`Indian students being duped by unscrupulous agents`

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.

Updated: Aug 25, 2009, 18:02 PM IST

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