A BBC Panorama reporter presented a 10-month-long investigation on student loan fraud involving Plymouth University, a British college in the United Kingdom.
The story highlighted how many aspiring students who lacked academic qualification were entering Plymouth University, securing student loans in the process, through “shady education agents.”
The investigation revealed dishonest education agents recruiting students to private institutions; the practice opened these students up to taking out student loans who may have been better off without the student debt.
The BBC reporters also claimed finding solid evidence of abuse of the student loan system by Greenwich School of Management (GSM), one of the biggest private-for-profit institutions in the United Kingdom. Plymouth University and Greenwich are connected; they have an agreement where Plymouth awards the degrees of GSM students.
One of the biggest takeaways from this investigative report is the impact on the UK taxpayer. BBC estimated that around £66 million in taxpayer funding runs through Plymouth on an annual basis.
How did Plymouth get caught?
An undercover BBC journalist went to a freelance agent working for the university and presented himself or herself as looking to continue his or her education.
He or she paid a requested fee to the agent and received all the necessary documents to secure admission and student loan payments. Afterwards, the investigator barely attended any classes and fell behind on coursework. He or she still finished out the semester with passing grades.
A number of shady practices were uncovered during their dealings.
When they first met, the agent told the BBC undercover about another client who graduated with a law degree without even going to a class. All of that client’s student loan money went towards opening up two restaurants.
Furthermore, the agent went on to say he or she knew forty or more writers willing to write up fake assignments for a price.
With all that being said, how is the university reacting?
Plymouth University responded immediately to the news saying that it would start a “full and independent investigation.” Furthermore, GSM claimed it would launch “an urgent investigation, involving external experts.”
These developments raise serious concerns about the current condition of the British student loan and university system. Fraud and malpractice aside, there are some serious problems in the United Kingdom when it comes to student loans.
Recent reports indicate that the average UK student loan debtor will owe over £50,000; the country’s students collectively owe over a £100 billion for the first time this year. This news gets worse when considering the recent interest rate hike, a move that spurred many to call for a full review of the student loan system.