Row over University of Wales visa scam responsibility
- 19 October 2011
- From the section Wales
A row has broken out between a number of Welsh universities over who is responsible for scandals which have hit the University of Wales (UoW).
It follows allegations of a visa scam at a UoW partner college in London.
Rayat London College has been suspended by the UK Border Agency and prevented from recruiting overseas students.
The college is one of 130 around the world approved by the University of Wales to design and teach courses leading to its degrees.
Each partnership is assigned a moderator who reports back to the university, often a member of staff at other Welsh universities.
Last year BBC Wales revealed Fazley Yaakob, a pop star with two bogus degrees, was running a college offering UoW courses in Malaysia.
It led to a damning report from the higher education watchdog, the QAA, which found serious shortcomings in the way the university collaborates with colleges around the world.
However, the University of Wales has issued figures detailing payments it claims it made to other Welsh universities for overseeing its foreign partnerships.
It also claims the two most controversial partnerships, with Fazley International College and Rayat London College, were looked after by staff from Bangor University and the University of Wales Newport respectively.
A spokesperson said: "Where the University of Wales contracts with another university within Wales to provide moderating services, it is the individual universities who manage the employment contracts of the moderators themselves."
Bangor University said it was "astounded" by the claims.
A spokesperson said: "The University of Wales is solely responsible for validating and moderating their programmes overseas and within the UK.
"They contract a number of individual academics from a variety of universities to assist them in doing this, and make a financial contribution to their academic departments.
"Bangor University as an institution plays no part whatsoever in these validations or moderations.
"It is astounding that the University of Wales is attempting to blame others for something that is entirely its responsibility."
A spokesperson for the University of Wales Newport, which in light of the scandal has announced plans to award its own degrees as soon as possible, said: "The University of Wales pays other universities to release staff from contracted hours to work under payment and contract of the University of Wales.
"To try to infer that the involvement of Welsh universities in this process is any more than this is an attempt to distract from the real issues facing the University of Wales.
"The validation work and governance of the University of Wales is the sole responsibility of the University of Wales."
Meanwhile a spokesperson for Cardiff University, which left the institution in 2005, said it had "asked the heads of all its academic schools to instruct their staff to withdraw, wherever reasonably possible, from any existing arrangements for validation or moderation with the University of Wales, and certainly not to enter into any new arrangements".
"It is clear from the figures that even if some relationships have continued on an individual academic basis, these are reducing rapidly whilst the institutional relationship with the University of Wales is clearly very limited."
A spokesperson for Swansea University said it had been "encouraging its staff to wind down any involvement with the University of Wales in an orderly manner for several years".
"The University of Wales knows that it, and it alone, is responsible for the quality assurance processes and academic standards of its degrees delivered through partner institutions.
"This ongoing publicity only shows that the continued use of the University of Wales name is damaging the reputation of higher education in Wales and, to quote the Education Minister, it should be given a decent burial."
The UK Border Agency and Metropolitan police continue to investigate the matter, while the QAA said they were looking at the evidence prior to launching any investigation.
A spokesperson for the QAA said: "We take seriously any situation that compromises the reputation of UK HE.
"QAA previously identified serious failings in the quality of the University of Wales' oversight of other education providers."