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BCS: Individual Learning Accounts a potential scam for IT providers

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The British Computer Society (BCS) has written to the government over concerns that the Individual Learning Account scheme could allow training companies benefitting from government money to increase their fees and rake in extra profits.

Geoff McMullen, Vice President of the BCS has written to Malcolm Wicks, Education Minister to express concern that because there is no limit on the amount a course can cost, there is a potential for training companies to increase their fees while keeping the cost to the student the same.

For around 30 IT training courses which result in a recognised qualification, 80 per cent of the fees are paid to training providers by the government through the scheme, with the remaining 20 per cent being paid by individuals signing up for the course. The BCS say that this potentially allows unscrupulous training companies to increase their fees by 400 per cent while keeping the cost the same to individuals.

The Department for Education and Employment has responded by saying that "ministers intend to place a cap on the 80 per cent discount and will do so as quickly as possible. Meanwhile, we are taking advice and will take action, including legal action, against any instance of inappropriate use of the 80 per cent discount."

The BCS is also concerned that the payments are not dependent on any qualifications being achieved at the end of the courses attended. McMullen's letter is quoted in this week's Computer Weekly: "The scheme would appear to offer unconstrained funding for private training organisations, with little incentive for them to encourage students to undertake assessment once the teaching is complete. The government is at risk of spending large sums of money in the private sector with little certainty that those who have undertaken the learning have in fact mastered the syllabus."

The issue follows concerns that the ILA system also has the potential to allow training departments to substitute the funding from the government in place of training budgets, although it's difficult to see how this could be monitored.


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