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Wednesday, May 19th, 2010

Education Agents in India. The art of lying.

After 13 years in the field and more than a hundred trips to India, I’m well accustomed to the lies I’ve come across from this most common and seedy manifestation of the international education industry.

I’ve been photographed alongside agents with those pictures positioned on websites and office walls to give tacit approval of representation of the universities I am associated with. I’ve been threatened with jail time if I not sign up with the local agent association. I’ve had visa officers regale me with tales of imaginative ways in which agents submit fraudulent Study Permit applications.

Over a dozen years I have hundreds of examples of lies and all-out fraud by agents. Misrepresenting to students, lying to institutions, fabricating documents for visa applications, these are all stock-in-trade tools of the business.

At a recent education fair in the southern Indian city of Chennai, a Toronto-based recruitment agency purported to represent several Canadian institutions. When I inquired with Carleton University if it worked with this agency, it advised that it had told the agent “No” to numerous requests to represent it. I also inquired with York University, which was also on “the list” of universities represented by the agency. York issued a cease and desist letter to the agent, and just days ago York was dropped from the agency’s official representation listed on its website.

This is all the norm in this industry – especially in India and right across South Asia. For Carleton and York it’s not possible to know who is misusing their names unless brought to their attention. They can not be held accountable for such abuse. But there are many institutions – universities, and public colleges, who openly engage with suspect agencies. In the case of this agency, it’s likely it does have an official representation status with a university or college. Some institutions will plead ignorance. Some will plead naïveté. But all should be performing their due diligence. This diligence can include contacting Canadian authorities, truly checking out references, including references to other institutions, and above all, spot-checking through drop-in visits and imposing additional scrutiny on randomized student applications.

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About Mel

Mel has consulted universities, colleges, governmental and non-governmental organizations in the field of international education since 1997. He is co-founder of Higher-Edge, the parent of Overseas, Overwhelmed, and a director of the Canadian University Application Centre. He is a former award-winning CBC reporter and holds a Masters degree from Columbia's Graduate School of Journalism.

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