Deciding a career option is one of the most daunting and challenging tasks for you if you are planning your university education. Students in the developing world often dream of studying abroad after finishing the school. Particularly challenging is when you are trying to choose the right subjects to study in the right University. A large number of students rely on education agents or consultants and simply follow the advice of these agents.
Not all education agents are as good as they are thought to be. You could be a nightmare if you end up with a university that is not suitable for you, as you will be compelled to study the subjects that are not of interests to you.
Here are some tips for you to avoid this nightmare and to enable you to command your study on your own. 10 tips presented below with some real stories (anonymized) that might help you to think and act as you step forward in advancing your education.
Tip 1: The low-cost option does not always work.
Often the education agents advise low-cost options in relation to the choice of University and subjects. This is a common mistake made by agents resulting in heavy consequences for the students.
You should keep in mind that the cheapest option is not always the best; you should remain open to options irrespective of the price. High-priced courses and the University may be a better fit for you as you may be able to find a better job in that subject area. Paying a little more at the beginning could make a big difference on the quality of your education and enhance your employability after you finish your study.
One international student, I met in Sydney ended up with a wrong choice of the university and the course. After landing in Sydney, he realized that the university he attends does not have a good reputation and the subject suggested by the education agent also did not match his future aspirations to migrate to Australia.
Story 1: A couple of thousand dollars more would not have been a problem for me finding the right courses and the right university will make all the differences but I did not get proper advice from my agent at the time of my university enrolment. Now I am paying the cost of it.
Tip 2: Don’t choose a University location simply because the agent recommended you!
The location of your university town may have a significant impact on your study and your student life. If you let others decide, it may not always in your favour. Not all the education agents are bad but their strategy to suggest the right courses and the right University location may not always match with your requirements. Here is an example of how a student had to enroll in a remotely located University when an agent wanted to maximize his revenue (Universities offer differential rates of commission to education agents). The higher commission rate offered by the University motivated this agent to do so. It was the student who suffered most:
Story 2: It’s been a nightmare for me to figure out the location of my University which is quite far from Sydney, although I had been advised that it is in Sydney. I had made a plan to come to Sydney where I can do part-time work and my spouse can do full time. However, as my agent put me in a different city where it is almost impossible to find a job. It’s been a challenge for me to manage my cost of living and tuition fees.
In addition, if you are a female student with small kid (s), the location with easy access to the kindergarten is important for you.
Tip 3: Don’t choose your course of studies in haste!
Like the choice of University and its location, selecting the right courses is a vital thing to think through in advance. You have enormous options to choose your course of studies from around 12,000 courses that Australian Universities offer every year. Be aware of the great choices well in advance before you jump into some particular courses. Be aware it is you (not your education agent) to suffer if you are not been able to find a good fit between your career interests and the course of studies.
Tip 4: Accepting your agent’s wrong advice can force you into sleepless nights
Often international students are told, “The most important part is to have your feet on Australian soil. After that, everything will just flow smoothly and click into place.” This is the most saleable statement drilled into the heads of all students who plan to study in Australia.
A student who was incorrectly enrolled in a subject that was not of his interest disclosed:
Story 3: My first semester went well but I realised the harsh reality when I completed my first semester with very bad marks and even failed some subjects, which was a too bad experience for me. Now, I regret but it’s already too late. I just relied too heavily on my agent and did nothing on my side. If I was exposed to all this information this site offers, I would choose my subjects more wisely.
Tip 5: Don’t assume an Australian degree always brings cross-cultural learning
Choosing the right subjects does not always work if your University environment is not good to optimize your learning.
Story 4: I was enrolled in subjects that I was interested in but the University was not good in terms of the mixture of the students. The University is modest in terms of tuition fees that is what my agent took care more than any other things. As an international student, I wanted to maximize my cultural learning and English language competency as I am interested in staying in Australia after I finish my study. But, I ended up in a class with more than 60% of the students coming from the same country who speaks the same language but other than English. When I am in the class, I barely feel, I am in one of the Australian University where I can practice speaking English apart from the lecture.
Tip 6: Avoid undesirable situations
You can do a lot to make your student life better. You need to be careful and smart enough to choose the right University and the right subjects in the right location.
To get most out of your study abroad mission, your first step is to carry out massive research on your own about the University, their locations, and the course of studies. Remember, you and your family are investing a big amount of money in your education. Every cent count!
You will have plenty of educational agents to choose from but spend a little bit more of your time to find the right one. You can also visit the websites other than mainstream education agents to get alternatives views/ideas that help you scrutinize the information that you have gathered from these agents.
Tip 7: Make the most out of information available on the websites and don’t rely on one agent
Remember, we are in the era of the digital world- you can find a large chunk of useful information on the internet itself. I guess most of you have some access to the internet and have some basic skills of web searching. Web sites of the Universities are the great source of information freely available to you. You can also verify your choice from word of mouth from your relatives and friends lived and studied abroad. The reviews of the former students posted in the prospective University site are also helpful for you to decide.
While searching, you need to think about the amount of tuition fee you need to pay. Generally, higher the reputation of the University, higher the amount of tuition fee they charge.
Tip 8: Remember – Universities’reputation makes a significant difference
Having enrolled in a reputed University is always several steps ahead of your future career. One can see the difference in your quality based on the reputation of the University you studied either in the job market or in your own business. Your investment in high-quality education will be paid off.
Tip 9: Make sure your subjects of study are in the Australian Skilled Occupation List if you intend to migrate
If you are planning to settle abroad or want to get a suitable job in the country you studied, you need to think about the job prospects of the subjects you will be studying. Remember, Australian government regularly revise the list of jobs that shows the scarcity of subject matter specialists in the jobs market. The larger the number of the scarcity of the subject matter specialists, the better is the chance of getting permanent residency in Australia.
Tip 10: Not all the degrees are eligible for subsequence work visa
Be aware of the worst scenarios! Studying a good subject that has job prospect is not enough. Sometimes the duration of your degree may not compatible with the requirement of the immigration office for work visa application or for applying long-term stay (permanent residency). Cecily Huang, a former international student, writes a bitter story in The Sydney Morning Herald (one of the leading Australian newspaper).
Story 5: I recently obtained my master’s degree in journalism from the University of Technology, Sydney. I got a full-time job offer from a well-known Chinese-Australian newspaper, but I needed a Temporary Student Visa to take this job. Unfortunately, after spending $1600 on a non-refundable visa fee, and waiting a month, my visa application was not successful, because my master’s degree was not a “two-year program.
Is she was known this situation before she started her study, she could have enrolled in a two-year degree program.
If you carefully consider the above-mentioned general tips, you should be able to choose the right courses and the right University that suits your needs
“Prakash Gurung had almost forgotten that he had paid hundreds of thousands to the consultant when he got the visa. But after reaching London, the college asked for money with him again. He then realized that the consultant had cheated on him by not transferring money to the college”.
“Rajani Sharma of Chitwan had applied at a college in Ireland paying 5,500 Euro (almost 6 lakhs and 21 thousand NRs). But her visa was rejected. Initially, both the college and the consultant hesitated to give her money back but she got her money back a year after taking legal action”.
The two cases mentioned above represent the plight of the Nepalese students seeking consultancy service to pursue higher education overseas. Owing to the increasing youth unemployment and lack of quality education system at home, foreign degrees have become a preferred choice of Nepalese students. Similarly, the societal perceptions towards ‘foreign educated’ have become a matter of social prestige and recognition often providing an impetus to international education.
International students’ number ever swells
In fact, Nepali students are among the 10 largest populations of foreign students in Australia, Japan, India and New Zealand. The trend of migrating for international education is increasing every year. The Ministry of Education in Nepal issued a total of 30, 696 no-objection letters for prospective students in the fiscal year 2014-15, compared to 28,126 in the previous year which clearly hints at the craze of international education among Nepali students.
Educational consultancy becoming an ‘industry’
It is estimated that there are about 1,000 educational consultancies in Nepal alone although all of them haven’t been legally registered. Walking down Putalisadak or Baghbazar any morning till evening, we can find thousands of young students at study abroad centres seeking counseling services to materialize their dream. Lured by the promise of student visas and affordable education among others, they throng at these service centres with much enthusiasm and hope. However, students in most cases don’t have even the basic knowledge about the geographical location, environment and culture of their destination countries.
Lured by the promise of student visas and affordable education among others, they throng at these service centres with much enthusiasm and hope. However, students in most cases don’t have even the basic knowledge about the geographical location, environment and culture of their destination countries.
What international students are to expect from educational consultancies?
While it is natural for students to seek professional help to ensure that they are making an informed choice, it is equally important to have done this with a certain level of research. Questions relating to study decisions such as: What are the minimum requirements of the University in the subjects they wish to study? How is the visa process for the corresponding country? How is the job prospect in the subject of your study? How you plan to cover your study cost? If there is any possibility of getting a scholarship to cover your full or part of the study cost.
These questions are vital but the majority of the international students often do not adequately contemplate them. “It’s very rare to get students exploring about their own further study themselves in Nepalese case. They can take information from the students who are already there as well”, says Suman Bhattarai, who went to the USA for further study without knocking the door of consultancies. He added that spending few months surfing about the colleges and their admission requirements will easily help to get things done as international colleges and universities give a clear information about academic requirements, scholarship provisions and the documents to be submitted while applying in their websites.”
Have you checked whether you have chosen a registered consultancy !
It is distressing to note that many educational consultancies have been operating the business without registering with Educational Consultancy and Accreditation Section at the Ministry of Education (MOE). “Educational Consultancies are mushrooming and some individuals have infiltrated them with the intent of serving their vested interests,” said a government official at MOE seeking anonymity. Ranging from the trafficking of persons to foreign countries in the name of abroad study to collecting money from aspiring students for visa processing to send them to Japan, Cyprus, New Zealand, Australia and Canada, the fraudulent business practices remain unabated.There have been instances of a police raid in Kathmandu in the recent past whereby such educational agents have been nabbed and put behind the bars.
Ranging from the trafficking of persons to foreign countries in the name of abroad study to collecting money from aspiring students for visa processing to send them to Japan, Cyprus, New Zealand, Australia and Canada, the fraudulent business practices remain unabated.There have been instances of a police raid in Kathmandu in the recent past whereby such educational agents have been nabbed and put behind the bars.
What support is supposed to offer by educational consultancies?
But with the increasing international enrollments through agents who are being considered as prominent local advisors to provide support for the complex decisions and the processes related to it, it isn’t possible to downplay their role completely. They have been assisting students with everything from study plan counseling to pre-departure intensive language classes, arranging for standardized tests, flight reservations, planning for required insurance, visa and immigration assistance, pre-departure briefings and even career guidance.
Beware of the fake/unreliable consultancies!
According to a counselor at one of the leading consultancy in Kathmandu, study abroad can’t be still decided or ‘booked’ upon in the manner in which a hotel room or holiday package can be- it is simply too large and personal an investment requiring the help of education agents. “Although some fake agents have also emerged, it is important that students make sure that they go to the certified educational consultants to seek service ”, he said reiterating that some genuine agents are offering high-quality service to students.
When a member of this Career GroupPlan was on a short bus tour in the outskirts of Sydney, a South Asian looking young man in his thirties sat beside me. Looking at me, he asked: “what do you do in Australia?”. I replied: “I do research and teaching at a University”. He then poured a range of questions at me:
“I am from India. My brother wants to study Engineering in Australia. Which University is good? Here can he get a scholarship? Where can we get all these information?……….
“Hang on’, I said to him, adding, “There is a range of Universities, colleges, and courses in Sydney and Australia”. I told him further that there are scholarship opportunities too but the student should thoroughly check the websites of the universities and other scholarship providers for the accurate information. The person then asked for my mobile number and I provided it though I was a bit hesitant but he was too keen and enthusiastic not give it. “I will give you a call soon, uncle” – he left the bus.
How smart is this boy, I thought later. But I also found him too naive at the same time. If he is interested in Australian education and if he is already in Australia for an Information Technology (IT) related short- term work, then why is he not able to get information? Why does he have to rely on a fellow passenger in a local bus? Luckily, he got a university academic like me to talk and also a person kind enough to share the mobile number just in an encounter of five minutes.
“Hello uncle, I am xxx”, I received a call from him when he was back to India. He asked for more information about admission, scholarship, university and others. The call came at a time when I was about to start working, so told him that he referred to the pages of five different Universities in Sydney.
This brief encounter with a person seeking information on Australian education has left me wondering about a few questions.
I asked myself: Why are people so keen to come to Australia for higher studies from developing countries? I gathered some answers to these questions through some reflections. Young people in the developing world know that Australia has not only a reputed English medium education, but it also has good post-study opportunities for jobs and migration.
While interests and demands are high, the service industry seems to be still poorly responsive. Many students in the developing world are still not used to carefully reviewing the websites, online information, much less making email inquiries.
Several of the emails I received over the past six months asking me if I can supervise PhD or Masers degree research coming from various developing countries, I found this emails either incomplete or unclear. All of these emails were not framed to impress the prospective supervisor or the admission officers in the university.
Many developing country students know Australia is a good place for higher studies but they are not quite sure how they can navigate information, how they can find the best and relevant information and the like.
I have met several other students in Sydney who regret having chosen a particular place, course, University or a degree. They all feel about the incorrect decisions they made in choosing these aspects of their education project. “I just thought about coming to Australia, and did not look carefully at details of where and how of the course”. “If I knew more information, I would have taken a different course and a different University:”, said a student of a low-ranking University student of Nepal origin.
Despite internet revolution, students in the countries of origin have not been able to make full use of the available information. Perhaps they are flooded with too much information that is not directly relevant to them. They look for information on courses, jobs, financial aids and cheap accommodations, but education service industry is dominated by predatory consultants who grab students and put them in a course without offering adequate advice and information.
Universities themselves rely on costly intermediary agents to sell admissions, while they do too little to reach out prospective students and offer advice directly.
What is needed is providers of independent advice from those without any direct interests to enrol students in a specific course or an education provider. Independent career advice platform with such goal could be of great help to this end.