Colleges have been hit with a surge in applications from Romanians and Bulgarians wanting taxpayer-funded loans and grants to study in this country, the Daily Mail reports.
More than 5,000 students from the two countries enrolled on vocational courses in England last year – accounting for a staggering one in six of all applicants – with many entitled to up to £10,000 in grants and loans.
Yesterday leaked documents exposed government concerns over ‘weaknesses’ in checks on applicants, prompting fears of potential mass fraud.
Ministers have now announced a freeze on new grants and revealed all applicants from the EU had been asked for extra evidence they were eligible for the cash.
One college – which officials have refused to name – has had all its funding stopped while an investigation is carried out.
Experts also raised fears that Romanian and Bulgarian students could make cash in hand at the expense of the taxpayer while studying for these courses, which officials admit have less stringent entrance criteria.
Currently students from the two countries are allowed to work limited hours in the UK but can avoid checks if they are self-employed or take black market jobs. But from January 1 they will have full rights to live and work here when EU controls expire.
Overall, numbers enrolling for higher national diplomas (HNDs) and certificates (HNCs) have more than doubled from 13,000 to 30,000 in only 12 months.