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Members of the Association of Australian Education Representatives in India (AAERI) at organisation's recent 20th anniversary celebrations.
Indian agents calls for onshore commision ban

The Association of Australian Education Representatives in India (AAERI) has launched a petition calling on the Australian government to ban commission payments to onshore agents in order to prevent the practice of 'course hopping'.

In a statement on its petition at Change.org, Rahul A Gandhi, President of AAERI, said that the Department of Immigration and Border Protection (DIBP) had detected increases in 'course hopping' - the practice of arriving with a visa for a specific provider through streamlined visa processing (SVP), then transferring to a cheaper course after arrival - after the introduction of SVP in 2012.

 

"This proves the fact that course hopping, also known as 'waka jumping' is a serious problem. Not only the huge offshore marketing investment and subsequent financial returns of serious Australian education providers are being lost, but also serious education agents who recruited the students offshore are losing their reputations and income as a result of non-genuine student actions for which they have no control," he said.

 

"AAERI is of the view that such practices are attracting non-genuine students who initially opt for a reputable education provider to avail their course and institution-specific visa and on arrival or within a few weeks of entering the Australian migration zone, they change to another education provider, which they would not have been issued a visa for if they applied for this institution in their home country."

 

Rahul said that the new simplified student visa framework (SSVF) - which replaced SVP from July 1 - provided a more equal playing field for education providers, but said unless the new ESOS Act prohibited the payment of commissions to onshore agents, the loophole would continue to be exploited.

 

The DIBP website outlines the procedures for international students seeking to change courses, and lists the situations in which this is permitted. Students will generally need permission from their original provider if they try to transfer before completing six months of a course.

 

Recent student visa data released by DIBP showed that the grant rate for Indian students declined from 89.7 per cent in 2013-14 to 76 per cent in 2015-16, the lowest ratio for seven years.

 

In the AAERI petition statement, Rahul highlights the example of the USA, which prohibits payments to onshore agents.

 

Explaining the wider role of offshore agents, Rahul said, "Technically, a commission to an offshore agent is paid not only for marketing but also to help the student in applying for a visa. Plus the offshore agent does the due diligence for meeting the genuine temporary requirements, whereas an onshore agent encourages the student to change the education provider and has no role when it comes to visa application or due diligence.

 

He said the services offered by an onshore agent are completely different for an offshore agent and did not justify the same level of commission payment.  

 

Established in 1996, AAERI has more than 90 members with around 400 offices across India. In the statement, Rahul said all members had undergone third-party due diligence and have direct representation agreements with at least one university or TAFE institution, while all counsellors at are EATC (Education Agent Training Course) certified.

 

Rahul added that AAERI was in continuing talks with government bodies in Australia regarding the issue.

 

 

By Matthew Knott

News Editor