PM backs fraud-reducing student application system

British prime minister David Cameron has intervened to help a business management graduate, who has devised an automated application system for educational agents and international students, to approach the UK Border Agency (UKBA) at the right level.

Dawood Fard (25) came up with the idea for the system, Centurus One, during a business management masters course at the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan).

While on a business experience placement working in Delhi, he witnessed the bureaucratic process that international students face when applying to study in the UK.

“The day after I came back from India I got about 20 people together and we thrashed out ideas,” Fard said. “The current process is tedious, slow, inflexible and expensive. We have developed a revolutionary system that is easy to use, transparent and not at all intimidating.

“We can reduce the amount of administrative time from weeks to just minutes, streamlining the management of international recruitment.”

University, college and English language school applicants will be able to use the system to track and process applications for multiple institutions online on a single platform.

The document trail will help prevent abuse of the visa process and should reduce administrative errors, helping genuine students find a place, Fard says.

The impact of tougher visa regulations on recruitment of international students is a matter of huge concern for UK universities.

Institutions using Centurus pay a small fee per student enrolled, with a monthly service fee, and can process as many applications as they wish.

Students and agents pay nothing and can save money through a built-in payment system provided through the Uni-Pay system. Payments processed through Uni-Pay’s network of local banks and credit card platforms give better exchange rates for students and allow institutions to avoid bank commission charges, which currently cost them an estimated £35 million (US$55 million) a year.

During a visit by the prime minister to UCLan, Fard got a commitment from Cameron that he would be able to talk to the appropriate people at UKBA about ways Centurus can help institutions comply with visa processing requirements.

Centurus is only in its infancy but is already in use at several colleges and at Glyndwr University’s London campus, where admissions staff say it has already reduced the number of queries from students about the progress of their applications.