Apr 30, 2012

Vietnam - Vietnam revokes S'pore firm's school licence

SINGAPORE: Some six years after a Singapore education company had its branches in Vietnam shut down, another has suffered a similar fate.

According to media reports in Vietnam, Raffles Education Corporation - which is listed on the Singapore Exchange - had its licence revoked last month by authorities in Ho Chi Minh City after it had been found enrolling students for unauthorised courses.

In December last year, Raffles International Training Centre (RITC) Vietnam - a design institute run by RafflesEducationCorp - was one of three private colleges penalised by the Vietnamese Ministry of Education and Training for allegedly offering illegal joint training programmes with foreign colleges.

RITC was accused of cooperating with the Raffles College of Higher Education in Singapore without the necessary licence. The three private colleges were reportedly fined 220 million Vietnamese dong (S$13,100) and ordered to suspend advertising, admission and training activities leading to the award of diplomas and degrees from overseas.

Responding to Today's queries, RafflesEducationCorp confirmed the revocation of its licence. A spokesperson said: "The onset of regulatory tightening in Vietnam is beyond the group's control."

She said the group's priority is to "fulfil our obligations to Raffles students and so, we have accordingly processed the permanent transfer of more than 400 students from Vietnam to other Raffles Education Corporation colleges in Singapore, Sydney and Phnom Penh".

The spokesperson added: "We have offered to bear student airfares and contribute partially to their living expenses in these cities. Our focus is on the welfare of our students, first and foremost, and to minimise any disruption to their continual learning process. Students who have chosen to discontinue their studies with us have been given refunds for tuition fees paid."

RafflesEducationCorp has so far refunded a total of S$5.6 million, according to the spokesperson.

The Thanh Nien Daily also reported that there was an order barring RITC director-general Edmund Hwong from leaving Vietnam. But the RafflesEducationCorp spokesperson refuted this.

The RafflesEducationCorp had previously clarified its position on the controversy. According to the group, there were no clear regulations in Vietnam "governing credit transfer processes leading to the award of diplomas and degrees from overseas".

Following the authorities' decision in December, RITC "fully paid the stipulated violation fine".

Both its centres in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh also complied with the suspension order. Subsequently, it appealed against the fine and suspension, as well as sought dialogue with the authorities. But all discussions "yielded unworkable options".

In 2006, Today broke the news that the Singapore International Training Consultancy (SITC) closed its branches in Vietnam after it had run into financial difficulty.

It left thousands of students in the lurch and the teachers' salaries were unpaid. The SITC was funded largely by Singaporean investors but its operations were headed by a Taiwanese, who had an international arrest warrant issued against him.


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