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Thousands of Indian students struggle to get tuition fees back

world Updated: May 03, 2010 16:21 IST

Thousands of Indian students are struggling to get back refunds of their pre-paid tuition fees from Australian education institutions after their visas have been rejected following changes in the immigration policy.

The overseas students, particularly from India, were now lining up to get their fee back after their visa applications were refused after the international student attack crisis that led to various college closures, the Age newspaper reported.

It has been estimated by the Australia's education industry experts that the outstanding fees could run into millions of dollars.

However, Australian government denied to disclose the total amount of prepaid tuition fees sought even if the data relating to prepaid fees and visa refusals are recorded on an electronic government database known as PRISM (Provider Registration and International Student Management System).

The daily said that on the query of the total sum of prepaid fees that international students are seeking in refunds as a result of visa refusals, Department of Education said: "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."

Students were seeking refunds from colleges that 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.

Under Australian law, course fees must be refunded within 28 days.

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

The government-run fund, which was close to running dry as a result of a series of college collapses last year, was topped up by the federal government with more than $ 5 million in February, it said.

Meanwhile, the newspaper said that Indian Minister for Human Resource Development Kapil Sibal on his visit here had said that he was aware of "denied refunds" and was planning to raise the issue with the Australian government.

"I am aware there is a problem," Sibal said, adding "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 them [the Australian government] and find out the facts."

Fate of over 40,000 students who expected to gain permanent residency in Australia would be hanging after the government changed policies making it difficult for them to qualify for the residency.

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd Government has removed most vocational trades, including plumbing, welding and carpentry from its skills priority list, making it harder for international students with those qualifications to gain permanent residency.