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November 10, 2009

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Stranded by Aussie college closures

ABOUT 1,200 Chinese students were scrambling for answers yesterday after they were suddenly shut out of classes in Australia when a private education group collapsed last week.

The Australian government announced new measures yesterday to find alternative schools and address visa issues. The closures were the latest setback for a country trying to burnish an image as a top destination for foreign students.

Twelve education providers have closed this year, affecting about 4,700 students, authorities said yesterday.

Global Campus Management Group, which owns nine colleges in Sydney and Melbourne, was placed into voluntary administration last Thursday, becoming the largest group that has collapsed since the Australian government launched inspections of the private colleges in May.

Several hundred students and teachers gathered outside the group's Melbourne and Sydney colleges after they arrived on campus on Friday morning only to find the doors closed.

"I was about to graduate in two weeks," a student from Shanghai attending Meridian International Hotel School who was identified only as Julian told Australian media.

He transferred to the school half a year ago from another private college that closed and never expected the same thing would happen again.

Immigration lure

Generally, students with comparatively lower school performance in second and third-tier cities opt for the private Australian colleges, which often lure students with the promise of potential immigration, according to industry insiders.

The Australia Education Services for Overseas Students intervened in the case immediately and promised students they will be transferred to other schools, providing similar courses as soon as possible or receive a refund.

The Minister for Immigration and Citizenship said that starting in January, overseas students who require a new visa to complete their studies at another school will be exempt from paying the A$540 (US$499) student application charge.

The Meridian school has two sections: the Meridian International School for high school programs and the Meridian International Hotel School for two-year community college programs in hotel training.

Between 50 and 70 students studying at the school's Sydney campus are from Shanghai, including about 20 studying for hospitality diplomas, Yu Yu, education consul at the Chinese Consulate General in Sydney, told Shanghai Daily last night.

The campus has four classes offering the college program, each with 30 students, including four or five students from Shanghai.

The Sydney campus has 1,400 students, including 400 from Chinese mainland, and the Melbourne campus has 2,000 students, including 800 from Chinese mainland.

The students can either have refunds of part of their tuition or be transferred to an unspecified institute, according to Yu.


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