Wales

Student loans change call after BBC sting

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Media captionCaught undercover: Kazi Shajahan offered to sell coursework for business qualifications

There are calls for the way loans are awarded to students to be reviewed after an undercover reporter using fake qualifications was offered one.

A recruiter for West London Vocational Training College in Cardiff said they could cheat their way to receiving thousands of pounds.

Kazi Shajahan offered to sell coursework needed for qualifications.

Education Minister Huw Lewis suspended payments to the college, but defended the regulations in place.

He told AMs on Tuesday checks and balances were in place but no regulation system could be "100% proof" against fraud.

Welsh government-funded Student Finance Wales awards hundreds of thousands of pounds to students every year.

But the body does not have the power to check if qualifications are genuine.

On Tuesday, AM Darren Millar, chairman of the assembly's Public Accounts Committee, said he wanted the Auditor General for Wales and police to investigate.

"We need some swift response from the Welsh government," he said.

"Very clearly, checks and balances aren't working. We need to improve the policing arrangement so that tax payers can know that every penny that's being invested in our FE sector is pennies on which they're getting a return."

The college, based on the city's Greyfriars Road, has nearly 100 IT and business students.

Those on Higher National Diplomas (HNDs) can receive up to £17,000 a year in loans and grants, which will only be repaid when they earn more than £21,000 annually.

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Media captionCollege principal Dr Manoj Kumar is revealed to have faked his Cambridge University PhD and teaching certificates

Colleges receive £6,000 in tuition fees for each student.

Mr Shajahan told the reporter for BBC Wales' Week In Week Out programme they would not have to study fully attend because they could buy eight or nine assignments a year.

"If they got qualifications from back home we accept it," he said.

"If not, if they can make any certificate, we don't challenge any certificate. Understand? We do not challenge any certificate. If they got no qualification that's not a problem."

One of the journalists faked a GCSE certificate and applied for funding which was approved.

Another potential student, who does not want to be identified, says Mr Shajahan offered him the chance to take part.

"He was offering £10,000 student finance plus the grant," he claimed.

"So it seemed very easy money at the beginning. He said I don't have to do anything because all the assignments, all the work is going to be 'you pay for it and you buy it'."

There are further questions over how the Welsh government decides to give colleges access to public money.

The programme also discovered the college's principal, Dr Manoj Kumar, faked his Cambridge University PhD and teaching certificates.

The college's owner, Bharat Bageja, has denied knowing of any wrongdoing in the recruitment of students to his college. He says Mr Shajahan was never employed as a recruitment director and the principal has been removed from his position.

Timeline of events:

  • On Friday 27 November, Welsh government funding to the college was suspended
  • AM Darren Millar asked for the Auditor General for Wales and South Wales Police to be brought in to investigate
  • On Tuesday, Education Minister Huw Lewis said: "It would be difficult to see that this particular problem could have spread much wider; this is the only English-based private provider currently operating in Wales."

Week In Week Out is on BBC One Wales at 22:40 GMT on Tuesday 1 December

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