`Indian students being duped by unscrupulous agents`
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Last Updated: Tuesday, August 25, 2009, 18:02
Canberra: Against the backdrop of attacks on Indian students in Australia, India has said the agents of the rapidly growing private educational providers in this country are duping gullible youths by promising permanent residency to them through courses like hair-dressing.

Both Indian Deputy High Commissioner V K Sharma and Consulate General in Melbourne Anita Nair said there has been a significant growth in private educational institutions in Australia in recent years. These institutes get students through their India-based agents, who do not provide correct information and the students discover after landing here that they have been cheated.

"Many of the students do not have money to support them. They work extra time at different places and get exposed to criminal elements at night while returning home," Sharma said.

The flow of Indian students here has increased by 164 per cent in 2007 over 2006 while it rose by 94 per cent in 2008 over the previous year. At present, nearly 97,000 Indian students are pursuing higher education in Australia.

Nearly 50 per cent of these Indian students are studying at the private Vocational Educational Training (VET) colleges.

"Unfortunately, the entire thing is linked to migration. People pay 20,000 Australian dollars for courses like hair- dressing in private institutes. They do so on the advice of agents who tell them that they would get permanent residency in Australia as that particular course is regarded as a high -skilled subject," Sharma said.

After the students come here, they find that the course is not in the required list for the Permanent Residency, Sharma said. The agents also put some money in the accounts of the students to show that they have the ability to sustain their stay in Australia for a period of time, but once these youths reach here, the agents manage to take the money back.

The students have no option but to work in shops, petrol pumps, restaurants and many such units. They do not get to live in good houses and have to travel a long distance to reach their accommodations in suburbs, he said.

In the process, they are exposed to criminal elements and face attacks, Sharma said.

"We have been taking up the issue with the Australian government for the past two years. Now they are taking a number of steps," he said.

The steps include a review of the Eduction Services for Overseas Students (ESOS) Act to make the accreditation process stringent. The amendment to the act, which seeks to make it mandatory for all institutes to be re-accredited to the regulatory agencies in the country by the end of next year, has been introduced in the federal Parliament.

Besides, the Victoria state government has initiated the audit of 17 private education providers to find out whether they fulfil requirements for the courses they are offering. About 600 private colleges, including 250 in Victoria, are offering courses to international students.

The federal government has also set up a committee to suggest a new strategy for international education.

The Council of Australian Governments, headed by Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, will give the final approval to the new strategy by the end of this year when Rudd is expected to visit India.

Indian Consulate General Nair said the genesis of the problem lies with Australia, which has allowed a huge number of private institutes to grow.

Three private institutes have recently been closed down in the country.

"The major worry is that what will happen to students if more colleges are closed in the near future. The question is how can they be relocated? Whether the existing colleges have the facility to accommodate them?" she asked.

Another demand of the Indian students is to get the travel concession for them, she said. Two states -- Victoria and New South Wales -- are not providing such concessions.

A senior officer in the Department of Immigration and Citizenship said the demand is under consideration.

The officer said that the government granted 3.2 lakh visas to international students last year, a 15 per cent increase over the previous year.

The government is reviewing the activities of agents and will take action against them if they are found not fulfilling the requirements.

The officer said that the skill migration programme is different from students' programme and added that the government would ensure that the international students get quality education here.

Bureau Report

First Published: Tuesday, August 25, 2009, 18:02

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