Audits Close More Dubious Colleges

Audits close more dubious colleges

The Age
December 8, 2009

TWO more private colleges in Melbourne have been forced to close after a regulator found they had failed to meet the most basic education standards.

The Australian Institute of Career Education and the Australian International College of Commerce were closed yesterday because they had inadequate learning materials, deficient kitchen facilities for training hospitality students, and they failed to keep proper student records.

The Age believes the Australian International College of Commerce also had inadequate staff to teach the students it had enrolled.

A total of 129 mostly Indian and Chinese international students studying commercial cookery have been left in limbo. Some were due to finish their courses in less than two weeks. Students who are displaced as a result of college closures must, by law, be found alternative colleges or have their course fees refunded.

The closures bring to 11 the number of colleges that have shut since July, either because of a failure to comply with regulations or because of financial woes. In total, more than 3000 international and domestic students have been affected.

The state education regulator, the Victorian Registration and Qualification Authority, said it ''found the colleges to be significantly non-compliant with relevant registration standards''.

The latest closures come as the Chinese Government warns students to avoid ''unstable and risky (colleges in Australia) even if they have been approved by local authorities''.

An alert issued by the Chinese Ministry of Education last month said: ''Students should be cautious and not choose education providers that mainly enrol international students under a short-term business model based on 'education as an export'.''

The strongly worded warning is a sign that the collapse of the colleges, including large, established colleges, has harmed the reputation of Australia's $16.6 billion international education industry.

The executive director of the Australian International College of Commerce, Zhi Mei Ye, and the chief executive of the Australian Institute of Career Education, Gopi Chengareddy, could not be contacted yesterday.

The State Government, which is expecting further college collapses, said the latest closures were a result of its efforts to ''tidy up the sector''.

Minister for Skills and Workforce Participation Jacinta Allan said the closures were a result of 41 rapid audits of high-risk colleges.

The audits, which were conducted jointly by Victoria's education regulator, and federal education and immigration departments, began in May and are expected to be complete by the end of the year.

Federal and state education authorities are expected to meet students on Thursday.