A teacher at Melbourne's RMIT university says universities are admitting students with low English proficiency in order to continue to make money.
Jenny Weight, Program Manager at RMIT University says she recently quit her academic job because she no longer could bear how Australian universities treated international students.
Program manager at RMIT’s School of Media and Communication, Ms Weight says she has seen international students suffer for years. But her attempts to alleviate the reason for the suffering were “stymied at every turn”.
“Whenever I see an international student who is struggling, I feel overwhelmed by guilt and shame. I can’t do it anymore,” she wrote in her blog.
Ms Weight says she has seen international students who enter a university course with a 6.5 band score in EILTS struggling to understand anything that is technical or sophisticated.
Such students lag behind in debates and take a longer time to read. She says these students remain silent in class because they can’t keep up with the conversation, or they are ashamed that they will be slow and hard to understand.
Ms Weight says every time she has raised her concerns about this in the institutions, her attempts only elicited superficial responses.
“I spoke to everybody.. I ran out of people I could speak with who were relevant to the issue. I was told this was being discussed in meetings, but I was never invited to those meetings,” she told SBS Punjabi.
She says the 6.5 band threshold for university admission is “insufficient”.
Universities accrue huge income from international students. If they were to raise English requirements for their courses, they would reduce the number of international students who qualify for these courses. So, they keep the criteria at the lowest possible level. Universities today have become money-making corporatized entities.
Ms Weight argues that the most obvious solution to the problem is to raise the IELTS threshold for entry into university courses. But she is sure it won’t be done.
“It’s (the reason) mainly financial. Universities accrue huge income from international students. If they were to raise English requirements for their courses, they would reduce the number of international students who qualify for these courses. So, they keep the criteria at the lowest possible level. Universities today have become money-making corporatized entities.. they shop for students in a competitive way,” she said.
She argues the universities should not admit students to courses for which they don’t qualify.
“If they are admitted, the institution is failing in its duty of care. Indeed, it could almost be called a type of fraud. Institutions which promise that a student can get a qualification which they don’t have the ability to get are on very thin ice, not only morally but possibly legally too,” says Ms Weight.
She says though the university offers help with extra English classes, but students are already so stretched with their coursework that they can’t take up any further study.
Many students have come to me with problems. A number of students suffering from extreme anxiety, stress and depression. Though I am not a psychologist, but I can sense these problems in students over many years.
Ms Weight says this was causing a lot of mental issues to international students.
“Many students have come to me with problems. A number of students suffering from extreme anxiety, stress and depression. Though I am not a psychologist, but I can sense these problems in students over many years,” she claimed.
RMIT University in its response said its dedicated staff devote considerable care, time, resources and thought to "giving international students the best education and the best experience that we can offer. We are constantly striving to raise the bar."
On Ms Weight's contention about the English threshold, RMIT said it has rigorous English language requirements for entry, which are equal to, and sometimes higher, than requirements elsewhere in the sector.
"The University supports international students in a range of ways – before they arrive in Melbourne, during their studies and after they graduate. Our free 24-hour student counselling service is there to help anyone in distress," said Professor Belinda Tynan, Deputy Vice-Chancellor Education and Vice-President.
Another faculty member at RMIT who preferred not to be identified told SBS Punjabi that international students faced this problem in nearly all the departments. But he said the issue was being deliberately overlooked. He said it was a "huge can of worms".
Some others commented on social media.
Ms. Weight has resigned from her academic position at RMIT University. She said though she has got another opportunity elsewhere, but the plight of international students certainly weighed on her mind.
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