Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Australian Investigation of ‘Corrupt’ Colleges

Australia’s growing status as a study-abroad destination may be tempting shady operators to try to get a piece of the action there. 

Australian newspaper The Age reports today that the government is facing pressure to crack down on “corrupt training colleges that are making millions of dollars a year exploiting foreign students by breaching immigration and education laws.”

The Age quotes unnamed government sources as saying that some colleges are “fleecing” students by using forged certificates and engaging in immigration fraud. The newspaper also charges that government agencies are “lackadaisical” in checking student credentials and that some students are using scams the gain permanent residency there.

There’s more:
Government departments have been inundated with letters of complaint from students alleging illegal activity and threatening or unethical behaviour by college operators.

They allege colleges are offering qualifications for under-the-counter payments; that students are being bullied into making advance payments for semesters or face fines; and that students are being fined up to $250 for being late for classes or for submitting assignments late.

Students also allege colleges are charging them for subject results and threatening to have them deported if they ask to switch colleges. Some colleges are allegedly charging students thousands of dollars to be formally allowed to leave.
International education is a major component of the Australian economy, bringing $13.7 billion Australian (just under $10 billion U.S.) into the country each year. With the economy struggling in Australia as elsewhere, the incentive to scam international students seems to be growing.

“It's out of control,” one unnamed official told The Age. “In the current economic climate … I think people are fairly reticent to try to fiddle with this huge earner in Australia.”

Despite the allegations, the Australian Council for Private Education and Training, an industry body, insists that the “vast majority” of the country’s private education and training providers operate ethically.

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