Qualifications recognition, ESOS framework, Tuition Protection Service

For: 

The department provides qualifications recognition services using the Australian Qualifications Framework as a benchmark. It also provides rigorous protection for international students through the Education Services for Overseas Students (ESOS) legislation and the Tuition Protection Service, which is a placement and refund service for international students on student visas affected by a provider closure.

Qualifications recognition

The department supports student and labour mobility though policies, information products, services and advice to assist individuals and organisations on the comparability of overseas qualifications in Australia, and professional mobility programs. It also provides information about the Australian tertiary education system in other countries to promote the recognition of Australian qualifications internationally. For more information see Qualifications recognition.

Education Services for Overseas Students Framework

Australia provides rigorous protection for international students through the Education Services for Overseas Students (ESOS) legislation, which requires institutions that provide education to international students to meet nationally consistent standards in education delivery, facilities and services. Breaches of the Act are treated seriously and the penalties can be significant.

All institutions wanting to deliver courses to international students in Australia must be registered on the Commonwealth Register of Institutions and Courses for Overseas Students (CRICOS) and meet special registration conditions.

The National Code of Practice for Registration Authorities and Providers of Education and Training to Overseas Students 2007 (the National Code) provides nationally consistent standards for the conduct of registered providers and the registration of their courses.

The standards set out specifications and procedures to ensure that registered providers of education and training courses can clearly understand and comply with their obligations under the National Code.

Important information for students

The Department of Education and Training has released a new fact sheet for international students containing important information about their rights and responsibilities while studying in Australia.

Students can access this fact sheet for information on:

  • choosing and enrolling in a course of study
  • support services available in Australia
  • the rights and responsibilities of students on a student visa
  • working in Australia
  • making complaints and getting help.

International students fact sheet.

Changes to the legislative framework for overseas students

Education Legislation Amendment (Provider Integrity and Other Measures) Bill 2017

The Australian Government has passed legislation to enhance student protection measures, and strengthen the arrangements for governing quality in the higher education and international education sectors.

The amendments will allow the Government to maintain a high front gate to keep providers with unscrupulous business practices out of the international education sector. The measures will protect overseas students studying in Australia and maintain Australia's excellent reputation for international education.

All international education providers will be subject to amendments to the ESOS Act. The changes to the ESOS Act are not expected to affect the majority of providers that are operating with integrity. Rather, the changes seek to target the minority of providers who may act unscrupulously.

Key changes to the ESOS Act are:

  • Strengthening fit and proper person provisions to increase the matters which may be taken into consideration by regulators, to ensure the persons governing individual education providers are fit and proper to deliver high quality services
  • Expanding reporting of notifiable events to ESOS agencies to monitor and prevent unscrupulous persons operating in one sector from entering another.
  • Extending information sharing provisions to enable the Secretary and ESOS agencies to share information with other enforcement agencies to be responsive in identifying and responding to unscrupulous practices occurring in the international education sector.
  • Sharing information about the performance of education agents with providers in order to increase the transparency of education agent performance.
  • Amending late payment penalties to ensure providers have a 30-day timeframe to pay the late payment in line with current Government money collection practices.

The changes deliver on the Government's National Strategy for International Education 2025, which identifies the importance of ensuring strong student protections to maintain the sustainable growth of international education in Australia.

Education Legislation Amendment Bill fact sheet.

Revised National Code

The Australian Government has released the revised National Code of Practice for Providers of Education and Training to Overseas Students 2018 (National Code 2018)to ensure strong student protections while minimising the regulatory burden on registered providers and persons who deliver educational services on behalf of registered providers.

The published National Code 2018 is available on the Federal Register of Legislation.

TheNational Code 2018 is a legislative instrument made under the Education Services for Overseas Students Act 2000 and sets nationally consistent standards to support providers to deliver quality education and training to overseas students.

Education providers must comply with the National Code 2018 to maintain their registration to provide education services to overseas students.

Key areas for reform include:

  • protecting students by requiring more detail on a student's course and refund arrangements in the written agreement between students and providers;
  • strengthening arrangements for the care and welfare of students under the age of 18;
  • provides greater guidance for providers on the circumstances in which student transfer requests should be granted; and
  • supporting overseas students to fulfil visa requirements by strengthening the provisions to monitoring overseas students' course attendance and progress.

The department publicly consulted on the National Code 2018 with governments, sector peak bodies, regulators and education providers in early 2017, and feedback has informed the revised National Code.

To ensure providers have sufficient time to understand and implement the changes, the revised National Code will commence from 1 January 2018.

Ahead of the 1 January 2018 implementation date, the department will work with sector peak bodies in developing system changes and explanatory material for the sector. For more information, visit the National Code 2018 Implementation page.

Changes to the ESOS Act

In December 2015, the Parliament passed changes to the Education Services for Overseas Students Act 2000 (ESOS Act).

These amendments streamline regulation, remove duplicative requirements and cut red tape in the ESOS framework, without compromising Australia's strong student protections or our reputation as a world class destination for international students. The changes free up education institutions to invest in quality and innovative teaching and learning, so they can become even more competitive globally. They also give students, or the person paying tuition fees on their behalf, more flexibility to manage their tuition fee payments.

Three measures in the new legislation came into effect on 14 December 2015 to directly reduce administrative costs for education institutions. Please click here for fact sheets outlining the changes to:

Other changes that simplify registration and regulatory processes took effect from 1 July 2016 and can be found below:

Tuition Protection Service (TPS)

The TPS is a placement and refund service for international students on student visas affected by a provider closure. The TPS may also assist where students have withdrawn from or not started their course and are eligible for a refund of tuition fees that have not been paid by the provider. The TPS Director, appointed by the Minister, is responsible for delivering the service and ensuring its sustainability in the future.

The TPS online placement system provides students with the information they need to choose an alternative course that best suits them, or if there is no course that meets their needs, a refund of any pre-paid tuition fees. Further information is available on the TPS website.