‘Private ghost colleges in Australia are targeting students from India’

November 21, 2019 no comment kartik

In the recent past, Australia’s vocational education and training (VET) sector has been rocked with scandals that in worst cases have led to arrests, fraud and have unearthed the reality of ‘ghost colleges’ exploiting vulnerable international students.

Arguably one of the most infamous cases which continue to make headlines even today is that of Baljit “Bobby” Singh, an Indian-origin businessman who was sentenced to six years in 2018, for running a $2m private vocational training college scam.

Mr Singh was the owner of St Stephen Institute of Technology based in Melbourne, a ‘ghost college’ that received subsidies from the Victorian government, but in turn, did not provide any real training to hundreds of students they claimed were studying there, and some of whom were not actually enrolled.

Kittu Randhawa, the chairperson of the Indian Subcontinent Crisis and Support Agency (ICSA) who had provided frontline support to at least 200 affected students when the scandal broke, said that the government policies are “unfair” to international students.

“I really do believe that the government is unfair to the community of students when they bring them here and they spend a lot of money and our economy does very well out of it, but the students don’t get pathways to residency,” said Ms Randhawa.

Chandigarh-based education agent Avtar Gill said Indian students are emerging as one of the main target groups of such dodgy operators, as Indians are the second-largest source of student intake in Australia.

“Indian students are being exploited to the hilt. Even in Bobby Singh’s case, most of the affected students were from India, out of which a large proportion was from Punjab.”

Meanwhile, the spurt in the number of such cases has prompted the government to usher in significant reforms to the VET sector to protect the interests of all those who want to pursue a VET pathway to a career.

“The VET Stakeholder committee will drive forward this agenda, ensuring that stakeholder views are understood, considered and included during the implementation of the $585 million Skills package.

In line with their agenda, the Australian Skills Quality Authority – the national regulator -has identified the delivery of VET to overseas students as a ‘regulatory priority’ for 2019-21.

The watchdog said it uses the intelligence provided via students and referrals from government agencies to scrutinise providers who may not be meeting their regulatory obligations.

“ASQA encourages students who are concerned that their provider may not be meeting their regulatory obligations to report their concerns either directly to ASQA or the Overseas Student Ombudsman,” said an ASQA spokesperson.

Mr Gill, however, believes that the common thread behind the rampant rorting is the increased privatisation of the sector.

News source: SBS Punjabi


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