University Careers Service advertises allegedly felonious agency

English teaching program misleads candidate about visa requirements for working in China, other teachers arrested.

Fraser McGowan & Tom Kelly
SRC Correspondent & Editor

A Glasgow University student who taught English in China over the summer on a programme advertised by the University Careers Service, later discovered he was working in the country illegally.

Haymon Rahim, a fourth year English literature student, responded to an advertisement on the Careers Service website for a company called Graduates2China, an agency that recruits people for English teaching placements at schools in China.

Haymon was recruited on to work at the Global IELTS International School in Yangzhou, west of Shanghai. Shortly after returning to the UK he realised that he had been told to apply for a Visa classification that did not give him the right to work. This was not brought to his attention by either Graduates2China or Global IELTS International.

Haymon was initially told by Graduates2China that he would be teaching at the Global IELTS International English School. On his arrival in China however, he was told that he would be moving on and teaching at another school in Jiangdu.  It was later confirmed to him by a representative of Linkchina, a liaison service acting on behalf of Graduates2China, that placements were fixed and could not be changed.

During a training session the following day, the police arrived at the school to inspect the passports of the volunteer teachers. The police took photographs of their passports but neither they nor the headteacher of the school explained to Haymon or his colleagues why this was necessary. The conversation between the police and the headteacher took place entirely in Mandarin.

Haymon told the Glasgow Guardian: “I later found out, long after I’d left, that in that conversation that took place, the police looked at our passports and said in front of us: “They’re not allowed to work here – they’re on the wrong Visas.” So from day one, the school knew that we were on the wrong Visas.”

Bethan Candlin, who was teaching at the school in Yangzhou, confirmed that the headteacher of the school “deliberately mistranslated” the conversation to the extent that none of the volunteer teachers knew that they were on the wrong Visas.

Prior to arriving in China, Haymon was told by Graduates2China to expect to receive an F Visa, which are issued to foreigners invited to China on a non-commercial exchange, investigation or visits for scientific, educational, cultural, health or sports activities. The confirmation letter he received, however, instructed the Chinese Consulate in Edinburgh to provide him with a single-entry business Visa. Accordingly, he was provided with an M Visa, which are issued to foreigners entering China for commercial and trade purposes only.

Graduates2China assured him that this error was inconsequential and that an M Visa was acceptable for the purposes of his visit to China. His Visa credentials were not verified by Global IELTS International English either before or during his placement.

Ordinarily, the Guardian has discovered, only a Z visa is an acceptable visa to work on in China. The conditions generally for receiving a Z visa are to have two years of experience in the chosen profession a company in China has hired you for and an undergraduate degree. Haymon Rahim does not have an undergraduate degree or two years teaching experience.

Upon a brief investigation of the frequently asked questions section of Graduates2China’s website, the Glasgow Guardian discovered that their response to the question ‘I have never taught and do not know how to plan a lesson’ is ‘Do not worry neither do many of our teachers.’

Haymon was asked to pay a £100 deposit but did not sign a written contract with Graduates2China. It was only confirmed to him after he arrived in China that his contract was with Graduates2China and not Global IELTS International English. It had been said on the services website that the contract would be with the school after a successful interview and not with Graduates2China. He was not paid for the job he was doing but he did receive a living allowance of £92. Concerned about these circumstances Rahim made another enquiry to Linkchina and less than an hour later was told that he was being transferred from Jiangdu back to Yangzhou.

Haymon explained: “Naturally, I was surprised by the sudden turn of events. I didn’t really want to say anything for fear of jinxing the situation. I waited, got picked up, they took me to the hotel, and it turned out they had actually swapped me with a guy from Yangzhou.”

He added: “Things went reasonably smoothly for the month or so afterwards, but the weird way in which it came about stuck with me – it lingered in the back of my mind.”

Following a number of bizarre occurrences during his short time at the school in Yangzhou, Haymon decided to end his placement prematurely at the end of July 2014. He lost his £100 deposit because he did not complete the full term of the placement.

He told the Glasgow Guardian that he had a clear sense of “something going on behind the scenes.” Three weeks after leaving the school, Haymon heard from a former colleague that two of the volunteer teachers at the Global IELTS International English School in Jiangdu had been arrested because they did not have permission from the relevant authorities to teach in China. They were released a few hours afterwards, but they were not allowed to continue teaching at the school.

One of the volunteer teachers arrested by the police confirmed that they “had the F “business” visa. And according to the police they did tell [the headteacher of the school] that we couldn’t work there on the first day, but according to [him] that never happened.”

Haymon said that it was a “lucky decision that I left when I did. If certain things hadn’t happened, if I hadn’t been moved to Yangzhou I could have very easily been arrested. […] The school were not looking out for us – absolutely not. That went straight out of the window when they were told that their interns were working there illegally and they did not relay that information to us. […] I only found out all the stuff about the Visa once I had left the school. None of that was apparent to me until I’d left the school.”

On their website Graduates2China claim: “As one of the few companies operating in both the U.K. and China we are able to offer support to our teachers more effectively than companies based in the UK. Our Preparation Programs support our applicants, fully preparing them both before and during their time in China.

“Teachers can contact our team at any time during their stay which we hope reassures our teachers that they have a support system before they arrive.”

Haymon was on an “unassisted” placement and was not invited to attend a preparation session by Graduates2China.

When Haymon was asked by the Glasgow Guardian if he felt that the Glasgow University Careers Service had any responsibility for his experience in China, he said: “I’m not going to whine and point fingers and that kind of thing. At the end of the day, I saw an advertisement that really appealed to me and I jumped at the chance. Things didn’t work out, and from that situation, it was necessary to exercise vigilance whilst there.”

He continued: “I think that certainly, in the same way it was necessary for us to exercise vigilance, it might be a bit more appropriate for them to have a bit more background knowledge, and for them also to be a bit more vigilant, so that this kind of thing doesn’t repeat itself.”

He added: “If you want to go and teach abroad, don’t go through an agency, go through the British Council. […] If it sounds too good to be true, as always, it probably is.”