Czechs charge foreign “universities” over scam targeting students from India, Bangladesh, Nepal

Foto: Jiří Matoušek, CC BY 2.0

The Ministry of Education has fined six foreign “universities” or their branches for offering education in the Czech Republic without obtaining the required permission. In two cases, criminal complaints have also been lodged over an apparent scam targeting prospective students from southeast Asia.

Pavel Doleček,  photo: archive of Ministry of Education
More than 80 students from India, Bangladesh and Nepal have filed individual or joint complaints against two foreign institutions of higher learning advertising courses in the Czech Republic. The institutions in question call themselves “universities” but would at most be considered “colleges” under Czech law.

But the details are necessarily fuzzy. By law, while an investigation is underway the Ministry of Education cannot reveal the names of the institutions in question, and officials also remain tip lipped on what types of courses or programmes were being offered.

Deputy Minister of Education Pavel Doleček did however tell Czech Radio’s programme Radiožurnál on Tuesday that the two institutions facing criminal complaints lacked proper accreditation – even in their own countries – and so were not registered in the Czech Republic either. And the “universities” did not refund tuition fees to the southeast Asian students denied Czech study visas.

“These appear to be cases of fraud. The institutions are offering higher education here but lack accreditation in their home countries. Logically, they aren’t accredited it in the Czech Republic either. Nevertheless, the two institutions have been collecting application and admission fees despite being fully aware of this failing. And so of course, the students were denied study visas. That’s the reason behind the criminal complaints.”

Mr Doleček says that there is a move afoot to further amend the law so that institutions can be identified publicly while under investigation, allowing prospective students to more readily steer clear of dodgy schools. In the meantime, he suggests foreign students check the list of accredited foreign educational institutions on its own website.

Illustrative photo: Jiří Matoušek,  Wikimedia Commons,  CC BY 2.0
As for the fines imposed on six other foreign colleges, universities, or their Czech branches, these institutions have mainly run afoul of an amendment to the Higher Education Act. Since September 2016, all foreign institutions of higher learning must register with the ministry.

“Regarding fines, the two most common infractions stem from educational institutions calling themselves ‘universities’ when they don’t meet that definition under Czech law but are rather institutions of higher learning, or – and this is the more serious infraction – they haven’t obtained the necessary accreditation or permission according to the law.”

Currently, 16 foreign colleges or universities, or their Czech branches, have been audited by the Ministry of Education and have completed all the necessary paperwork to offer courses. In total more than 42,000 foreigners are studying here, with their numbers having risen some 10 percent annually in recent years.