Controversial private college banned from recruiting students

26 February 2015 | last updated: 10 December 2015

A private college that was one of the main beneficiaries of the government's move to allow for-profit companies access to public funding has been banned from recruiting overseas students.

St Patrick's College, whose students received almost £100m in public-backed funding in 2013/14, has had its licence to recruit overseas students suspended by the Home Office. The college, which received more public funding than any other private college last year, is also being investigated by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills and the Quality Assurance Agency.

In 2011/12 St Patrick's enrolled just 50 students and received £370,000 from the government through state-backed student loans. The following year it received £41.5m and enrolled 4,154 students after the government rapidly increased the number of courses where students could access publicly-funded student loans and maintenance support.

The University and College Union (UCU) said the government should have checked such rapid expansion at the time and that it repeatedly warned the government about the rapid expansion of the for-profit sector. The union's complaints have been echoed by MPs who this week produced a report that was highly critical of the government's failure to heed explicit warnings from UCU and others.

UCU general secretary, Sally Hunt, said: 'The government's decision to introduce checks and balances now is a bit of a shambles and looks like a case of trying to close the door long after the for-profit horse has bolted.

'St Patrick's is one of the institutions that grew very fast out of nowhere once the government allowed the college access to taxpayer-funded student loans. The government allowed private companies, that lack transparency and accountability, to profit from public subsidies without the most basic checks and this is the completely inevitable result.

'We warned ministers this would happen, but they chose not to listen because they did not want to accept that profit and education is a dangerous combination. Whoever forms the next government needs to take proper control of the for-profit shambles in the interests of the public and students.'

St Patrick's is the subject of Face The Facts on Radio 4 at 12:15pm today (Thursday).

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