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Sunday September 1, 2013 MYT 12:00:00 AM
Monday September 2, 2013 MYT 2:09:40 PM
by kang soon chen
SINCE commencing operations in February, Education Malaysia Global Services (EMGS) has been plagued by complaints on its inefficiency in processing visa applications for foreign students intending to study in local private institutions of higher learning (IPTS).
Chief executive officer Mohd Yazid Abd Hamid was frank in acknowledging that EMGS had failed to achieve its client charter of processing the visas within 14 working days in some cases.
“A lot of the delays were caused by incomplete documentation submitted by some IPTS operators (institutions). In the case of the student from Brunei who was stranded in the country, his college was partly responsible for being late in making the necessary payment,” said Mohd Yazid.
The student Mohammad Wazini Awang had been left without a passport and visa for four months and it was reported that the IPTS concerned bypassed EMGS and applied directly to the Immigration Department.
“When certain institutions bypass EMGS when applying for the visas, we lose the opportunity to capture the data on foreign student entry to this country,” he said. EMGS is a one-stop centre for foreign student enrolment set up by the then Higher Education Ministry last year to provide a single interface for a student’s pass application, processing and issuance.
He stressed that the stringent regulation imposed on the visa approvals was for better monitoring of student entry and for the benefit of the students themselves.
“When an application is submitted, EMGS checks that the student meets the programme’s academic requirements and that it is properly accredited before sending the application to the Immigration Department for security clearance,” said Mohd Yazid.
“We want to ensure that the students who come here are not only legitimate but fit to enter the country, that is why they are required to undergo health screening upon arrival,” he added.
To address the problem of delayed issuance of the visas, EMGS announced recently that a “green lane” policy would be introduced in October to provide speedy approval for students intending to pursue their studies in branch campuses of foreign universities and other institutions which have achieved Tier Five and above in the Rating System for Malaysian Higher Education Institutions (Setara).
Introduced in 2007, Setara assesses the teaching and learning aspects of participating institutions by ranking the institutions from Tier Six (outstanding) to Tier One (weak).
On other measures to increase the efficiency of visa approval and renewal, he said forecast results would be accepted for the application of the visas since August.
“This measure will help the institutions secure new students while some of them can be saved from the duress of applying for the visas at the last minute,” said Mohd Yazid, adding that the students would still have to submit their final results before being issued the visas.
Another incentive that would be introduced include a 50% discount for students who were going to further their studies in the same institutions after completing their foundation studies there.
Currently, students who have completed their foundation programmes are required to apply for a new visa before they can further their studies at the degree level.
“Students who are switching courses will not have to apply for a new visa if they are doing so for the first time. The only requirement is that the institutions have to inform the EMGS about the changes in the students’ statuses,” said Mohd Yazid.
Meanwhile, Malaysian Association of Private Colleges and Universities president Datuk Dr Parmjit Singh strongly denied that incomplete documentation submitted by the institutions was delaying the visa approval process.
“The institutions have been processing the visa application of the foreign students for years long before the EMGS came about; the agency has to take responsibility for the delay which is turning away our foreign students,” said Dr Parmjit.
He added that there was “a collective voice of IPTS operators who were unhappy with EMGS”.
“Overall, there is a 30 to 40% reduction of new foreign student intake in the institutions this year.
“Our recruitment partners overseas have expressed their concern about the bureaucracy involved in obtaining the student visas,” said Dr Parmjit.
He was also disappointed with the new regulation which required foreign studens to undergo medical screening here instead of their respective home countries.
“Is it right to invite young people to study in our country and then turn them away when their medical results turn out to be undesirable?” said Dr Parmjit.
He claimed that EMGS did not clearly lay out the criteria for the medical test and that the flippant way of treating foreign students would not auger well in the country’s effort to be an international education hub.
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