Students in the lurch as ministry orders stop to training programs

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Many students in Vietnam have no idea when their next school day is after some of the country's leading education centers have had to cancel cooperation arrangements with foreign colleges that has been deemed illegal.

The Raffles international vocational center in Ho Chi Minh City was filled with panicked students on Friday after it was punished for offering illegal joint training programs with a foreign college. A similar situation applied to ILA and ERC.

The three foreign-invested centers were fined VND220 million (US$10,500) in total by the Ministry of Education and Training earlier this month and asked to stop the programs that granted certificates in different majors from foreign colleges and universities.

The ministry said ERC, the German Education and Research Center, was found providing illegal college training in cooperation with the UK's University of Greenwich, and post-graduate training with the Australian Institute Of Business Administration PTY LTD and University of Wolverhamton in the UK.

ILA foreign language center was cooperating with the Martin College in Australia and the Raffles center with Raffles College of Higher Education in Singapore, the ministry also said.

The centers have offered to refund students their tuition fees.

Raffles has sent a notice to its students saying it will cancel the January course as ordered by the ministry, but will open a new one and inform the students after it wins a permit.

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Until the new course is available, those meeting the entrance requirements and willing to go will be sent to study at Raffles centers in Australia, Singapore and Thailand, said Hwong Kee Hong, general director of Raffles Vietnam.

Hong said the center will cover the tuition fee difference but the students would have to pay all other expenses.

Otherwise, the students can study at Raffles Phnom Penh, and the center will take care of their transport, visa, and accommodation.

But as the centers in Australia, Singapore and Thailand require students to enroll for at least six months, all senior students will be sent to Phnom Penh.

Those who disagree with this plans will get a refund, Hong said.

Raffles has around 900 students in such programs.

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The ILA, meanwhile, is trying to solve the problem for 23 students in a course that would have ended in March.

La Ngoc Trang, head of the Communication Department at the center, said the center plans to suggest to the ministry that it makes an exception for the 23 students.

In the worst scenario, the center will negotiate refunds with the students, she said.

Trang said graduates of the program will be instructed to apply at multinational companies in Vietnam or study overseas. The ministry has said that the program's graduation certificates will not be accepted at Vietnamese firms.

Similar offers have been made by the ERC, Vietnam Education and Research Company, whose general director Tran Thi Nhat Hoan said "we will return the tuition at different levels if the students disagree with our plan."

And the plan is for 365 students to study at ERC Institute in Singapore, paying the tuition difference, transport, food and accommodation.

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