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India launches web portal to combat bogus courses pre-departure

India, the second largest supplier of students in the international education sector, recurrently finds hundreds of Indian students stranded on foreign shores after getting duped by bogus courses and fraudulent agents.

It is hoped the new web portal will solve issues before departure. Photo: Stock

Agents in India were accused by New Zealand of using immigration promises to secure admissions in substandard courses

To help prevent such situations, the Indian government is all set to launch a web portal for international education that will list accredited foreign universities and supply verified information on a range of courses and visa norms.

The web portal is a collaboration of the Ministry of External Affairs and the Ministry of Human Resource Development (which oversees education in India) and Indian missions across the world.

PM Narendra Modi is a vocal proponent of students, often raising it with his foreign counterparts. According to sources, it was through these meetings that the students expressed a need for verified information on foreign courses.

“Governments abroad [presume] Indian students commit fraud and don’t want to study. This is far from the truth”

Jayne Rowley, CEO of Prospects, which the UK’s degree authentication system, believes this web portal in India “would fit very well” with global trends.

“In terms of the database project in India, there are a number of initiatives in this area across the globe. Prospects is the UK signatory to the Groningen Declaration Network and sits on its task force for verification policies and best practice. India is also a signatory to the Groningen Declaration,” Rowley told The PIE News.

This declaration serves global academic and professional mobility needs by helping stakeholders share their authentic educational data through Digital Student Data Portability system. The Task Force is working to develop and maintain a database of trusted national verification providers; mapping a list of recognised institutions in various countries.

“Government intervention in this sector will be very useful. This will lead to the decline of fraudulent applications and also help sift rumours from facts,” said Pratik Shandilya, a counsellor certified by the Indian government, and founder of Adelbert International Education and Consultancy.

“A presumption has arrived in the minds of governments abroad that Indian students commit fraud and don’t want to study. This is far from the truth and so it’s quite important for the Indian government to intervene in this scrutiny of universities and agents.”

Every year 220,000 Indian students travel to 86 global destinations to pursue their higher education with currently 550,000 Indians studying worldwide, according to the latest figures released by the Indian government.

According to WES, an overwhelming majority of Indian students (93%) that used agents indicated they did so to shortlist universities. And this is what worries the government as every year new cases of fraud make headlines.

Bogus colleges and substandard courses have been known to emerge even in popular Western destinations, and thousands of Indian students are left in a lurch with a threat of deportation and a blot on their CVs. Many are also lured by false promises of job prospects and flexible study. Sometimes changes in immigration laws are often not conveyed to students by the agents allegedly wishing to boost their commission through admissions.

“Government intervention in this sector will be very useful”

Agents in India were accused by New Zealand of using immigration promises to secure admissions in substandard courses and providing fraudulent documents to the authorities. Over a hundred students have returned to India this month. Many more are fighting to stay in NZ and complete their studies.

Britain saw deportation of 19,000 students when English language tests came under the scanner after a media investigation found evidence of fraud in those centres. 65 colleges lost their license; students found their fees wasted with no degree secured and were shamed when they were slapped with a deportation and a 10-year visa ban.

Many are still fighting the case, as The PIE continues to report.

In the US, almost 4000 Indian students suffered terrible consequences when the Tri-Valley University in San Francisco, California and University of Northern Virginia were shut down due to an immigration scam in 2011.

Prospective and past international students agree that the web portal will be a useful tool.

“The website is definitely a good idea. This way we can be sure the colleges we apply to are for real,” said Ashutosh Gupta who wants to do business studies in Europe in 2019.

“If this had existed a few years ago, I would not have to return to India when the ELT tests scam erupted in the UK and my career was jeopardised,” added a student who asked to remain anonymous.

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