A leading UK university is considering legal action against the owner of a group of private colleges which has a centre in Edinburgh.

The move by Northumbria University in Newcastle follows concern that Albert College in Leicester, a sister organisation of International College Scotland (ICOS) in Edinburgh, is advertising a law course in its 2006-07 prospectus which officials at the university say it has no right to teach.

A spokeswoman for North-umbria University said: "Albert College does not have any affiliation with Northumbria University and our LLB law distance-learning course is run and administered entirely by Northumbria University and is not affiliated with any external institutions.

"This information has been passed to our legal team, who will take whatever action they can. We don't recognise this college at all."

London University also said yesterday Albert College was advertising several of its external courses in its prospectus, but had not asked for up-to-date study materials and had never put forward any candidates for examination.

The director of Albert College is Prasenjit Kumar Singh, 34, an Indian national who lives in Hayes, Middlesex, and is also director of Halifax College in London and the ICOS. He is also director of Halifax Travels Ltd, in Hayes.

ICOS, set up in 2004, occupies a well-equipped suite of rooms above a bank on St John's Road in Corstorphine, Edinburgh.

The college has chosen to register its internet site, www.icos.ac, in the Ascension Islands, rather than the UK, in order to take advantage of the country code "ac". This suffix is easily confused with that used by all officially recognised colleges and universities in the UK, whose web addresses end with "ac.uk".

Its crest is also identical to one sported by Halifax University in Wyoming, which is on an official list of unauthorised colleges, maintained by Oregon's office of degree authorisation "for the protection of the citizens of Oregon".

In a section for overseas students, the Edinburgh college's website advises that, once their application has been accepted, they will be required to pay a £1500 deposit before being sent a letter of enrolment "which will facilitate you to secure a Visa".

Typical fees range from between £3900 for a one-year accredited course teaching communication skills, arithmetic, computing awareness and book-keeping, to £5000 for an accredited one-year international diploma in business.

When The Herald visited the college's premises, principal Gordon Wright joked he had been "expecting" a reporter, having read our recent articles about some private colleges in Glasgow with questionable credentials. The Herald has unearthed four and police and trading standards are investigating a fifth.

Mr Wright insisted ICOS did not offer an LLB course like that offered by Albert College, and acknowledged there was a serious problem with many of the private colleges operating in the UK, but said: "As you can see, we are a very different outfit: this is an established and professional organisation."

He said the college adhered strictly to all regulations regarding student visas. "If a student doesn't turn up for classes, we will write to them and, if they still don't appear, we inform the Home Office they are not attending classes, which can invalidate their visa."

The college's website featured a section on Scotland's Fresh Talent Initiative, but Mr Wright said: "It's a joke that some of these private Glasgow colleges are enticing students with Fresh Talent; the reality is that you are not eligible for the scheme if you have simply completed a course at a private college."

However, the day after The Herald's visit, the Fresh Talent section was removed. Mr Wright said yesterday it was taken off in case it led to any misunderstanding. "We have never told any of our students they would be eligible for Fresh Talent through our courses," he said. The college had recently severed links with Halifax University in the US after Home Office advice.

The Herald contacted Albert College yesterday for a comment on the information in its prospectus, but no-one returned the call. It is understood Mr Singh is in India.