India gets tough on education agents

Infuriated by the growing number of rogue agents victimising students going overseas for higher education, the Indian Government is considering a licensing regime that is expected to discipline the operators.

Indian Newslink understands that the Overseas Indian Affairs (OIA) Ministry will appoint a Registrar or establish an office within one of its departments to register and oversee the behaviour of agents recruiting students at various overseas universities.

OIA Minister Vayalar Ravi told this newspaper that his Government was aware of the irregularities in the existing system and the need to cleanse it for the benefit of the student community.

“We will make it mandatory for all education agents to register with the Government and follow the systems, rules and regulations with a code of conduct. Each approved agents will be issued with a licence, which will be revoked if the rules are breached. I cannot watch helpless our students being victimised by unscrupulous agents,” he said.

Mr Ravi said non-compliance of the provisions of the proposed legislation would entail fines or even jail terms.

“We must stop education agents misleading students into joining fake universities and unapproved and unrecognised courses,” he said.

While irregularities and malpractices have been in existence for some time now, recent revelations of the dubious ‘Tri-Valley University,’ based in California, US, has prompted the Indian Government to initiate action.

Inhuman Treatment

The University, termed, ‘Diploma Mill,’ was purportedly offering fake qualifications and certificates, opening an ‘easy but expensive route’ for Indian students to obtain immigration and employment in the US.

The authorities had reportedly obliged Indian students to wear ‘ankle tags’ to enable them to monitor their movement.

Understandably, the move has outraged the students and the Indian public, forcing New Delhi to take stern action.

The External Affairs Ministry lodged a strong protest through its Ambassador to the State Department in Washington DC, while the OIA began to work out a new formula in conjunction with various other Government Departments.

OIA officials said education agents offered a number of services including assisting students with university and visa applications, English language requirements and accommodation abroad. Some recruit on behalf of particular overseas universities for a commission payable by the foreign institution.

According to the London based University World News, the new legislation also aims to create a database of students studying abroad.

“But the proposed law would not make it compulsory for the students to register with the Ministry before leaving India. Registering, however, will entitle students to seek government help in checking out the authenticity of the institute and the course, before they leave India.

“Some of the Indian students at Tri-Valley said they had been duped by unscrupulous education agents in India, who did not alert them to problems at the university,” the publication said.

Government to blame

It quoted Rajiv Lochan, Director of Global Reach, an education consultancy firm, as saying that US officials and education agents in India should share the blame for the ‘Tri-Valley University’ debacle.

“Both parties failed to check the authenticity of the university. The new bill that aims to register agents is a good step in helping students and cleansing the system,” he said.

Closer home, officials in Australia have recently asked the Indian Government to monitor the activities of education agents in India and put in place a tougher regime to end exploitation of students.

Their concern became more vocal in 2009 in the wake of a series of immigration frauds allegedly perpetrated by some education agents.

“Meanwhile much-awaited legislation to allow foreign institutions to set up branches in India has been subjected to increased parliamentary scrutiny as the Tri-Valley case highlighted the issue of bogus and sub-standard foreign Institutions,” University World News said.

It said Human Resources Ministry officials in Delhi last fortnight faced tough questioning from Parliamentarians about the entry of foreign players proposed under the Foreign Educational Institutions (Regulation of Entry and Operations) Bill introduced to Parliament last year and currently being examined by a Parliamentary Committee.

Reader our Editorial, Education agents need lessons on honesty under Viewlink.

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