The BBC has recently reported on the visa scams going on in some UK English Language schools, though this has been going on for years and has never been a secret within the ESL profession. The problem seems to have come to a head because the DfES (the Department for education and Skills) introduced a registration scheme, despite repeated warnings from professional bodies that their criteria for inclusion were not stringent enough.
I downloaded the forms and it would appear that if you can send your basic company documents, the most basic pedagogical and administrative forms along with a bank statement, a utility bill and your own business plan, then you're in. They do say on their site that inclusion is no guarantee of quality, though this has not stopped some schools claiming to be approved by the department. The whole exercise has been a complete waste of time and money and does not guarantee or prove anything. Worse still, it has had a negative effect. When I was working in London, everyone knew that many of the schools in, say, Oxford Street were just visa scams, though there was at least one decent school there, and there might be another one or two.
There are schools out there offering full-time courses that work out at under a pound an hour, yet they are getting onto the register because they can provide a utility bill and a couple of printed forms, even though providing education at this price is unfeasible. The private English Language school industry in the UK is by and large in a terrible state, with underpaid, underqualified teachers teaching badly, and that's before you hit the visa mills. It is sad that a lot of money has been spent on making things worse.