The house bought by Unique International College and its owner Amarjhit Khela. Unique International College in Granville.
The Kenthurst property formerly owned by Unique International College. Photo: Domain
Follow SMH Student on FacebookCrackdown on Sydney private college recruiting ‘illiterate and disabled students’Living the high life: Unique College International’s Amarjit Khela
A private Sydney college allegedly paid students up to $2000 to sign documents they could not read in order to take out Commonwealth loans of up to $25,000, according to students targeted by the school.
The Unique International College came under scrutiny this week for its allegedly “unconscionable conduct” in poor rural areas targeting disabled and illiterate students in remote Aboriginal communities.
Fairfax Media can reveal that large groups of students in Sydney’s west were also allegedly brought into the one-room campus en masse to sign up to courses they did not understand they were taking and clock up debts of up to $25,000.
Despite being pursued by the n Competition and Consumer Commission for $57 million in taxpayer funding, the college above Silly Willy’s $2 shop in Granville continues to operate.
When Fairfax Media contacted the college on Thursday an employee said it was business as usual for its diplomas in marketing and hairdressing.
Its founder and CEO, Amarjit Khela, a multi-millionaire with a penchant for one-tonne chandeliers, sherry scotch and 12-car garages, has gone into hiding.
“I am quiet because of legal advice but I am not dead,” the man known as “bhaji” wrote to friends on Thursday.
“I shall speak with solid evidence when the time is ripe. I do not blame my brothers who have hurt me. For them I say that the insult of a kaffir is better than the false praise of a believer. May God spread happiness and kheer [an Indian sweet milk drink] in the homes of all.”
The college’s registration was cancelled in October after it received $42 million in Commonwealth funding despite only 2.4 per cent of its more than 800 students completing courses.
Jeff Tan told the Herald his aunt was allegedly offered $2000 in four $500 payments by Unique to sign a form she could not read that would force her into a course she had no hope of completing.
Her signature would have accrued her a taxpayer-funded debt of $25,000 that was paid to the college for 20 weeks of a Diploma of Salon management course.
“My aunt does not even understand English,” said Mr Tan. “Big groups of people would come into the centre in Granville, they would say they do not speak English and the sales agents would tell them ‘don’t worry about it,’ just sign these forms and you get $2000.”
Students who signed up for the course were then offered a $500 bonus if they referred a friend to take up one of the colleges courses, said Mr Tan.
In May last year fights broke out at a promotional day for the college to sign up students for management, hairdressing or marketing courses as demand outstripped the number of free laptops being used as inducements.
A submission to a Senate committee inquiry into the private college sector from the Canterbury Bankstown Migrant Interagency detailed cash inducements being offered to elderly residents to take out VET-FEE loans in 2014.
“They were each offered a free computer/iPad or $1000 cash by taking out the loan. They were told there was no need to come to class, but if they wish, they could come and free lunch will be offered,” the submission said.
Mr Tan said that during 2013 the college would send out recruiters throughout Asian communities in Auburn, Campsie and Hurstville and news of the bonuses and payments would spread by word of mouth.
The day after his aunt signed up for the course, Mr Tan realised she had unwittingly committed herself to tens of thousand of dollars worth of debt.
The University of NSW student raced down to the Granville office where another group of would-be Unique students were waiting to be signed up and withdrew her paperwork just before it was submitted.
“I think they never intended people to study, it is just a profit-making machine,” the 20-year-old said.
Unique generated a profit of $11 million before tax last year out of taxpayer funded VET-FEE Help loans, but Mr Tan said that learning resources were scarce.
“It was very basic. There was only one main room that was fairly small. The centre could never accommodate that many students who were enrolling to join, my aunt was told you don’t really have to study.”
Statistics posted online by the college claim that business was booming at the time, growing from 500 students in 2012 to more than 800 by 2013.
“In our history so far, despite the others trying to harm us, we always focused on spending our energy, time and resources on continually improving ourselves, rather than wasting time and energy on trying to harm the others” the college wrote in May 2013.
Mr Khela has promised to strenuously defend the actions of the college for operating within Commonwealth legislative frameworks.
The school has until November 23 to appeal ASQA’s decision to cancel its registration. ASQA cancelled the Unique’s registration after it found the college to be non-compliant with training standards and engaged in inappropriate marketing practices.