Government must stop this education rot now!

Fraud, deceit and exploitation dominate student enrolment

Venkat Raman

The reputation of New Zealand as a quality destination is at risk and the country will soon be seen as a market for substandard course and programmes, if the Government does not take immediate corrective action.

Radio New Zealand (RNZ) News has published a report based on the data obtained under the Official Information Act from the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE), demonstrating the extent to which the rot has gone in the export education sector.

The Report said that one Indian man, who was not named, is suspected of controlling many Indians coming into New Zealand as international students and taking a cut of the commission paid to many agents.

We will call this mysterious man Mr X.

Old Boys Network

The documents, obtained by RNZ from Immigration New Zealand (INZ) said that Mr X and two others operate a network of agents in India.

“Information obtained from the Indian community in Auckland indicates that the man ‘controls everything’, although he requires others to complete the work to maintain a clean appearance. His system is referred to as an ‘old boys network’ and Mr X gets a cut of everything,” RNZ reported.

Exclusive supply

The Report said that Mr X and his two associates ran a company to “cater to the agents as advised by colleges” and some institutions would accept students only from agents affiliated to the company.

“It is possible that some Private Training Establishments (PTEs) are aware of this man’s business practices, but believe that he has a stronghold over the agent and the student market in India. It is possible that they are hesitant to act against him as they believe it may impact the volume of students enrolling in the schools.”

Men identified

RNZ News has identified the three men, but has chosen not to name them for legal reasons.

The document said that the institutions might think that the men’s company was managing the selection and visa application process for their students, but it was likely that they were receiving applicants from unknown sub-agents, contributing to a high decline rate.

Indian Newslink sources in India say that the ‘education racket’ has been going on for many years and that at least some officials were aware of the illegal and unethical practices going on in some cities.

“Education agents and those keen on migrating as international students know that New Zealand is a soft touch and that apart from educational institutions, there are many businesses that routinely sell job offers at fees starting from $30,000 per offer. The rate would go up depending on the urgency shown by ‘clients’ and how disparate they are to stay in New Zealand,” the sources said.

Easy Targets

Small businesses owned and operated by people of Indian origin are an easy target for international students and migrant workers seeking job offers which will get them permanent resident status. Many of them say that they receive calls from international students asking for ‘a mere job offer letter,’ without having to actually provide a job.

INZ seemed to have abandoned the practice of visiting the premises of such companies to ascertain if they had a genuine need for staff.

Some victims

A man on ‘Job Search Visa,’ was interviewed by the manager of a firm in the Auckland CBD, following which he was issued with an appointment letter. The applicant paid the manager $5000 as cash but was stupefied to find on the first day of his employment that the man who posed as the Manager had no authority to interview or recruit people.

In another case, an Indian arrived in Auckland with an employment letter signed by the Managing Director of a commercial undertaking in Onehunga, Auckland, who had interviewed him over the phone. He found to his horror that the firm had not advertised for the post and that the Managing Director of the firm had not interviewed the new migrant. All the documents that he had received were fake, including the letterhead and other stationery.

The migrant said he had lost $60,000.

Officials unhelpful

It is unfortunate that no one – businesses, agents, education providers and employers – is interested in bringing the perpetrators to justice.

INZ does not answer our questions saying that they encroach on privacy issues.

New Zealand is fast losing its reputation as a good, quality destination for education.

Some members of the community are unfortunately accelerating that process.

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