Clare O'Neil, Australia's home affairs minister, emphasized the government's commitment to restoring integrity in Australia's international education system and safeguarding the welfare of students, saying, "The party is over, the rots and loopholes that have plagued this system will be shut down. This is the first of many announcements this week to restore integrity to international education and to our migration system."
To enhance regulatory compliance, risk indicators will be integrated into the international education system, with a particular focus on private providers. This will involve more robust analysis of student attendance. Additionally, amendments to the Education Services for Overseas Students Act 2000 will bolster the fit and proper provider test, elevating the standards required for registration while curbing cross-ownership between education providers and agents.
The ban on agent commissions for student transfers seeks to eliminate incentives for agents to lure students already in Australia. A parliamentary inquiry earlier this year uncovered troubling practices, likening the international student system to a "Ponzi scheme," with overseas agents receiving bonuses for promising students full-time work.
In a bid to curb exploitation further, educational providers will gain access to agent performance data, including student completion rates and visa rejection rates, to identify and rectify issues within the system. The release of the Nixon review is anticipated to expose serious integrity concerns in the sector.
This crackdown comes at a time when Australia's appeal as a study destination has weakened during the Covid-19 pandemic. Recent global rankings indicated a decline in the standings of most of Australia's top universities.
In late August, the government initiated other reforms, including closing a loophole that allowed students in the country for less than six months to switch to work-based providers instead of educational ones. Concurrent enrollments have surged this year, with investigations revealing an increase from 10,500 in 2019 and 2022 combined to 17,000 this year.
The government is also considering suspending "high-risk" education providers from recruiting international students, a move that will further strengthen regulatory measures in the sector.
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