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Holy Cash Cows
Reporter: Wendy Carlisle
Reporter Wendy Carlisle reveals how dodgy business practices are being used to rip off foreign students seeking legitimate qualifications in Australia. At the same time she also shows how vocational training for foreign students has become an immigration scam allowing thousands of foreigners to come to, and then remain in, Australia under false pretences.
For ten years now Australia's foreign student education sector has been on a massive growth spurt. First it was foreign students seeking university degrees. More recently it's the vocational education sector that's been expanding.
Last year more than 70,000 Indian students came here to buy an education. Egged on by immigration and education agents, many were told if they enrolled in cooking, hairdressing and accounting courses they would not only get a diploma but they could also qualify for permanent residency in Australia.
Now a major Four Corners investigation reveals that foreign students in this country have been targeted by unscrupulous businessmen, who have set up training schools that supply qualifications that sometimes aren't worth the paper they are written on.
"It is a fraud because we were shown so many rosy pictures about the school and it is not what it was really... it was just a scam." - Parent of Indian student
"We all know that they have sardine type cooking classes where there's sixteen students to a frypan." (Corruption investigator)
Bogus courses though are not the only scam going on. If a student wants to apply for permanent residency they must pass an English language test. Four Corners has found clear evidence that unscrupulous immigration and education agents are offering English language tests for a price. In some cases the exam paper is worth up to $5,000.
Another requirement for students in vocational courses, seeking residency in Australia, is a work experience certificate. Each student is required to undertake up to 900 hours of on the job training. Some work for nothing creating a source of cheap labour. Others are offered an alternative. Four Corners reveals an immigration agent was prepared to help procure a fake work experience certificate for students if they were prepared to pay between three and four thousand dollars. This practice clearly makes a joke of the vocational qualification and the integrity of the immigration system.
How is this allowed to happen? Four Corners has discovered evidence that students have made serious allegations to the relevant government authorities and been ignored or worse found themselves subsequently under investigation by government.
"I mean for years I have been writing about dodgy education providers in Sydney and nobody cares... there's certainly been enough complaints lodged that the problems have been there. There's no doubt." - Corruption investigator
For some time now the Federal Government has boasted about the growth in the foreign education sector. But some experts now believe the time has come for the government to stop the corruption. The question is: does it have the will?
"Well basically they've been bedazzled by the dollars ...they could proudly say this is a $15 billion industry, more than wheat, wool and meat put together, there's perhaps an understandable reluctance to look at the foundation of the industry." - Bob Birrell, from the Monash University's Centre for Population and Urban Research
If the government refuses to clean up the scams and the corruption many believe it could destroy the $15 billion industry. As one young student told the program why would you pay for a service that is not provided?
"Obviously I am very angry. I've like taken a loan. It's a big loan and I paid the money to the school. I came here for a purpose... I haven't got anything." - Indian student.
-- Holy Cash Cows goes to air at 8.30pm 27th July on ABC 1. It is repeated at 11.35pm 28th July.
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Tags: four, corners, australia, study, scam, holy, cash, cows, immigration, policy, fraud, rip, off, international, students, india, punjab, hyedrabad, austech,
Location: Sydney, New South Wales, Australia (load item map)
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