According to a report prepared by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) in 2013, Asian students occupy 53 percent market share of all abroad students in OCED countries. Among South Asian countries, Nepal contributes 30,000 students to OECD countries and stands third after India and Pakistan. The US stands as the first popular destination with 17 percent of abroad study market share; the UK is second with 13 percent and Australia is third with 6 percent.
The flow of Nepali students to the US has been steady since it doesn’t frequently amend visa rules like Australia and the UK. In 2009, the Australian High Commission rejected 38.8 percent of Nepali students’ visa applications. Similarly, the admission of our students for UK colleges and universities was as high as 6,500 in 2009 according to the Ministry of Sports and Education. It started coming down after the UK amended visa rules for international students in July 2011.
The Australian High Commission, New Delhi, has recently given a red signal to 2,000 prospective Nepali applicants and thousands of other aspirants. The reason, according to the report, is fraudulent documents submitted by students to obtain student visa. It is true that most of the times students produce fraud financial documents. The Commission had also tightened its visa application procedures for Nepali students in 2009. It restricted several A Grade financial institutions from issuing education loan.
It is estimated that the recent rejection of 2,000 visa applications may result in the loss of almost a quarter of billion rupees for the applicants. However, the authorities at the Education Consultancy Association of Nepal (ECAN) say that the procedures have been followed to meet the criteria set up by Australian High commission and all money is not lost as yet!
In 2009, UK Border Agency (UKBA), on behalf of the UK Home Office, introduced a new Tier-4 General Student visa rule. Criteria for eligibility were very flexible. Any international student (from Non-European countries) successfully completing Level 6 and Level 7 course would be entitled to visa extension of two years to live and work in the UK under the category of Post Study Work (PSW) visa. In July 2011, the UKBA again amended its rule and introduced a new version of Tier-4 General student visa by eliminating the provision of PSW and limiting the 20 hours per week work right for international students. This unexpected amendment greatly affected international students, including Nepalis.
What actually happened between 2009 and July 2011 in case of Tier-4 General visa for the UK and in the case of Australian visa after February 2009? The answer is simple. The ‘provision’ of visa was misused! As soon as flexible visa rules for international students were announced, education consultancies in Nepal started advertising the advantages of abroad study in misleading ways.
Not only local agents but even private colleges affiliated with universities in the UK misled students. The number of such private colleges started mushrooming after PSW visa was announced. They started admitting students from different countries via local agents. But they had not enough infrastructure and human resources to accommodate them all. The local agents offering the so-called ‘education counselling’ showcased imposing buildings of colleges in their websites; the truth was these colleges were operating in one- or two-storey buildings with no education facilities.
Between 2009 and 2012, hundreds of these kinds of fake private colleges were banned from providing sponsorship licenses to admit international students and these institutions were suspended by the UKBA. Many of them, however, took legal recourse and claimed insolvency. Thousands of international students got stranded because of this. Students neither got the refunds, nor compensations of any other kind.
The student visa processes for Australia and the UK have almost similar financial and academic requirements. Once a student can prove his/her academic credibility as a competent applicant, the second requirement is financial one. Though we do not have research data to corroborate this, it can be estimated that over 90 percent students approach local banks and other financial institutions to obtain education loan. When banks approve education loan, students then can officially lodge the visa application.
Now, the Australian High Commission has declined to accept the financial documents issued by Grade A banks and financial institutions of Nepal. This means that over 2,000 Nepali students may end up losing their time, money and energy for no results. Why is the Australian High Commission rejecting such bank statements? There may be two reasons: either the banks are producing statements without any mortgage or education consultancies are producing fake bank loans! In both the cases, students are victims of misguidance and forgery.
Plenty of questions can be raised. Do we have any administrative authority to verify the authenticity of bank statements? Is there any legal body to ensure education consultancies guarantee financial safety, refund or compensate loss to students? Is there any education consultancy in town that genuinely advises students about what happens in universities abroad? Are parents willing to visit the education consultancy to find whether their children are making the right decision?
source: PURI ,BISHNU (2014),"False advisors", republica,9 april 2014
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