This is 2004 (and the other exposés since) all over again: wholesale fraud of the student visa 'system'. No real checks – and now they have even removed intentions-testing at point of-entry, despite further slippage in the introduction of e-borders, now to 2015 at the earliest – no removal/deportation even when individual abusers are made known to the Home Office; not even the revoking of visas; and no removal/deportation when the visas expire.
It's even worse (as former colleagues confirm), now that the Home Office has passed the buck to the education institutions, which are in no position to be responsible for immigration control, and do not have a clear interest in preventing fraudulent circumvention of immigration controls – indeed, there is a clear conflict of interest in that they draw down funding in respect of student numbers. Yet the UKBA hadn't even visited 70% of them.
Buck-passing is the favourite tactic by the Home Office. It distances itself by setting up an agency, which it then renames when it goes belly-up (the UKBA was formerly the Immigration & Nationality Directorate), and then dumped responsibility for work visas on employers, just as it is now doing to universities and English colleges.
A sample of these third parties is occasionally taken to find an instance of inevitable falling down on the job of immigration control, and we're in usual Home Office 'news management' mode again, instead of doing its job. [Christopher Monckton represented an employer who was prosecuted even though he had been to see senior figures within (what was then) Managed Migration, asking them to process applications given that he could have no idea who was genuine and who was bogus. There was also the father and son factory owners (the Foxes) who were jailed for seven years through no apparent fault of their own.]
A student application needs to be checked that: 1. there is a genuine acceptance by an educational institution; 2. that the student has enough funds to support him for the course without recourse to working; and 3. that the student is who he/she says he/she is. None of these were done when I was in post. Sponsorship letters could be in Chinese and we'd be told to accept then. No financial records were required in practice. Any old letter looking like its from a college would be taken as genuine. Everything was simply taken on trust. No forgery training was available. Any reference to a senior course worker resulted in instruction to grant anyway.
What was lacking in particular was liaison with the educational institution to ensure that there is genuine acceptance on to a course, but it is quite another matter to dump the whole system in the hands of the college/university. And this was done ineptly, with fourteen changes to guidance issued since the change, making it hopelessly complex for even universities to administer. No wonder London Met University is seeking a judicial review. It's a shame the Home Office cannot be prosecuted for persistent total incompetence and intentional failure to mal-administer an immigration 'system' the Home Office believes is unworkable even in principle. It has been high time for decades that the Home Office did its job instead of its focus on being the lead organisation for the implementation of the PC-fascist political religion.