Bogus pupil set to lose place at university


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The Independent Online

The 32-year-old man who studied for a year at his old school while masquerading as a teenager is set to lose his university place.

Brian MacKinnon won a place at Dundee University medical school after studying for a year at Bearsden Academy in Glasgow and gaining five As in his Higher Grade examinations. He was due to return to the university this year after a family bereavement forced him to abandon the course last year. While studying at the medical school he continued the deception about his age, telling staff and students he was a 17-year-old named Brandon Lee.

University officials have launched their own inquiry into the affair, and said yesterday that they were reviewing their offer. A spokeswoman said that since Mr MacKinnon had lied about his age, his place would almost certainly be withdrawn. "We don't usually take students over the age of 30 at the medical school and we take a very firm line about the conduct and honesty of medical students. Lying raises ethical questions for someone who is training to be a doctor," she said.

Education chiefs in Glasgow admitted yesterday that they were embarrassed Mr MacKinnon had duped staff at Bearsden into thinking he was a teenager. Enrolment procedures are to be tightened and from now on, students will have to produce their birth certificates when they register.

David Alexander, deputy director of the Strathclyde Regional Council's education department, confirmed that Mr MacKinnon had enrolled at Bearsden in 1993. Even though he had studied at the school in the late 1970s, none of the teaching staff recognised him.

He told the school's headmaster, Norman MacLeod, that he had arrived in Scotland from Canada and was living in Bearsden. After checking his address, Mr MacLeod awarded him a place. Mr MacKinnon went on to achieve five A grades in his exams and won a place at Dundee University medical school. He was so convincing that Mr MacLeod himself wrote his university references.

Mr Alexander said: "We are taking this matter very seriously. We have decided to adopt new enrolment procedures for pupils. We will be asking them to produce satisfactory documentation in regard to age and status." Mr Alexander dismissed suggestions that Mr MacLeod should resign. He had acted "in good faith" and the council had "every confidence" in his abilities.

Mr MacKinnon's true identity was only revealed last month when he went on holiday with two female classmates to Tenerife. After one of the girls spotted his date of birth on his passport, Mr MacLeod received an anonymous telephone call, telling him the student was an imposter. Mr MacLeod interviewed Mr MacKinnon last week and asked him to return with his birth certificate.

Mr MacKinnon has not been seen since. There was no answer yesterday at the council flat he shares with his 70-year-old mother, May, in the Whitehurst district of Bearsden.

At the school, former classmates expressed surprise at the revelations, although some admitted they had harboured doubts about his age. Sixth- former Victoria Montgomery said: "I am shocked. He was a really nice boy." Her friend, Karen Hill, added: "I sometimes thought he looked a bit mature."

It is unclear whether Mr MacKinnon has committed any criminal offence, although the Passport Office is examining allegations that he may have tried to obtain a false passport.

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