The State of Filipino International Students at Lawson College

The State of Filipino International Students at Lawson College

By Candice Rabusa:

Lawson College has been under Migrante Melbourne’s radar since 2018 when student complaints were posted on social media by Filipino International Students. Claims regarding false promises of pathway to permanent residency, poor quality of teaching, substandard facilities, exorbitant fees and more importantly, bullying and threats of deportation are the most common themes of these stories of discontent. Such complaints were mostly aired by students doing Business and Leadership courses and were apparently ignored by Lawson College. In some instances, valid reasons for release were rejected by Lawson, pinning down students to the GTE (Genuine Temporary Entrant) they signed under misleading conditions.

At that time, not many students were ready to come forward to form an organized complaint until the pandemic hit. While the international students struggled to live one day to the next, Lawson’s debt collectors continued to harass past students with fees for services they never consumed, while offering current students with an impossible relief package. A past student claims to have shelled out $12,000 for an unfinished Diploma of Business, and current students were offered $200 discount if they paid in advance. Students also raised new concerns on teaching quality which worsened upon the shift to online delivery due to COVID-19.

The pandemic has only intensified the students’ predicament and more of them started to reach out to Migrante. Since April 2020, Migrante, with support from PINAS (Philippine Studies Network in Australia), have been helping the students to navigate the education complaints system including ASQA, the Commonwealth Ombudsman and the Victorian Consumer Affairs.

On the 18th of August 2020, Suzan Delibasic of the Herald Sun published an article about Lawson College for the first time bringing the issue publicly1. The article featured accounts of past students illustrating their experiences, which in some instances triggered mental health issues. The Philippine Times reported that Lawson College enrolled 500 Filipino international students.

The existence of rogue providers has plagued the Australian VET sector since 2009. The marketisation of the VET system has opened the floodgates to private providers scamming the taxpayers and the students with cheap and quick qualifications that lead nowhere. In Victoria in particular, the $30 million-worth introduction of the Skills First reforms in 2017 has already weeded out some of these providers; thus the quality issues at Lawson, and a few other dodgy providers, come at a big shock.

The international students’ call for justice comes at a time when the Federal Government has just introduced the JobTrainer package last month. Some experts already speculate that this will re-subject the VET system to further problems with unscrupulous providers2. Bringing these issues forward is a good reminder for our policy makers to monitor the VET sector more tightly.

Nevertheless, the international students are already disheartened by the Prime Minister’s advice ‘it’s time to go home’3. We hope that the plight of the Filipino international students will be heard and will mobilise the VET system to meaningful reforms that prioritise the welfare of all international students over profits. Let us help them obtain the respect and justice they deserve. Migrante stands in solidarity with all international students in this fight!

  1. subscribe/news/1/?sourceCode=HSWEB_ WRE170_a_ GGL&dest=https%3A%2F%2Fwww. east%2Flawson-college-dandenong- former-students-allege-deportation- threats-poor-facilities%2Fnews- story%2F4048e0239c69e77db9b8b8aa3 a747cac&memtype=anonymous&mode = premium
  2. finance/finance-news/2020/07/16/ training-tafe-vet-funds/
  3. 04-03/coronavirus-pm-tells- international-students-time-to-go-to- home/12119568

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