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Students urged to be wary of dubious UK institutes

KARACHI, Aug 2: A British education officer on Wednesday raised alarm over unscrupulous institutions in the United Kingdom out to make a fast buck at the expense of foreign students.

Speaking at a briefing organised by the British Council Karachi and the British Deputy High Commission, Andy Tinney, Entry Clearance Manager at the deputy high commission, advised the applicants from Pakistan to exercise great caution while choosing their British educational institutions.

The briefing was largely attended by students, parents and visa agents.

Mr Tinney's caveat came as a surprise to many, as he himself noted.

Last year, 11,000 Pakistani students travelled to the UK for education, according to a press release issued at the event.

He said that there are about 14,000 educational institutions listed with the UK's Department for Education and Skills (DfES), out of which about 8,500 attract students. The courses offered are also quite varied, he mentioned, saying that everything from mainstream courses to bee-keeping are listed.

Mr Tinney said that the officers handling the student's application will also scrutinise the choice of college because of this proliferation of money-making institutions. He added that applicants should not depend on the internet for information as this is simply a marketing tool for institutes.

He said students would be better off attending seminars that are periodically organised in Pakistan where they can meet representatives of British educational institutions. Other ways were to ring the college or university directly in the UK to get a better idea about the quality of courses on offer, or to ask frequent visitors to the UK about the veracity of the institute's claims (about location, etc).

He cited the example of a London institute which claimed it had a sprawling campus on expansive grounds, but the reality was that the operation was located in a congested area of the British capital.

The representative of the British deputy high commission also gave prospective student visa applicants various tips to make the application process smoother. He urged the audience to avoid agents lurking around the office of the courier company that delivers the visa applications, and to work with accredited agents only.

He also emphasised the need for presenting original documents and a home telephone number, as the processing officers considered mobile numbers unreliable. He also recommended that applicants provide IELTS or TOEFL scores because these tests gave standardised results.

He also mentioned that there would be a thorough check of the student's or sponsor's financial documents, especially if the sponsor was not a blood relative (father, grandparent, etc), and that financial records are cross-verified with the bank's central branch to reduce the chance of collusion and misrepresentation at the local branch level. Dawn
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