Original article: Deccan Chronicle (India) February 14, 2012

While Canada is an attractive destination for Indian students, a large number of them have raised concerns about one institution.

On the face of it, University Canada West (UCW) is an approved degree-granting institution in Vancouver. Its website claims its “authority to grant degrees falls under provincial jurisdiction as Canada does not have a national or regional accreditation system for post-secondary institutions.”

In Canada, an institution’s membership with the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada (AUCC) can be regarded as de facto accreditation.

UCW, however, is a for-profit university; therefore it does not qualify for AUCC membership. Its MBA programme is not accredited by any of the three biggest business school accreditation bodies.

UCW’s infrastructure also consists of just four or five rooms hired in a commercial building in central Vancouver. Its Victoria campus was shut in March 2011 for financial reasons.

When this newspaper sought details from UCW on its campus, infrastructure, faculty background and experience, class profile and student job placements, UCW president and vice-chancellor Verna Magee-Shepherd was guarded. “UCW’s facilities are approved by the Degree Quality Assurance Board.

Classrooms, offices, and online studies are based in Vancouver’s downtown business district. Our space is located near major amenities and transportation... UCW is a young university and will expand facilities and services as we grow." Nothing about placements, class profile, alumni demographics, etc.

A 23-year-old student from Mumbai says he got lucky when his visa was rejected while seeking a visa for an MBA course there. “Not just me, 80 to 90 per cent of visas (for UCW-bound students) were rejected.” he says.

Another student, Sparsh Sharma, was keen on studying abroad and “delighted” when “I got admission at UCW on the basis of my IELTS score... The university, unlike others, was ready to admit me without a GMAT.” But another student told him of the plight of those already at UCW.

“He told me how students there were agonised as there were no job prospects... and promises of fee waivers and scholarships from the university had faltered. I pulled out and after two months of incessant communication with the university, and later got my money back. But the experience left me in mental agony."

When this newspaper contacted the Canadian high commission in New Delhi for clarifications, counsellor Simon Cridland sent a two-line response, saying our “concerns about University Canada West have been forwarded to the appropriate provincial authorities.

For Indian students, Canada is an excellent destination for a high-quality education at a reasonable cost in a safe, welcoming, multicultural environment.” This did not answer any of the issues flagged by the affected students.

Sparsh Sharma managed to extricate himself from a difficult situation. But many others already in Canada or headed there could easily fall into the same trap.

So despite whatever “agents” or “consultants” may claim, students need to do their homework – check university credentials, speak to alumni, write to faculty members – or else see their dreams go up in smoke.