Indian international students embroiled in ghost college scandal

Earlier this week, ABC’s 730 Report uncovered an elaborate multi-million dollar fraud by a syndicate of Indian migrants that ran dodgy ‘ghost colleges’ providing fake diplomas to fake students:

Bobby Singh was the owner of private college St Stephen Institute of Technology. Mr Singh ran it as a “ghost college” as part of a multi-million-dollar scam…

He arrived in Australia at the age of 18 in 1999… In 2011, Mr Singh found himself in a new business: he took ownership of a registered training organisation called the St Stephen Institute of Technology…

On the day the audit was announced, Mr Singh made several phone calls instructing the members of his syndicate — Mr Sharma and Rakesh Kumar — to begin preparing the colleges for the audit, by making assessment records…

Across days of these surveillance tapes, not a single class was taught in accordance with the timetable that was given to ASQA.

On 20 of the 23 days the surveillance device was active, only three days showed any students attending the college.

…the computers actually weren’t networked, they weren’t connected to anything. So they basically just brought in all this material to comply … with the compliance visit.”

The particular type of scheme is known by some who work in the vocational training sector as a “ghost college”…

“It looks like a training college, when in fact students are not really doing their training, they’re actually out working or doing something else with their time”…

“They take that money, and then basically tell the students that you don’t have to come [in], just give us your money, and we’ll just give you the certificate”…

“They come out to Australia, they paid a lot of money to get their certificates … and they’re basically fake,” Detective Superintendent Woodward said.

The existence of ghost colleges is well known. A few months back, the Australian Skills Quality Authority warned that criminals using “ghost colleges” offering “fake vocational training prog­rams” had fuelled the surge in bridging visa applications to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal:

[Former High Court justice Ian Callinan] said “almost everyone” with migration law experience had told him there were applic­ants and representatives who “game the system, well knowing there is an automatic entitlement to a bridging visa”.

The Australian Skills Quality Authority told Mr Callinan that delays had repercussions beyond the AAT. It told him it was aware that organised crimin­als were sometimes, “perhaps even regularly”, benefiting from fake vocational training prog­rams or “ghost’’ colleges…

The AAT now handles about 59,000 lodgements a year: more than half (52 per cent) are migra­tion and refugee cases…

Dr Bob Birrell from the Australian Population Research Institute also claimed that private ghost colleges are offering cheap diplomas to satisfy skilled visa applications, and that these were aimed primarily at students from India’s Sub-continent:

“It has little to do with the excellence of the education that’s offered here,” he said. “It seems to be effectively selling access to jobs and ­permanent residence.”

Home Affairs Department figures show Indians are the biggest applicants of the 485 student visa… Many Indian students afterwards apply for permanent residency, with more than 4000 given skilled independent visas onshore in 2016-17…

History doesn’t repeat but it sure does rhyme. Because we heard exactly the same shenanigans a decade ago:

In 2002 there was just over 11,000 Indian students in Australia, and by 2005 this number had grown to over 27,000… However, by last year enrolments had grown even more rapidly up to nearly 100,00 students, and most of the growth was in private vocational colleges where enrolments of Indian students increased at a startling rate, from 2,600 to 47,400 in three years.

…there are low quality providers who cater almost exclusively to international students seeking fast and easy qualifications to support migration applications. By last year, 14,400 Indian students were studying in private colleges in programs grouped under the ‘food, hospitality and personal services’ classification, accounting more than a quarter of all students in these programs.

For several years many in the Australian international education industry have been warning that the rapid growth of private colleges providers focused on migration pathway programs posed serious threats…

Dodgy colleges continue to act as shady middle-men to Australia’s immigration system, clipping the ticket for those seeking backdoor access to Australian working rights and permanent residency.

Indian international students appear to be both the key users and victims of this scam.

Unconventional Economist

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

Comments

    • Mark HeydonMEMBER

      My thoughts too.
      Reading ” low quality providers who cater almost exclusively to international students seeking fast and easy qualifications”, it reminded me of the description my son gave of the university he attends.

    • Most of these foreign student ‘colleges’, ‘institutes’ ‘academies’ ‘campuses’ are like this.
      Go visit some.

      It would be good to have real time video camera surveillance (as per the ABC program) in all of them streamed to a website – sound & vision – so the Australian public can see via live streaming just what a farce they are.

      Invariably foreign run or controlled, and fronts for third world unskilled migrant trafficking on pretext visas.

      Most of the staff are also third world unskilled migrants on a visa scam – backpackers, Indians, Chinese, Filipino or Bangladeshi as pretext teachers & administration.

      The actual courses are a joke.

      8 year old child level English dressed up as a certificate. Or 14 year old high school business studies or child care dressed up as a diploma.
      All of this is available in the migrant guestworkers home country or free online.
      They aren’t here for the education..

      Even at the University / degree level, it’s very dumbed down, widespread cheating, paying for assignments, proxies to sit exams..

      Classes full of tattooed up Asian vice workers, Indian rurals, the mass of Chinese Hukou, Malay / Nepalese, Brazilian – misfits & useless.

      Many are old / very old – 30 years plus.

      Almost all are working illegally.

      The ethnic group & syndicates running the ‘foreign student education’ often organise the black market work, the illegal bunk share, the migration advice on how to churn the course, COe and visa extensions..

      How to ‘add a partner’ as a secondary applicant (full work rights no English test) how to apply for a sponsored visa, the sought after PR, how to manipulate the appeals tribunal process.

      A typical class will often have 30-40 ‘enrolled’ & not enough desks or chairs.
      After week 3 only 15 or so will be attending, the instructors & admin all on the take to mark off the roll or provide passes.
      By the end of the semester maybe only 5 left.
      But most will ‘pass’.

      It is totally corrupted top to bottom.

      Electronic tags on all foreign students & partners,
      Compulsory reporting to the local police station to report all activities, income, where living, how many others & who exactly they pay rent to.

      And live streamed public accessible video surveillance of all these foreign student education institutions including inside the class room.

      Then Australia might wake up & realise none of this is about genuine foreign student education.

      It’s just front for third world unskilled migrant guestworker trafficking.

    • TEQSA who is the Higher Education regulator doesn’t even use an evidence based approach when assessing the current behaviours and practices of Higher Ed providers, in fact staff its Commissioner’s go out of their way to undermine the work of Case Manager’s who present evidence of egregious and nefarious practices in their reports.

  1. Whoever exposed this sham should have the Murdoch University legal team set upon them immediately. They have damaged the reputation of Australian’s biggest industry – the mass immigration, dodgy degrees, visa and citizenship fire sale.

    • With all the scams and dodgy dealings being exposed lately, that legal team will be kept very busy defending the honour of our institutions, politicians and companies.

    • @Clive you do realise TEQSA who is the Higher Education regaultor doesn’t even use an evidence based approach when assessing these provider’s as opposed to ASQA whose entire approach is to conduct un-annouced site visits so as evidence cannot be fabricated.

      • @Jim TEQSA is based upon the proven model used by the Australian chemical and pesticide regulator (AVPMA). It collects vast amounts of paperwork and inspects what boxes have been ticked as a big shining example of self-regulation. It’s the Wayne Byers model used in banking and finance. Works a treat.

        As ‘the regulator you have when you are not having a regulator’, it saves government tons of money that can be put into middle class welfare whilst keeping the Quarry Australia ethic alive, well and on steroids.

        The Bobby Singhs are needed as locals are too lazy to see the opportunities in such a business model. Cripes, don’t people know that there is free money to be had and suckers shipped in fro overseas to be fleeced? You just have to learn to be your own regulator, pull a OS student from the mob and begin to shear. Employ a few shearers and you are on your way to a fortune and Ferrari paid for by the taxpayer. Unfortunately, Australians don’t have the mean eye of a skinny cat and confidence of a street wise shyster. Diversity and vibrancy is needed for that. How good is Australia!

  2. international students appear to be both the key users and victims of this scam.

    I am glad you are allowed to say that.

    A salary filter needs to be put in – only give permanent residency to those with an income of over $100k/year.

  3. ContrarianMEMBER

    This is such a great business model just like uber being the biggest taxi company and not own a car we have college’s that don’t have students amazing.

  4. I was of the understanding that foreign students would come to Australia and have to pay for their own tuition. And the migrants that came here to work. Woodwork But it appears that migrants the come here for any reason. Want the taxpayer to pay for their tuition? Even when they’re coming here on the pretext of working. I’m entirely confused, but that’s pretty normal around these times.

    • And the foreign workers who can’t find jobs would like the taxpayer here to assist them with additional training in order that they can get the job they want and deny a job to someone born here and more eligible.

      I gave up sniffing glue a while back on the basis there was some hope in this country after all. But I think I’ll reconsider.

      You couldn’t make this up

  5. Why persist calling the “students” “victims”?

    I don’t understand. If they were victims, surely someone might have complained to some authority over the last 20 years?! But not one did, evidently. Not one!

    • To be fair, the odd one does complain. But a cynic might say it’s only when they stand to get some more money, such as when an advocate of some kind offers to help them get their “stolen wages”.

      The point MB would probably make is that they are victims by virtue of the fact they are aways underpaid and usually in degraded work conditions. But they are willing participants in this scam, so it is hard to see them as victims.

      • They are dirty scammers.

        Mb might be too afraid to call a spade a spade because doing so is Ray’s Cyst or Xeno Phobic in this day and age. Let us all pretend that it is pure coincidence that all the “students” are all foreigners and no Australian has ever enrolled and ponied up the course fees for a fake certificate.

        25 million people in the country, 23m of them citizens/Pr holders and yet somehow randomly, for 20 years, every single “student” at that fake certificate joint is a foreigner.

        What are the chances, huh? It’s like winning the lottery every fuсking week! S’pose it could happen.

        • +1000

          And furthermore, if you agree to this deal

          They take that money, and then basically tell the students that you don’t have to come [in], just give us your money, and we’ll just give you the certificate

          Then you are as criminal as the organisers and need to be exited immediately. GTFO you CVNTS.

  6. Bobby “Dazzler” Singh deserves a business award for his entrepreneurialism. The aspirational vibrants get their worthless piece of paper, service industries get their slaves and we get our Uber Eats delivered on time. Everybody wins. How good is Straya!

  7. Some really funny comments here. You guys on fire today. I should be laughing … but I am crying instead. Does anyone know where the reset button is … I am happy to push it.

  8. Australian Skills Quality Authority has a lot to answer to … hey lets have a royal commission. I know some banking lawyers who have low fees and billing and could change to skills training lawyers with royal commission experience

    • @Hanei Mark Patterson who was ASQA’s Commissioner was forced to resign due to Michaella Cash being lobbied by Indian owned RTO’s complaining that ASQA was being too aggressive.

    • What I would like to know is, what skills (precisely) the people who head the Australian Skills Authroity actually have? What qualifications do you need exactly to lead such an organization.

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