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Maintaining a Strong International Education Industry

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By Matthew Thompson

Australia’s higher education system is comprised of approximately 4,000 Registered Training Organisations (RTO’s) including 59 TAFE institutes dispersed across metropolitan and regional areas, along with 43 universities, all of which operate within a stringent legislative and regulatory framework governed by the Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency (TEQSA) or the Australian Skills Quality Authority (ASQA), the Department of Education Skills and Employment (DESE), and the Department of Home Affairs (DoHA) in cases where international students are involved. 

All providers of education have increased obligations when listed on the CRICOS (Commonwealth Register of International Courses for Overseas Students) register and so to, does a student studying a CRICOS registered course whether that be at a University, TAFE institute or RTO. Failure of education providers to demonstrate compliance with these obligations, results in considerable penalties including fines, restriction of services, and in the worst-case scenario, deregistration. Likewise, students studying on a Student Visa who fail to meet the strict obligations are also exposed to penalties, such as being reported to the DESE that automatically informs the DoHA. 

All education providers must deliver training and courses that have been approved by regulatory authorities and are subject to a strict audit regime to maintain quality and compliance. They are constantly monitored and held accountable for poor quality of training and non-compliant practices, including those relating to monitoring student attendance, student course progression and the course completion within the expected duration. The vast majority of education providers work within the crucial legislative and regulatory frameworks and meet their obligations as evidenced by their registration. A quality education provider would not intentionally risk non-compliance, and rigorously imposes its approved policies and procedures to remain compliant. 

Quality education providers are committed to providing exceptional education and services to their students and supporting them to meet their educational goals. A range of support services are provided to international students who can experience hardships and challenges associated with relocating to a new country and adapting to a new way of life and education environment. These services include providing English language and study assistance programs, emergency and health services, and counselling sessions. If an international student is at risk of failing, providers must implement an intervention strategy in sufficient time to support the student to achieve satisfactory course progress. Quality education providers ensure that international students are aware of the support services available and actively implement strategies to encourage students to access these services to assist them in successfully completing their studies. 

All Student Visa holders are required to consistently comply with the conditions of their visa and their Confirmation of Enrolment (CoE). Termination of a CoE can occur with failure to commence studies, leaving the education provider, unsatisfactory attendance, unsatisfactory course progress, termination of studies prior to completing the course, non-payment of fees, disciplinary reasons, and student misbehaviour. Termination of the CoE by the education provider may also adversely impact the Student Visa. Non-genuine international students, the minority of students who enrol to study at education providers with hidden agendas to pursue other tasks, will be held accountable to the conditions of their Student Visa and Confirmation of Enrolment (CoE). 

All education providers have an obligation to report non genuine international students who have consistently fallen short of expectations, not adhered to written agreements and have breached the conditions of their Student Visa. 

The Department of Home Affairs clearly states that, “education providers must report students who do not comply with the attendance or course progress requirements of their visa through the Provider Registration and International Student Management System (PRISMS) system ….. [and] report students who do not achieve satisfactory attendance, withdraw from a course [or] do not maintain satisfactory course progress”. 

All stakeholders have an important part to play in ensuring that the relevant legislative and regulatory obligations are upheld. All education providers have a responsibility to deliver high quality and world class education and training. Having a mutual understanding of fundamental legal and regulatory obligations should enable ongoing quality education, increased career opportunities, and the upholding of the integrity of the international education system. 

Matthew Thompson is the Business Development and International Engagement, Lawson College Australia.

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