December 6, 2023

In an email seen by the user PIE NewsEdith Cowan University told agents the reason for the suspension was an increase in the number of rejected visa applications from those regions, as well as concerns about students’ academic progress.

“We want to take the necessary measures to protect the interests of genuine students,” said the email, which was sent on February 14 this year.

Applications through ECU’s on-campus travel provider, Edith Cowan College, have also been suspended.

“We want to take necessary measures to protect the interests of genuine students”

Other changes at ECU include enforcing a 300-word statement of purpose requirement for all courses to ensure students can demonstrate they have “genuine intentions” to study and meet immigration requirements.

ECU will increase financial checks for all students from India and verify the authenticity of their financial statements to ensure they have the necessary funds to support their studies at the institution.

“Furthermore, we will not accept ‘cash’ salaries as acceptable sources of finance. We require students to provide us with verifiable proof of income to ensure they have the necessary funds to support their studies,” the email to agents said.

In the past, Indian students have used unscrupulous lenders to fund their studies abroad, putting them under severe financial pressure – something the new ECU measures are likely to help address.

The next step to improve the GTE ECU screening process will be video interviews as part of the application process.

“Edith Cowan University is a quality-focused institution with an environment that attracts quality students from around the world who thrive and succeed with our university,” Edith Cowan University Vice Chancellor and Vice President (International), Jake Garman, told The PIE.

“We foster and maintain highly effective working relationships with many agents in India as well as countries around the world.

“We foster and maintain highly effective working relationships with many agents in India”

“Part of ECU’s commitment to ensuring that all our agents provide the highest quality service to our prospective students is our consistent monitoring of shifts and trends in the international student market that could impact the quality of that service.”

Garman said GTE requirements are alive and proactive with ECU’s strategies to protect the integrity of the application process to benefit the institution’s network of agent partnerships and prospective students who want to join the university.

“ECU recently held a comprehensive webinar for ECU Education Agents in India to provide our agents with an opportunity to understand the details of the GTE changes,” added Garman.

Last year, Australia’s immigration department became aware of fraudulent student visa applications submitted through agents from parts of India, exacerbating the country’s visa backlog crisis at the time.

An Indian agent told The Indian Express in June 2022 that the DHA had uncovered around 600 cases of fraud from Haryana and Punjab – the same regions from which ECU had suspended undergraduate recruitment.

In July last year, Catriona Jackson, CEO of University Australia, told The PIE that her organization was aware of the issue and understood it was occurring across all education sectors, not just Australian universities.

And in November 2022, Phil Honeywood, CEO of the International Education Association in Australia, told The PIE that visa fraud in the country was “worrying, particularly from Nepal and three states in India”.

Immigration data at the time showed that visa approvals from India, Nepal and Sri Lanka for student visas fell sharply, with vocational applicants particularly affected.

Honeywood told The PIE that Australia’s Department of Home Affairs had “reacted quickly” to concerns about visa fraud and “student visa approvals in Nepal have averaged only 9% over the past few months.

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