
It is expanding fast and the
Government did not set up a
regulatory system that for purpose.
There has to be a crackdown, really
investigate it and sending the
auditors, but it also has to have a
system that stops the strands are
spiralling in and making money from
regulator, the quality assurance
agency, was concerned about student
admissions at Grafton two years ago,
but this summer, at the same time we
were investigating, they said
Grafton was improving.
You went in June 2017 and said the
college was making exceptional
progress, how on Earth cannot be
We are responsible for
assessing the quality of the
You are not worried about
Let me be absolutely clear,
Ford of any kind is absolutely
unacceptable and we have tools to
investigate fraud. On several
occasions, we have investigated
collars that colleges, sometimes in
partnership with other agencies.
There has been a significant drop in
the number of money -- in the amount
of money pay the ineligible students
over the last four years.
But at a
time when students that has topped
£100 billion, our investigation
shows how the student loan system is
still wide open to fraud.
funding system is ultimately broken.
These are horrible people that are
exploiting our education system. I
think that the Government needs to
have more rigorous regulation to
ensure that they are delivering
quality teaching and learning.
During this investigation, we
received nearly £9,000 in student
loans we were not entitled to. All
the taxpayers' expense. Unlike the
fraudsters we have uncovered, we
will of course pay it back.
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.