International students “duped” by unethical agents

An investigation by Canada’s Globe and Mail has revealed widespread exploitation of international students by dodgy education agents:

Large numbers of international students in Canada claim to have been duped by unscrupulous agents into parting with thousands of dollars in tuition for them to arrange jobs or placements at private colleges as an ‘easy’ way to work toward becoming a permanent resident…

According to the investigation, in some cases, students recruited by agents working with private colleges signed up for courses they “weren’t interested in” or didn’t plan to attend in order to qualify for a student work permit so they could get a job as soon as they arrived.

Instead, the students said they worked more hours than legally allowed while trying to get a Canadian employer to sponsor them…

Several students said they had hoped their courses would lead to good jobs, but ended up being a waste of time and money because no Canadian employers in their fields of study were willing to hire them afterwards.

One student from India said he had paid CAD$32,500 for courses to maintain his student work permit while trying to persuade his employer to sponsor him.

“The [recruiters] make us fake promises like… you can get your work permit,” he told The Globe.

…immigration consultant Dave Sage told The PIE that a lot of students who apply to Canada’s post-secondary institutions are determined to work rather than study.

“I am hearing from a lot of institutions, private and public, that their schools are getting duped by non-bonafide students, and this clearly creates operational, financial, and reputation risk. One of the most common examples is students seeking refunds quickly after arrival or asking to condense their studies or study online,” he said.

Additionally, Sage said, the “thousands” of unlicensed overseas immigration consultants are perpetuating the problem.

This must be a global phenomenon, because we have exactly the same problems in Australia.

Earlier this year, the Joint Parliamentary Inquiry into efficacy of current regulation of Australian migration and education agents released its report, which accused “unscrupulous, unlawful and unethical” education agents of exploiting both international students and Australia’s visa system.

Specifically, this report noted that agents were “involved in almost three-quarters of all international student enrolments” into Australia’s tertiary education sector, and claimed that agents were misleading international students on migration pathways and working rights, as well as pushing them into inappropriate courses that pay higher commissions. Accordingly, this unscrupulous activity has left some students “substantially out of pocket after being exploited”. The report also warned that “education agents are not currently regulated in Australia” and “literally anyone can become an education agent”.

In May, The Australian also reported that dodgy agents were exploiting international students, while also receiving financial kickbacks from tertiary institutions:

Manesh’s problems with his education agent began from the outset, when the agent pushed him to study nursing at a particular college and didn’t give him any other options. The agent also took about $500 from him for administration and only later did Manesh learn that agents are paid commissions by the colleges where they place students…

Despite promises from the education agent, he learned his course was not accredited by the Australian Nursing and Midwifery ­Accreditation Council, meaning he would be unable to gain work experience and help pay for his ­tuition by working in Australia…

“Everyone lied to us. First of all, the education agent lied to us. Then, after that, the college also lied to us. The college said that we will be getting to work in hospitals”…

The International English Language Testing System (IELTS) is a key pathway used to gain access to Australia by dodgy agents and international students alike, as illustrated by the below Facebook advertisement:

While the Department of Home Affairs requires a minimum IELTS score of 5.5 to study at an Australian tertiary institution, this requirement can be sidestepped if the student has an undergraduate degree from an institution where English is listed as a mode of delivery/instruction, or via “medium of instruction” (MOI) letters, which state that students previously studied in English.

Indeed, the recent Four Corners expose into Australia’s international student trade revealed multiple instances where Australian universities had accepted international students well below their own published English-language standards, as well as granted entry to students without undertaking an independent English-language test. Accordingly, academics complained of “record numbers of academic misconduct cases and increasing numbers of international students who are struggling”.

Nor is this is a recent phenomenon. A 2015 report from the NSW Independent Commission Against Corruption’s (ICAC), entitled “Managing corruption risks associated with international students”, noted that there is a web of dodgy agents facilitating the fraudulent trading of international students with poor English-language proficiency:

Competitive forces have pushed the level of English-language proficiency that some universities in NSW demand below what is considered necessary to complete some courses. In the search for international students, some universities in NSW are entering markets where document fraud and cheating on English-language proficiency tests are known to exist. They are using large numbers of local intermediaries – sometimes more than 200 agents – to market to and recruit students, resulting in due diligence and control challenges…

False entry qualifications, cheating on English-language proficiency tests, essay mills selling assignments, plagiarism, cheating in university exams and paying others to sit exams are reportedly common.

The pressures within universities are also conductive to corruption.

The recent book, entitled The Wage Crisis in Australia, claimed that “most international students… see themselves as involved in a project of ‘staggered’ or ‘multi-step’ migration, whereby they hope to leap from their present status into a more long-term visa status, ideally permanent residency”.

In other words, Australia’s tertiary education sector has become an integral component of the immigration system – a key pathway for migrants to purchase backdoor permanent residency to Australia. Dodgy unlicensed agents are seemingly behind much of this rorting.

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Unconventional Economist

Leith van Onselen is Chief Economist at the MB Fund and MB Super. Leith is an economist and has previously worked at the Australian Treasury, Victorian Treasury and Goldman Sachs.

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    • DominicMEMBER

      I’m fairly certain they call this natural selection.

      Except, the naturally selected are these days demanding taxpayer reparations, FFS!

  1. When scammers get scammed, is it really scamming?

    “Everyone lied to us. First of all, the education agent lied to us. Then, after that, the college also lied to us. The college said that we will be getting to work in hospitals”…

    Yes, i’m sure Manesh didn’t lie about his intentions at all. No doubt he will be filing for a bridging visa and complaining he isn’t getting free healthcare or rental assistance whilst he works for Uber.

    • With over 10 years of this now happening, and the advent of free mass communication includng WhatsApp, they cannot say they didn’t know.

      They know exactly what they are doing.

      The entitlement is strong in these ones.

  2. On 10 Feb 2014, the Panorama program on the BBC showed how foreign “students” cheat on the English exam.

    Undercover footage filmed by Panorama uncovered systematic fraud in the student visa system

    Someone else will sit the exam for you.

    Panorama researchers were also sold fake bank details to show they had enough funds to stay in the UK.

    Two weeks later she received a bank statement from Studentway that made it appear she had tens of thousands of pounds.

  3. Jevons ghostMEMBER

    Close down the immigration agent industry!
    Problem solved …. well no. Another scam will soon be invented to take its place.

  4. even the passing IELTS score of 5.5 is not good to work in a supermarket not to study at uni.

  5. Ronin8317MEMBER

    No different to people smugglers who transport asylum seekers using leaking boats.

  6. International students “duped” by unethical agents
    Unethical, that’s a bit strong. I prefer the word Entrepreneurial or Inventive, even the word Accommodative better describes the actions of these agents but you choose the label Unethical hmmm.