With no monitoring mechanism, students can be taken for a ride by fraudsters

Five months after leaving the city to pursue an MBBS course at a Russian University, Nitya (name changed) is all set to return home this month. Her parents know little about why her daughter has taken such a decision, but think it is better than being “homesick” in a foreign land.

Not an isolated case in the city where several students aspire to go abroad for higher studies and some get trapped with fake overseas consultants or with poor knowledge about a country. Study Abroad Educational Consultants, the accredited official representative of the Ministry of Health of the Russian Federation in India, has received complaints from half a dozen such parents last week. “Some consultants do not give the actual picture of accommodation and weather conditions in the country. While such teething troubles are still adjustable, many students realise after enrolling with the university that the institute is not listed with the Medical Council of India or they have been overcharged,” says C. Suresh Babu, director, Study Abroad.

“I have another petition filed by 130 parents some time back of a consultant having overcharged them,” he adds.

With no monitoring agency for overseas educational consultants and increase in the number of students seeking a foreign degree, accredited consultants agree that there are many fraudsters that take people for a ride.

The Association of Accredited Advisors on Overseas Education (AAAOE) settled six such complaints that it received last year, three of them being from Chennai. Although its grievance readressal mechanism is not run as an exclusive cell, its members intervene when it receives complaints from students. Complaints [which can be sent to the email id naaaoei@yahoo.com] range from not having got the deposit to being charged by the consultant. “In one case, a consultant was not willing to return the passport to a student, which we later sorted out,” says Paul C.B. Chellakumar, patron of AAAOE. The association has about 40 members but there would be over 3,000 consultants running such agencies. According to Mr. Chellakumar, the Government of India was considering setting up a monitoring agency but that has not materialised.

“China has more consultants than India but they are more organised,” he adds.

As educational fairs or details on the website may not always be the best option to check the credentials of a university or about a consultant; students should also approach the alumni and the Embassy or Consulate of the country to get some direction.

But, Consulates have their specifications.

United States – India Educational Foundation, for instance, does not associate with any agent.

It has its own trained advisors/counsellors to guide students. While universities in the U.K. work with its “representative” in the country, who should not charge any fee for the service rendered, “consultants” not representing the university directly do charge.

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Liffy ThomasJune 28, 2012