Spurned Indian students fight for refund of their fees from Australia

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Sydney, May 3 (ANI): Unable to return to Australia because of the collapse of several colleges, refusal to renew student visas and the violence against the Indian community there, students are fighting to have millions of dollars in fees refunded to them.

Colleges have either closed because of a federal government crackdown or are still open but face financial constraints due to a downturn in student enrolments, particularly from India.

The Sydney Morning Herald has quoted India's Human Resource Development Minister Kapil Sibal, as saying: "I am aware there is a problem. This is an issue that we will take up in the joint working group, which has been set up at the official level. Certainly we will talk to [the Australian government] and find out the facts."

The Kevin Rudd government has refused to reveal the total amount of prepaid tuition fees sought despite the fact that data relating to prepaid fees and visa refusals are recorded on an electronic government database.

"Claims made by individual students about payments and difficulties in securing refunds are investigated on a case-by-case basis - as such it is difficult for the department to comment on this broad question," the Australian Department of Education has said in a statement.

Ravi Lochan Singh, the managing director of Global Reach, an education agency that represents Australian universities and colleges in India, said cash-strapped private colleges were withholding refunds.

Hales Institute, one of Melbourne's oldest colleges, was placed in voluntary administration in February after months of financial strife.

In a letter to education agents in November, the college's managing director, Spiro Liolios, admitted enrolling more students than the college was allowed and withholding students' refunds.

According to the Department of Education, prepaid fees are protected by the Education Services for Overseas Students [ESOS] Assurance Fund.

The federal government recently topped up the government-run fund, which was close to running dry as a result of a series of college collapses last year with a five million dollar grant in February. (ANI)

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