The Australian Government, through the Department of Education, administers the Education Services for Overseas Students Act 2000 (ESOS Act) and its associated instruments.
On this page:
Education Services for Overseas Students Act 2000
The ESOS Act sets out the legal framework governing delivery of education to international students in Australia on a student visa.
The Education Services for Overseas Students Act 2000 governs:
- the registration process and obligations of registered international education providers
- The Tuition Protection Service
- enforcement and compliance arrangements.
In December 2015 changes to the ESOS Act passed by the Australian Parliament removed unnecessary red tape and streamlined the Act with domestic quality assurance frameworks administered by the Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency (TEQSA) and the Australian Skills Quality Authority (ASQA).
For more information:
- Registration fact sheet for higher education, foundation programs and ELICOS
- Registration fact sheet for VET courses and ELICOS
- Registration fact sheet for schools
National Code of Practice for Providers of Education and Training to Overseas Students
The National Code of Practice for Providers of Education and Training to Overseas Students 2018 (National Code) provides nationally consistent standards for the conduct of registered providers and the registration of their courses.
The standards set out requirements and procedures to ensure providers of education and training courses to international students can clearly understand and comply with their obligations under the National Code.
English Language Intensive Courses for Overseas Students (ELICOS) are central to Australia’s international education sector. Students come from overseas to study the English language for a variety of reasons. Some need to improve their English for work or career purposes, some have a personal interest in becoming fluent in English, and some intend to travel. Other students may want to continue their education in English, either in Australia or elsewhere, and need to develop the necessary language skills to undertake further study. The ELICOS Standards enhance Australia’s reputation as a provider of world class international education and help attract high quality international students to Australia.
The ELICOS Standards became an enforceable legislative instrument under the ESOS Act in 2011. The ELICOS Standards provide a basis on which regulatory authorities may register a provider on the Commonwealth Register of Institutions and Courses for Overseas Students (CRICOS), under the ESOS Act, to deliver an ELICOS course. ELICOS providers wanting to be registered on CRICOS need to meet the Standards.
Revisions to the ELICOS Standards
The department undertook public consultation on proposed revisions to the ELICOS Standards from 14 July 2017 to 11 August 2017.
On 11 October 2017, the Education and Training Minister’s delegate approved revised ELICOS Standards. The ELICOS Standards 2018 apply to new and existing providers from 1 January 2018, and to transitioning providers from 1 March 2018.
The main change amends the definition of an ELICOS course to bring all intensive English language courses registered on CRICOS within the scope of the ELICOS Standards. The ELICOS Standards apply to providers who deliver courses which are solely or predominantly of English language instruction to student visa holders in Australia, including vocational education and training (VET) English courses.
From 2018 providers also have to meet minimum requirements relating to course contact hours, teacher qualification and staff-student ratios.
The ELICOS Standards 2018 are available on the Federal Register of Legislation.
A factsheet on Strengthening English Language Outcomes for International Students with further detail on the changes is available.
Foundation Program Standards
Foundation programs are courses designed for international students to equip them with the skills and capabilities to seek entry into higher education programs in Australia. Generally, foundation programs provide an academic entry pathway to first year undergraduate study or its equivalent.
Foundation Program Standards must be met by all foundation program providers wanting to be registered on CRICOS.
Education Services for Overseas Students Regulations 2019
The Education Services for Overseas Student (ESOS) Regulations 2019 support the implementation of the ESOS Act by setting out:
- information that must be entered on the register about the provider and each course by location
- student details that providers must include on the Provider Registration and International Student Management System (PRISMS)
- information about students that providers must give relating to student visa conditions
- penalties and infringement notices
- student records that a provider must keep.
The ESOS Regulations 2019 came in to effect on 1 October 2019 and replaced the Education Services for Overseas Students Regulations 2001.
The new ESOS regulations are substantively the same as the previous regulations. From 1 October 2019, providers are required to enter a small amount of additional information into PRISMS.
The 2019 Regulations overview and the 2019 Regulations Q&A provide a policy overview of what has changed in the new Regulations.
Education Services for Overseas Students (Registration Charges) Act 1997
The Education Services for Overseas Students (Registration Charges) Act 1997 imposes registration charges in relation to Commonwealth Register of Institutions and Courses for Overseas Students (CRICOS). All registered providers are liable to pay an annual registration charge for the year. The relevant charges are detailed in this Act. New entrants may pay an entry to market fee for the first three years.
The Education Services for Overseas Students (TPS Levies) Act 2012
The Education Services for Overseas Students (TPS Levies) Act 2012 contains provisions to require providers to pay fees and levies to fund the Tuition Protection Service. The first annual TPS levy was applied in 2013.
Education Services for Overseas Students (Calculation of Refund) Specification 2014
International students are entitled to receive a refund from their provider if:
- the provider defaults
- the student’s visa application is refused.
The Education Services for Overseas Students (Calculation of Refund) Specification 2014 sets out requirements for refunds and are available. Education providers cannot retain more of students’ unspent tuition fees than the refund instrument or their written agreement with the student allows.
Students will be eligible for a refund of ‘unspent tuition’ fees. This specification outlines a method for working out the amount of ‘unspent tuition fees’ for the purposes of calculating refunds.