University of Wales Scandal: British Higher Education's Moment of Shame?
BBC was fortunate in its timing, as they broke the story just as a new Vice Chancellor was starting at the university. He was apparently unprepared for such a breaking news, and when confronted with the claims made by the reporter, he immediately ordered that University of Wales will stop validating other colleges' programmes, as it did earlier. His stance looked like the admission of defeat even before a single shot was fired. Admittedly, this may have come not prompted by the BBC documentary at all, but from soul-searching and other usual stuff that happens when new Vice Chancellors take over. In that case, this was disastrous timing, because this announcement confirmed what BBC was claiming, that University of Wales degrees conferred through partner colleges are indeed questionable.
However, if someone actually watches the documentary, they will have more questions about British journalism than British degrees. The journalist discovered cases of fraud in granting diplomas from two British qualification bodies, NCFE and ATHE, not of University of Wales. These diplomas could have earned the students some credit waivers towards the University of Wales MBA, as it could have done for many other courses in many other universities. These diplomas were offered not by any University of Wales accredited colleges, but small-time companies offering classes in rented premises. There was no direct evidence that the University of Wales, or any of its partner colleges are involved in any wrongdoing.
It is indeed distressing for me personally as one of the programmes we run in our college is validated by the University of Wales. I have been actively involved in diversifying the college course portfolio over the recent months and introducing other programmes, but I am aware that the University of Wales programme was run with integrity and great effort. Besides, there are thousands of students in colleges in Wales, which study for an University of Wales degree. It is a tragedy that a politically motivated BBC programme and a rather hapless PR team at University of Wales have managed to undermine all the efforts of all the academicians and threaten the future of all its students so callously.
I am fascinated by the fact that NCFE and ATHE can get away scot-free. They accredited institutions without fixed offices and questionable people which were selling these diplomas, and they can get away with suspending these colleges as if they were exceptions. However, since the University of Wales accepted these diplomas for advanced standing entry, the whole University validation has to be dismantled, and everyone involved with University of Wales must hang their head in shame. However, what about Ofqual, which validated these qualifications in the first place, and allowed them to be mapped against University entry? We know why BBC Wales will not expose the scam that goes on in British diploma market: It does not fit their agenda. But that's where the scandal really is.
British HE is at a crossroad and this scandal does not help. Most importantly, this story will confirm the popular view, created and sustained by motivated journalism, that most HE institutions are just conduits of visa fraud and most international students in Britain are nothing but after a work permit. Both of these perceptions are false. The government is currently systematically undermining the British HE, and they would be delighted with this programme. The government's grand plan of making HE limited to Oxbridge and disenfranchising the British Working Class from having a shot at middle class life has worked so far: They would need more such great journalism from BBC to keep their demolition campaign going.