Empty classrooms expose flaws in UK private colleges boom

Shiv Malik, Andrew McGettigan and John Domokos:

A private college in north London is offering government-funded places to people who “blatantly” don’t have the skills, recruiting candidates off the street and from countries in eastern Europe – and in at least one case lecturing to a class with no students.

So serious are the problems that the London School of Science and Technology (LSST) in Wembley has been called the “cashpoint college” or “the ATM” by students who believe they can obtain loans and grants of up to £11,000 a year and then not show up to learn.

The higher education institution has taken £6.5m in public money in the last three years, and has tripled in size since ministers relaxed controls over student loans in 2012. Even if these full-time students take out the loans and do no work, LSST benefits from the increased numbers paying £6,000 a year in tuition fees.

The chaotic organisation of LSST demonstrates serious flaws in the planned expansion of privately run higher education colleges that was unveiled by David Willetts, the higher education minister, in 2011. Little-known private colleges were allowed to recruit unlimited amounts of students so they could compete with established universities.