The Australian Institute of Tourism and Hospitality (AITH) is an intermediary. It doesn’t belong to China and it doesn’t belong to Australia. It is registered in Hong Kong, where neither country can touch it.
That doesn’t stop it from cheating Chinese students on a massive scale, possibly tens of millions of dollars.
However, that may be about to change. Recently, it appears the Australian governments have taken real steps to stop AITH and it’s owners, and other scam operators like it.
AITH operates at five Chinese schools: Chengdu University of Technology (CDUT); South China Normal University (Guangzhou); Shanghai Xing Jian Polytechnic College; Suizhou Vocational & Technical College; and Nantong Vocational College. AITH’s website is deliberately sparse and uninformative, and the university sites equally so, for very good reason.
The total amount of students over ten years is estimated at 3000. Each paid about A$8000 for a three year course. That’s A$24 million.
Their recruiter in China is Gordon Leith, a former Melbourne flower salesman. Mr Leith started his dubious rise to Head Recruiter for AITH as a Hospitality Lecturer at CDUT in Chengdu. Obviously CDUT are not concerned with the requirements for Australian accredited courses, or Chinese requirments for foreign teachers.
China requires foreign teachers to have a degree and two years teaching experience. Australia requires a trade certificate in Training and Assessment. As Mr Leith’s application to CDUT shows, he had absolutely no tertiary education, no experience in hospitality, and neither the Chinese nor the Australian qualifications. See Gordon Leith’s resume here
AITH operated in conjunction with the Perth Institute of Western Australia (PIWA). PIWA were accredited in Australia to issue Advanced Diplomas (Associate Degrees) in Hospitality. This virtually guaranteed the students work visas to travel to Australia to work in the hotels that this school’s owners manage through it’s Hotel Management Company, Argyle Hotels Group, which manages Metro Hotels in Australia. The owners of AITH, PIWA and Argyle Hotels are Kevin Zhang (China) and Kevin Barker (Australia).
AITH would fabricate the students results, and send them to PIWA in Australia for automatic accreditation. This meant the students were receiving qualifications in disciplines in which they had no skils, and usually were below the required English levels. They were often placed into menial jobs when they arrived in Australia, unable to perform the jobs stated on their skilled migrant visas.
When the Western Australian (WA) Government found out, they found it very difficult to prove their case against the Australian school. The regulating bodies in China refused to provide any information about the school’s operations in China (state secrets).
Instead, the WA government forced the school into bankruptcy, as this article from The Australian newspaper reports: More Private Colleges Go To The Wall (The Australian). The Federal government also set up an online complaint board – Australian Ombudsman (PIWA)
This complaint board was emailed to many of the past students in China through a third party, as apparently the Australian government were “forbidden” by the Chinese government to contact the Chinese students. Chinese students were also forbidden by the universities to make any complaint, and there were reports of physical threats and attacks. Many students have made complaint regardless.
Not to be deterred by the closure of PIWA in Australia, Gordon Leith and AITH still issued fake diplomas, assuring the students that they were genuine. The diplomas were backdated to the day before the school closed, and signed by Victoria Barker, Academic Director at the school and Kevin Barker’s daughter. Click here to view fake diploma (student’s name deleted)
Western Australian (WA) Acting Minister for Training Norman Moore wrote to a student, advising that AITH had not even enrolled the student at PIWA, and so therefore the student was not entitled to the award. See Norman Moore’s letter here (student’s name deleted)
When advised that AITH had issued the awards illegally, permanent Minister for Training Peter Collier referred the matter to the Australian Crimes Commission and Australian Immigration. Minister Collier confirmed that none of AITH’s China students had ever been enrolled in PIWA. See Peter Collier’s letter here
The Department of Immigration has apparently flagged a warning for AITH, and the five schools AITH deals with. Immigration Minister Chris Bowen also sent a response. See Chris Bowen’s letter here
Investigations are proceeding, and it appears the Australian and WA governments are serious about prosecuting PIWA’s owners and others involved. By doing so, hopefully they can also stop AITH from operating in China, by cutting the head off the snake, and address issues of illegal immigration.
It is difficult, in Australia at least, to bring such schools to account, but under former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, the Australian Government seems to have taken steps to make it harder for these schools. This doesn’t appear to be an isolated case, and it is to be hoped other countries will take similar measures.
China Daily Mail is interested in verifiable stories of scam schools and agents in China. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org to send us the details.
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