Abuse of course rules traps foreign students
The Brisbane Times
August 11, 2009
UNIVERSITIES are among higher education providers exploiting an Australian law to keep international students in courses they want to abandon, a legal expert has found.
Stewart Coulson, an immigration lawyer, said some education agents had encouraged international students to enrol in courses they would otherwise not have chosen, in a bid to guarantee permanent residency in Australia.
Once enrolled, students who sought to change courses often found themselves trapped because the 2007 national code governing Australian providers of education to overseas students prevented enrolment shifts within six months of starting without the teaching institution's permission.
Mr Coulson said the code had been introduced to protect students from exploitation but it achieved the reverse effect.
''In reality, it builds a cage around international students and facilitates their exploitation,'' Mr Coulson said.
The education agents often enrolled the students in courses that paid the agents the largest commission, he said.
The code allows institutions to monitor students and make reports to the Department of Immigration for breaches of visa conditions.
Students were scared they would be reported and have their visa cancelled if they applied for a course change.
Mr Coulson said the regulations were being used ''as a stick to punish, harass and intimidate students not to complain about the conditions of their study'' and to pay unnecessary course fees. Transfer policies were ''often impossible'' to satisfy.
''International students are forced to go cap in hand like ungrateful children to beg to get themselves out of courses they don't want to be in and would never have enrolled in if given accurate and ethical advice, and not misled or lied to about the benefits of completing such courses,'' he said.
The Federal Government has announced that it will review laws affecting international students.
Source: The Sydney Morning Herald