LONDON: U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron on Thursday claimed an Indian organisation which made money out of sending migrants to Britain had put up a billboard in India with a picture of London’s red bus and a banner reading: “Get a free ride to London”. He cited this as an example of how “bogus” immigrants were “playing the system” to gain entry by masquerading as students or dependants of British families.
In a hard-hitting speech, Mr. Cameron said his government was determined to stop the “abuse” of the system by taking action “across all routes of immigration”. He said there was widespread abuse of student visas with people using them to come to Britain to find jobs. Many did not return to their countries after the visa expired. The billboard, he suggested, showed how getting to Britain had been reduced to a joke.
The above quote is from The Hindu of 15th April 2011 (see link) and the precise promotion was by an Indian education agency in Ahmedabad and covered in full detail in an earlier article in The Daily Mail (see link). The Daily Mail informs…
London’s iconic double-decker bus is at the heart of a scam in India selling bogus student visas for entry into the UK.
The red Routemaster-style bus emblazoned with the Union Jack, takes centre stage on a giant billboard in the Gujarat, in western India, for all to see.
The slogan accompanying the advert, which also features the capital’s famous Big Ben clock, brazenly declares: ‘Get a FREE ride to the UK. Apply for admissions, get your visas & fly FREE to London.’
The striking advert has proved so popular hordes of people flocked to get a closer look at the deal in the city of Ahmedabad where the poster was on show.
Now that the British Prime Minister has taken note of the advertising, it was interesting to note that the recently held All India Education Counsellors Meet of the British Council held a brainstorming session on the need for a code of conduct for education agents. This is something that I have been actively promoting in every education agent group that has engaged me in some role or another.
- AAERI (Association of Australian Education Representatives in India) is the foremost leader in this development and armed with a Disciplinary and Quality Standards Committee, it has been actively promoting self-regulation and adherence to some basic norms. It is also available on its website.
- NZSA (NZ Specialist Agents) too adopts a strict code of conduct for its members and its global agreement with is accredited members requires an undertaking of sorts from them to follow the code of conduct. The code of conduct sample agreement (see link) is a fine document and builds on to the AAERI norms too.
- AIRC (American International Recruitment Council) too promotes a code of conduct for its members.
Britain is possibly the only major destination that has till date not thought of having a code of conduct for the education counsellors/agents. Now that British Council encouraged a debate on it, I would feel that something will emerge out. I presented the summary of the discussion to the audience at the 11th May meeting and the summary of the summary was that such a code is essential and critical. Education Providers were concerned that education agents often advertise their names on the adverts including indications their presence at exhibitions when that was not the case or even when they donot hold a contract with them. Words like “conditions apply” and “institutions vary from city to city” are used in fine print as an “unethical though legal” disclaimer. Hence it was recommended that British Council coordinates a code of conduct that all agencies working with education providers in UK must sign on in agreement and only those who agree with the code, be allowed to be listed on the Agent Zone of the British Council website and allowed to participate in British Council events. I really hope that this will happen soon.
We need to not just protect the students but need to protect the industry too.
I had done an earlier blog with relevance to this one too. I invite you to my confession on the low quality advertising that I too have undertaken ! The blog being “Overseas Education Agents” following “Computer Training Institutes”
Before I close this blog, a quick comment on the Free Ride to London advert: Honestly, I find it quite ingenious and feel that the British PM has actually missed the catch. The agency is using a marketing and smart advertising to actually only offer a free airticket and not an easy migration to UK. I may not agree with this advertising and maynot undertake it myself but would argue that it is no different to the bursaries that UK offers to Indian students which are offered in abundance and unrelated to merit of the applicants. Both are simple discounts and marketing baits…