Australian Government Cracks Down on Exploitative Education Providers

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In a concerted effort to strengthen the integrity and quality of international education, the Albanese Government has taken decisive steps to address the issue of unscrupulous education providers engaging in non-genuine or exploitative recruitment practices. This move is part of the Government’s broader Migration Strategy for Australia, which aims to build a more strategic and well-planned migration system that benefits the nation.

One of the eight actions outlined in the strategy’s action plan is dedicated to fortifying the international education sector, which is recognized as a significant national asset with economic, social, and diplomatic implications. However, under the previous government, a number of providers intent on exploiting the system gained a foothold, undermining the sector’s strengths.

In a first tranche of enforcement measures, the Department of Home Affairs has issued warning letters to 34 education providers suspected of engaging in questionable recruitment practices. These warning letters serve as a clear notice, giving the providers six months to significantly improve their behavior or risk being issued with suspension certificates. Such certificates would effectively ban these providers from recruiting more international students, with breaches of these actions punishable by up to two years’ imprisonment.

This is the first time any government has utilized these powers under the Education Services for Overseas Students Act since its enactment in 2000, following the Government’s passage of new regulations in March of this year to support the use of this power.

The crackdown on exploitative education providers is part of a broader strategy to curb migration levels to sustainable levels. Since the Migration Strategy was released in December 2023, these providers have seen a 79% reduction in visas granted compared to the same period last year, significantly higher than the 39% average reduction across the sector.

Enabled by a $37.8 million investment into integrity in the Vocational Education and Training (VET) sector, including the establishment of the Australian Skills Quality Authority’s (ASQA) Integrity Unit, sanctions issued to international education providers have increased by 73% in the current financial year compared to the same period in 2021/22. ASQA has issued 35 sanctions to cancel or not renew the registration of international VET providers, 10 sanctions to suspend registration, and 33 written directions.

The ASQA’s Integrity Unit has more than 150 serious matters under investigation, and as part of the crackdown, ASQA has conducted 67 site visits so far this financial year, including 39 unannounced visits, targeting 21 of the 34 providers being considered for the new powers under the ESOS Act.

Furthermore, the Government is increasing the amount of savings international students will need to obtain a student visa. This requirement was raised from $21,041 to $24,505 on October 1, 2023, to account for indexation since it was frozen in 2019, and will now further increase to $29,710, effective Friday, May 10, 2024.

These comprehensive measures demonstrate the Government’s commitment to upholding the integrity and quality of Australia’s international education sector, while ensuring that the migration system operates in a sustainable and strategic manner that benefits the nation.

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