A police and UKBA investigation is now under-way after they exposed foreign students accused of cheating to acquire University of Wales-validated degrees and UK Visas. The Siren covers the most recent developments.

After news broke that the University of Wales plans to stop the validation of degrees from other universities and academic institutions, new allegations have been made over further irregularities about the courses which are validated by the UoW.

On the 4th of October, many were shocked by the sudden decision regarding degrees made by new University of Wales Vice-Chancellor Professor Medwin Hughes on the first official day in his new position. He revealed that the institution is planning to launch a new academic strategy that will sever ties with higher education institutions and only award degrees to students on courses designed and controlled by the University, starting in 2012.

On top of all this, a BBC investigation has resulted in the launch of a police and UKBA inquiry after students were accused of cheating their way to University of Wales validated degrees and UK Visas.

Undercover filming by the BBC has revealed one lecturer at the Rayat London College, Surya Medicherla, giving students advice on how to deceive the UK Border Agency. The UoW inspected the college in July, and validated it for another five years. So far the institution has not commented on this new turn of events.

This news comes after the plans for the number of universities in Wales to be scaled down from 11 to 6 by way of merging one institution with another, including the ongoing talks surrounding a potential merger between Aberystywth University and Bangor University.

Now, on the day that more irregularities with courses validated by the University of Wales are revealed; the National Union of Students (NUS) in Wales has called for a full and immediate review to clarify the situation for students and to restore confidence in the Wales brand.

NUS Wales President Luke Young said: “If the allegations about further irregularities prove to be true, then the Wales brand, its students and graduates will have been seriously let down.

“What we have seen in recent times is a national institution becoming complacent with its position, acting as if it is above scrutiny and beyond regulation. Thousands of students, along with hundreds of thousands of University of Wales’ graduates will be looking at the body that awarded their degrees with bewilderment and wonder how this situation was allowed to happen.”

Mr Young also expressed the importance of the need for a thorough investigation into the allegations made over the current courses which are validated by the UoW.

“At this point, there can be no other option than a full review into the allegations, followed by swift action to restore confidence. Anything less would amount to an abdication of responsibility towards those students and staff who have built the Wales brand reputation over the years.”

The University of Wales was previously embarrassed in 2010 when BBC programme Week In Week Out revealed that Fazley Yaakob, the former executive director of the Fazley International College in Kuala Lumpur, had a masters and doctorate in business administration- both of which came from a fake university.

At the time he said the University of Wales had not asked about his credentials which were displayed on the college website. Yaakob subsequently stood down from his role at the institution.

Education Officer for Swansea University Student Union (SUSU) Rhiannon Hedge told The Siren about her views on the UoW and its previous link with Swansea University.

“There should never be a situation where students find out through the press that the institution awarding their degrees is in a state of chaos,” she said.

“Students of the University of Wales past and present are quite rightly shocked and indignant at the claims being made, among them many recent graduates of our own university.

“Many among the current student body will not feel affected by this issue, but for thousands of Swansea graduates these allegations are a serious threat to the reputation and value of their degree. If these claims are proven, radical changes need to be made if the University of Wales is to emerge from this controversy as a body that can have a future in the provision of Higher Education.”

Swansea University was once the University of Wales Swansea in 1996, but this changed in 2007 when the University of Wales became a non-federal institution and Swansea became a university in its own right.

More than 70,000 students are now uncertain over the position they are in concerning their degrees. The University of Wales is on the point of merging with Swansea Metropolitan University and Trinity Saint David, therefore the impact that these new revelations will have on students will need to be properly assessed, an action which the NUS seems set on making.