Melbourne: A major cookery college, once
listed among Australia`s 100 fastest growing companies has
announced voluntary liquidation leaving hundreds of students,
including a large number of Indians, with uncertain future.
Owned by an Indian migrant, Sydney-based Austech
Institute for Further Education reportedly sent the news via
e-mail leading to a demonstration by students who gathered to
protest the decision and seek transfer to other institutes.
A number of students said they had been offered discounts
of as much as 10 per cent on this semester`s tuition fee if
they paid in advance, `The Australian` said in a report.
Amandeep Singh, 24, was quoted as saying that he had
received a USD 400 reduction in his tuition fee after paying
USD 4,600 in January.
Vikas Kumar, a 25-year old student from Haryana said he
was six months into studying for an advanced diploma in
hospitality management. He said he had paid USD 5,000 this
semester, as well as USD 15,000 towards the cost of a diploma.
Vikas said his parents had invested their savings into
his fee and also taken loan. "I`m very upset," he said.
"(They spent) 10 years` savings on my study and (now) its
all finished," he was quoted as saying.
The college, founded in 2002 with 10 students in
Blacktown by a former taxi driver, had a history of rapid
expansion. By 2007-08 it had a USD 30.4 million turnover and
was profiled by BRW magazine as one of Australia`s 100 fastest
growing companies. Austech had 1398 students in late 2008.
A spokesman for federal education minister Julia Gillard
assured the students that they would not be left without
options. They would be found placement in similar courses
under the Tuition Assurance Scheme, or refunded their unused
course fees through the Education Services for Overseas
Students Assurance Fund, the spokesman said.
A 2008 audit by state regulators found Austech in breach
of state and federal standards. The college did not have
enough kitchens for its 1622 current and 571 pending students.
Some students were found to be enrolled for more than a
year before they were given any practical kitchen experience,
according to the NSW Administrative Decisions Tribunal.
The regulator, the Vocational Education Training
Accreditation Board, ordered the college to refund USD 2.1
million in fees to 350-odd new students but this edict was put
on hold in January 2009 by the tribunal, which gave Austech a
Eight months later, VETAB moved to cancel Austech`s
registration, citing its failure to comply with national
training standards, but it launched another successful appeal.
On Christmas Eve, the tribunal ruled in favour of
Austech, approving expansion plans for the college.
In a statement yesterday, Austech`s chief executive
Kharak Bajwa said the "unresponsive, slow and adversarial
behaviour" of VETAB had contributed to the collapse.
"One can win a case but still lose," he said.
He blamed bad publicity about attacks on Indian students
and changes to migration rules. "The vocational education and
training system is in turmoil at the moment," he said.