The Albanese Government has recently announced a significant milestone in its ongoing commitment to strengthening the integrity of international education in Australia. In a media release issued by the Hon Jason Clare MP, Minister for Education, along with the Hon Brendan O’Connor MP, Minister for Skills and Training, and the Hon Clare O’Neil MP, Minister for Home Affairs, the government unveiled a comprehensive plan to address critical integrity issues within the international education sector. These measures come as a response to the findings of the Rapid Review into the Exploitation of Australia’s Visa System (Nixon Review).
Background: Nixon Review Findings
The Nixon Review exposed serious issues within the international education sector, particularly in the exploitation of Australia’s visa system. To combat these issues and ensure the protection of students, the Albanese Government has taken actions to address key concerns and safeguard the future of international education in Australia.
Key Measures to Strengthen Integrity:
- Development of Risk Indicators
One of the fundamental actions announced by the government this week, is the development of risk indicators across the international education system. These indicators will play a pivotal role in informing a robust monitoring framework. This framework will, in turn, facilitate targeted compliance efforts by education regulators, aimed at mitigating potential risks and safeguarding the interests of students.
- Amendment to the ESOS Act
To further bolster the integrity of international education, the government is set to amend the Education Services for Overseas Students Act 2000 (ESOS Act). This amendment will enhance the existing fit and proper provider test, ensuring that higher standards are in place for obtaining and maintaining provider registration. Furthermore, it will prevent cross-ownership of businesses between education providers and education agents, reducing conflicts of interest.
- Prohibition of Agent Commissions
In a move to eliminate incentives for unscrupulous agents and providers to ‘poach’ students, the Government will prohibit agent commissions on student transfers between providers in Australia. This measure aims to promote fairness and transparency in the international education sector.
- Access to Agent Performance Data
To empower education providers in making informed decisions, they will gain greater access to agent performance data. This data will include information on student completion rates and visa rejection rates, enabling providers to select quality education agents as partners and ensuring a high-quality education experience for international students.
- Closure of Loopholes
Building on previous changes announced in August, the government has acted decisively to close loopholes that allowed students who had been in the country for less than six months to transition to new providers primarily for work purposes rather than study.
Quotes from Ministers:
Minister for Education, Jason Clare: “The Nixon Review identified the need to increase monitoring and compliance in the international education sector, and the Government is responding.”
Minister for Skills and Training, Brendan O’Connor: “These changes will better enforce higher ethical standards and ensure high-quality education.”
Minister for Home Affairs, Clare O’Neil: “The party is over, the rorts and loopholes that have plagued this system will be shut down.”
Source: The Hon Jason Clare MP, Minister for Education, along with the Hon Brendan O’Connor MP, Minister for Skills and Training, and the Hon Clare O’Neil MP, Minister for Home Affairs (Media release 2023, Oct 2). Next steps to strengthen the integrity of international education. https://ministers.education.gov.au/clare/next-steps-strengthen-integrity-international-education