Wrongly named and shamed? Contact your lawyer, says English UK
4 November 2011

Language schools wrongly identified in the media as being "banned" from teaching international students are being encouraged to take legal action for defamation.

And English UK is considering taking a class action over the list of 66 "banned" colleges which was released to the media earlier this week.

It claimed the named colleges were among 474 which have either had licences revoked, cannot sponsor any new students or have been banned following an investigation.

However, at least 22 of the schools are reputable English UK members which took the business decision not to reapply for the Register of Sponsors (RoS) earlier this year. These centres did not need to be on the RoS as they specialise in shorter-term students who can enter the country on visitor visas, and a five-fold increase in inspection costs to join the RoS has made it an uneconomic option for many businesses.

Other reputable colleges have also found their names on the list, which was published in full on at least one national media website.

Tony Millns, English Executive's Chief Executive, said he was "absolutely furious" about what had happened, and he was encouraging the members involved to contact their lawyers.

"People who have taken sensible business decisions to drop off the Register of Sponsors have now been smeared by the suggestion that they are bogus colleges. This is defamatory and I wouldn't be surprised if some of our members took legal action. We might well consider a class action on it," he said.

Mr Millns also gave an interview on BBC Radio Sussex. You can hear the full news story an hour and 41 minutes into the programme.

English UK, whose 450-plus members in the state and private sector are all fully accredited and inspected, is encouraging those named in media reports to contact their lawyers and consider a claim for reputational damage.

The story put out by the Press Association, accompanied by the list of 66 colleges, said that 474 colleges "are on the banned list" including "172 unnamed institutions who are able to continue teaching foreign students already in the UK, but will not be able to sponsor any others coming to the UK in the future.  

"A further 251 colleges have had their licences revoked and 51 were banned following an investigation, the UK Border Agency (UKBA) said.  Only 66 of the 251 colleges banned can be named as the others are still being notified."

Three Brighton language schools were so infuriated that they contacted their local paper to complain. These included English UK members Brighton International Summer School and Embassy Summer School, as well as British Council-accredited Brighton Language College.

The Evening Argus published a story which said: "College leaders have criticised the Government after their licences were revoked in a student visa clampdown...The official list includes a number of legitimate colleges that say they chose not to reapply for their licences under the new regime and say their reputations have been damaged.

"Cheryl Sutherland, of Brighton International Summer School Ltd, based at Dorothy Stringer High School in Loder Road, said she had decided not to apply for the accreditation because her students were under 18.

"[At] Embassy Summer School, a large organisation with a branch in Billinton Way, Brighton, operations director, Michael Cornes, said the Home Office had used 'an unfortunate choice of words'. 'It suggests something bad has happened, which couldn't be further from the truth.'"

Gary Farmer, the director of Brighton Language College, told the paper he had lodged an official complaint with the UK Border Agency.


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