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Another private college collapse

Meld Magazine

Mon Apr 12 2010

international students

THE Federal Government still hasn’t come to an agreement on whether to allow international students to claim compensation if their colleges close, despite the collapse of yet another private college, leaving 700 students in the lurch.

The Austech Institute of Further Education in Ashfield, Sydney is the latest victim of the private college closure saga, which began with the Meridian school closures in December 2009.

Austech closed its doors on March 23 after going into voluntary remission.

Speaking to the ABC, Austech students said they were told to pay their fees early to take advantage of a $500 discount.

They said they were forced to pay up to $20,000, and some were days away from graduating when they were told they could no longer continue their studies.

These students join thousands of others displaced by college closures across Victoria and New South Wales. Some of which, according to Australian Federation of International Students (AFIS) honorary president Wesa Chau, were still waiting to be transferred to a new school.

“A number of Meridian college students are still waiting for arrangements four months after the closure and yet there is little reassurance from the Australian Council for Private Education and Training that anything is being done,” Ms Chau said.

“College closures are extremely stressful for students involved and increase financial burden on students and their family back home.

“It is not enough to provide a transfer of courses, many international students do not have networks or support in Australia, they don’t know where to go for support. Where is their safety net?”

Under current legislation, affected students are not given a refund for prepaid accommodation and other services when their collage collapse, regardless of how much they’ve lost.

An amendment that will enable students to claim compensation for more than just lost tuition fees is currently being debated as part of the Federal Government’s Education Services for Overseas Students (ESOS) Bill.

A final report reviewing this bill was released on March 9.

The Baird Review recommended improved information for international students and more support through such schemes such as travel concessions and tuition protection.

In a statement, Federal Education Minister Julia Gillard said the Government would “begin work on implementing a number of recommendations immediately”.

Ms Gillard also said the Government would work to ensure Australia remained a world class education provider.

Students affected by the collapse of Austech Institute of Further Education have been asked to email the Australian Council for Private Education and Training (ACPET) and fill in a relocation request form.

Those who are unable to be placed in a suitable alternative course may be eligible for a refund.