The exterior of AIPE college on Sussex Street in Sydney. Photo: Wolter Peeters AIPE CEO Amjad Khanche accepting an award from the NSW government. Photo: AIPE
Petalinda, the $9 million home bought by Jin Yang. Photo: Domain
“I’m not good at reading”: Helen Fielding with her partner Ricky Pettet. Photo: Marina Neil
Thousands of students will be left in limbo next year after a private Sydney college had its registration cancelled by the federal government.
The Australian Institute of Professional Education, owned by a former Royal North Shore hospital doctor, a real estate mogul and an award-winning CEO, had its registration cancelled on Tuesday after an investigation from the Australian Skills Quality Authority.
Up to 8000 students have been enrolled in class-based and online courses in business and marketing at the 11-floor campus in the Sydney CBD, one of the largest private colleges in the country .
AIPE cost taxpayers nearly $1 million per graduate last year.
It handed out 117 diplomas for $110 million in Commonwealth funding, receiving $10 million more than the Federal Government’s entire anti-domestic violence initiative.
The decision comes after a Fairfax Media investigation in December revealed the college had signed up students from some of the state’s poorest areas to tens of thousands of dollars worth of debt. ASQA found that some of these had been signed up without their knowledge.
In July the college’s CEO, Amjad Khanche, boasted at a federal senate committee hearing that AIPE was a poster-child for vocational education, labelling it the “Mercedes” of the sector after it received a further $104 million in Commonwealth funding in 2015.
Two other colleges, the $57 million Unique International College in Granville, and Phoenix Institute in Melbourne, have also had their registration cancelled by ASQA.
Both are facing action from the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission to recover more than a hundred million dollars in student debt.
A third, Empower Institute in Blacktown, is also facing action in the Federal Court after just five out of 4000 students graduated, costing taxpayers $90 million.
This year its owner, businessman Jin Yang, purchased “Petalinda,” a $9 million home in Sydney’s Hills district complete with a 14-person sauna, championship-sized tennis court, fingerprint scanning technology and a 23-metre indoor pool.
In July, AIPE CEO Amjad Khanche told the Senate committee the behaviour of some educators in the sector tarnished the reputation of others.
“I am deeply disappointed that the behaviour of those providers compromises the standing of providers like AIPE, which is committed to offering our students the very best [vocational education and training],” he said.
The AIPE CEO was further praised for his business achievements in NSW Parliament in September.
Fairfax Media and ASQA have since revealed that AIPE used unscrupulous brokers to recruit some of the state’s most disadvantaged students.
A former student of the college, Helen Fielding, told Fairfax Media she was coached over the phone by agents to sign up for a $19,600 diploma of Human Resources Management.
The 21-year-old grew up in foster care and has an obvious intellectual disability.
“I’m not good at reading,” she said at her housing commission flat outside Newcastle. “When I was on the phone, they read everything out for me to say, instead of me saying it myself.”
AIPE blamed Ms Fielding’s enrolment and hundreds of other students on third-party brokers.
But internal documents obtained by Fairfax Media revealed that in Ms Fielding’s case, AIPE’s business operations manager, John Luhr, was on the other end of the phone and authorised up to $20,000 in Commonwealth debt to be put against Ms Fielding’s name.
Ms Fielding lives on $200 a week after paying the rent. She said she was never told about the debt she had no hope of re-paying. It was the promise of a free laptop that had enticed her.
AIPE has pathway arrangements with six universities including the University of Technology and Western Sydney University. Both have been contacted for comment.
ASIC documents reveal that along with Mr Khanche, AIPE is co-owned by Tej Dugal, a medicine graduate from the University of Sydney and a former doctor at Royal North Shore Hospital, and Ajay Vanju, a Sydney real estate mogul who owns more than 30 properties.
In August, the college’s administrators were given six months by ASQA to rectify concerns in the areas of student recruitment, support, assessment, and marketing by third parties and consumer information regarding fees and payment terms.
On Tuesday, the federal regulator found the college had failed to address those concerns.
A statement from AIPE said the college had received notice on Monday of ASQA’s decision to cancel its registration.
“AIPE disputes ASQA’s decision and will be seeking a review of the decision in the Administrative Appeals Tribunal,” the statement said. “AIPE will also be seeking an order that ASQA’s decision be stayed so that AIPE may continue to provide its educational programs and support services until the AAT has made its decision, which is likely to be late next year.”
The college has until February to appeal the decision.
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