The BBC program Panorama recently aired an expose on a fraudulent student loan scandal that shocked the world. In an elaborate scheme, fraudsters calling themselves “education agents” managed to abuse the British government’s student loan system at the Greenwich School of Management and Plymouth University.
The Greenwich School of Management (GSM) in London offers a wide range of courses and degrees in partnership with Plymouth University. As GSM London issued degrees through a different institution, this disconnect appeared to be at the heart of the fraud on taxpayers and educators. Both institutions have come under fire, launching their own internal investigations.
Undercover footage showed one agent involved in the scam signing up new students to secure government loans for non-educational uses. The scam is simple enough. After securing a new student for GSM, the education agent would provide extra services to help the prospective student with their coursework, exams, and loan documentation. One of the agents featured in the BCC report claimed to know “over 40 writers” to help clients with completing school work.
With GSM receiving over £66 million in government funding annually, there was plenty of profit to be made from gaming the student loan system. Additionally, in an environment where higher education is a necessity, it’s all too predictable to see problems with phony degrees and academic dishonesty.
The BBC investigation included an undercover student seeking a degree from GSM London. Through a partnership with Plymouth University,
After a taped meeting with an education agent, the BBC undercover student investigator secured fulltime status as a GSM business student after admitting to the agent he had to work a fulltime job outside of school. In the video, the agent boasts to the investigator about a guy who never went to a class and graduated with honors in law. Apparently, the same “law student” used student loans to open business ventures in the restaurant industry.
Both Plymouth University and GSM London launched internal investigations into the matter. GSM suspended their contact with the offending education agent featured in the BBC report. Both institutions condemned the actions of the fraudster in the story, and external investigators are now reviewing this case and others in an effort to clean up the tarnished reputation of the schools.
In a statement to the press through a lawyer, the education agent featured in the story “emphatically denies” acting inappropriately in the course of his business of helping students secure loans to support their education at GSM or Plymouth. The university and the management school have a lot of ground to cover in their efforts to improve public relations and restore their reputations as premier educational institutions in the UK.
While this is just one problem at a couple different universities, it underscores a larger problem in the United Kingdom involving student loans. Student debt is rising in the UK, and this is just another addition to the slew of issues. Just one issue involves foreign students from the EU neglecting their loans; other issues involve high debt levels, higher interest rates, and low repayment prospects.
Author: Andrew Rombach
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