Changes to the legislative framework for overseas students

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Foundation Program Standards 2021

The new Foundation Program Standards 2021 (the Standards) commenced on 16 September 2021. The Standards repealed and replaced the Foundation Program Standards (19/06/2011). Key changes included:

  • Setting minimum hours of study
  • Requirements for younger students
  • Assessment requirements
  • Professional development

A Foundation Program Standards factsheet outlining these changes is available.

The department published a discussion paper for public consultation from 9 July 2021 to 23 July. Responses have been published, where permission was given, and made available.

Revised CRICOS registration charges

New cost recovery arrangements will apply to the Commonwealth Register of Institutions and Courses for Overseas Students (CRICOS) from 1 January 2022.

The Education Services for Overseas Students (Registration Charges) Amendment Bill 2021, and related Bills, which provide the legislative authority for the revised CRICOS charges, have been passed by the Parliament and received Royal Assent on 27 August 2021.

The new charging arrangements:

  • remove the Entry to Market Charge for all providers
  • introduce application-based charges for School Registration and School Registration Renewal
  • modify the department’s Annual Registration Charge and rename it to the CRICOS Annual Registration Charge (CARC).

Further information on the new CRICOS charges is available on the Fees and Charges page and in the Cost Recovery Implementation Statement.

Education Services for Overseas Students Regulations 2019

In the 2020–21 Budget, the Government announced a new deregulation measure aimed at reducing administrative burden on private education providers who deliver courses to international students. The Government amended the ESOS Regulations from 1 July 2021 to remove the requirement for providers to give information on the payment of tuition fees through the Provider Registration and Information Management System (PRISMS) when a calendar month ends.

Supplementary courses and refunds for providers

The Education Services for Overseas Students Amendment (Refunds of Charges and Other Measures) Act 2021 (Amendment Act) amended the Education Services for Overseas Students Act 2000 (ESOS Act). The Amendment Act includes the following measures:

  • amends the ESOS Act to enable refunds of registration charges in special circumstances
  • defines a course for the purposes of the ESOS Act; and
  • enables the Minister to include and exempt certain supplementary courses from the definition of course in the ESOS Act.

Our fact sheet includes the amendments

Legislative instrument

The Education Services for Overseas Students (Exempt Courses) Instrument 2021 came into effect on 29 June 2021. This instrument exempts some courses from the definition of course in the ESOS Act, meaning they can be offered to international students without being registered on the Commonwealth Register of Institutions and Courses for Overseas Students (CRICOS).

Benefits for international students

The exempted courses, commonly referred to as supplementary courses, are low-cost, short in duration and allow overseas students to gain pre-requisite industry qualifications to enrich their Australian experience and improve their skills, increase their employability in a wider range of jobs and reduce their vulnerability to workplace exploitation. Supplementary courses can be undertaken by students alongside their main, CRICOS registered course. Students will not be able to apply for a student visa based on an enrolment in an exempted course or courses alone.

Benefits for providers and Australian businesses

Before these changes to the definition of course were made, the additional administrative and financial investment needed to maintain CRICOS registration meant few providers offered these courses to overseas students, limiting students’ access to training for employment in industries such as hospitality, health and construction.

These changes provide the ability for education providers to more easily enter the market to deliver a wider range of supplementary courses to overseas students and will assist Australian businesses to fill short term skill shortages to deliver critically important goods and services.

Our fact sheets below include the list of exempt courses available:

Regulatory Powers

The Regulatory Powers (Standardisation Reform) Act 2021 received royal assent on 26 March 2011 and amended the Education Services for Overseas Students Act 2000 (ESOS Act) to apply the standard monitoring, investigation, infringement notices and enforceable undertakings provisions contained in Parts 2, 3, 5 and 6 of the Regulatory Powers Act (Standard Provisions) Act 2014. These amendments promote best practice use of regulatory powers and greater consistency between different regulatory regimes, and streamline regulatory powers across the Commonwealth statute book. Amendments to the ESOS Act include the following modifications to the standard provisions:

  • the power to use force against things as is necessary and reasonable in the circumstances by authorised persons and persons assisting authorised persons; and
  • the power to accept a written undertaking given by a registered provider regarding a condition of registration.

Amendments were also made to the Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency Act 2011 to replace existing regulatory powers with best practice regulatory powers.

ESOS Application on Norfolk Island

The Territories Legislation Amendment Act 2020 received royal assent on 17 December 2020 and amends the ESOS Act to extend the application of the Act to Norfolk Island.

Protecting students and Australia’s excellent reputation for international education

The Education Legislation Amendment (Provider Integrity and Other Measures) Bill Act 2017 received royal assent on 16 August 2017 and amended the ESOS Act. The changes strengthened the Government’s ability to monitor and prevent unscrupulous business practices from gaining registration to deliver education to overseas students.

This protects overseas students studying in Australia and maintains Australia’s excellent reputation for international education.

The changes to the ESOS Act are not expected to affect the majority of providers that are operating with integrity. Rather, the changes sought to target the minority of providers who may act unscrupulously.

A factsheet on the legislation amendments is available.