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Australia needs to ‘fix’ its international education

Illustrative pic: Bt files09

Melbourne, 19 September: It started with the story we published last month. It was a story of  Pawandeep Kaur who had lost her bid in court to get a student visa. She had been in Australia for 8 years, having come as a student. But as the court found, Pawandeep, a Bachelor of Arts from India had some very interesting facts in her 8 years long immigration history.

Having come to Australia more than 8 years ago, she had three previous student visas. In June 2015 she applied for her fourth student visa to undertake an Advanced Diploma of Business and a Diploma of Production Horticulture. Although holding a Bachelor’s degree in India, since being in Australia, she studied lower level courses unrelated to her arts degree. Pawandeep’s problems stemmed from the fact that during her stay in Australia, she had enrolled in multiple courses, in some multiple times. Many of those enrollments were cancelled.

The Tribunal listed her enrollments as below:
1. Certificate IV in Spoken and Written English
2. Certificate III in Automotive Mechanical Technology,
3. Certificate III in Printing and Graphic Arts (2)
4. Certificate III in Automotive Mechanical Technology,
5. Diploma of Business (Frontline Management) (2)
6. Diploma of Multimedia, Diploma of Interactive Digital media,
7. Certificate IV in Business (3) Diploma of Business,
8. Diploma of Management (2),
9. Diploma of Production Horticulture (3)
10. Certificate II in Horticulture,
11. Diploma of Human Resource Management,
12. Certificate IV in Production Nursery,
13. Advanced Diploma of Management,
14. Diploma of Business,
15. Certificate IV in Production Nursery,
16. Diploma of Business,
17. Advanced Diploma of Business and
18. Diploma of Production Horticulture.

During her 8 years of stay in Australia, Pawandeep had only completed about 3½ years of horticulture studies.

“Not good enough at all”, says a senior migration agent who is absolutely enraged with stories like Pawandeep’s. “Australia is bonkers to not filter and screen people coming in to study. Who on earth would enrol in 18 courses in 8 years and complete practically none – if one is even half interested in studies?”asks an infuriated agent.

“With stories like this”, he tells BT “in many cases agents are blamed in courts and tribunals by students appearing in person using us professionals as scapegoats and that’s not on”.

He does admit there may be some questionable business plying in the  industry but he insists there are some fantastic professionals providing golden advice to potential good Aussie citizens.

“The government has to step in and put some checks and balances in place. At the moment they are factoring in ‘paper money’”, he adds.

In Pawandeep’s case the Tribunal found that Pawandeep had failed to ‘to commit to and complete courses she had enrolled in and that suggested she wanted somehow to remain in Australia rather than achieve education.

The Tribunal observed her intention to remain in Australia “outweighed” her desire to achieve an educational outcome (/diploma/degree/certificate).

Such cases should be alerting the system in Canberra, he believes. And when asked what he means, he adds, “System should not only be artificially intelligent to pick up the commitment and seriousness of the student and whether the student just wants to remain in Australia, it should also be empowered to provide punitive remedies to shortcut the delaying tactics used by many particularly the ones  with spouse and children. Being in Australia, these people fall in a wrong category when their needs are different – and that is gradually stuffing up the system.”

Based on Pawandeep’s erratic pursuit of her studies, having her husband and child with her and the fact that she returned to India only once in 8 years, the Tribunal observed it indicated she ‘did not have a strong incentive to return home.

The Tribunal further observed Pawandeep did not have a genuine intention to study but to remain resident in Australia.

Pawandeep’s three years journey started from the department decision in 2015 to Federal Circuit Court in 2018. She was ordered to pay costs as well.

“Your story ended saying she may have other legal avenues”, he angrily suggests “what does that tell you? A student – who came to Australia 8 years ago, did not complete practically any better degree or diploma than she had in India”.

The senior agent does concede not all students are insincere in pursuit of their studies but insists even the small numbers coming through the system are bringing the community and the whole international student community into disrepute.

His last word to the government, “It is about time to marry the consulting figures of paper money (on international education) to the on-ground costs of managing the load through Australian court system and remedy the situation as soon as possible. It is practically long overdue”.

-R. VenuGopal

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