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ASQA: ‘new intel will help target risk areas’

The new integrity unit will give regulators in Australia intel to identify non-compliance, after ASQA cancelled or rejected 30 registration in the past year, regulators say.

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The government's policy response to findings from the Nixon Review is welcomed by the regulators

Following government rules handing regulators more powers in Australia to combat serious noncompliance and fraudulent practice in the international education industry, spokespeople joined AIEC delegates to inform further on what they have in the works.

Ministers have said the Australian Skills Quality Authority will establish a $37.8m integrity unit for the VET sector, while the task of the Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency is heightened as government seeks to crack down on malpractice in the higher education sector.

We all have a vested interest in the integrity of international education and to ensure that stakeholders can be confident in the integrity of qualifications issued,” ASQA’s deputy CEO, Christina Bolger, said.

Of the 3,842 VET providers the authority regulates, 610 are delivering to solely international students, a further 242 delivering to international and English language students and 18 only to English language students, she detailed.

Priorities for ASQA, in addition to its continued focus on international delivery, include poor practices of a “small number” players and help providers to understand risks to the quality outcomes.

ASQA’s Statement of Intent, recently published, really outlines how the regulator is going about some key priorities, Bolger said.

Safeguarding student welfare and the quality of VET, fostering a world class VET system through our regulatory action and collaborating with other agencies to enhance the quality of VET and support students are three priorities she mentioned.

The government’s policy response to findings from the Nixon Review is welcomed by the regulators, Katrina Quinn, acting executive director for Regulatory Operations at TEQSA, said.

Much of the regulator’s expectations will continue to be similar to what the sector has seen before but with a greater focus on risk.

We expect the governing bodies at the higher education providers to have a crystal clear understanding of all the risk indicators related to international student recruitment, international student progression, completion and also their wellbeing and safety,” she said.

If compliance education standards are followed, as the majority of higher education providers “do really well”, it will be very difficult for non-genuine students or unscrupulous providers to operate, she added.

Bolger added that the range of information already collected through the tip off line – a key part of the integrity unit – shows that it will enhance the regulator’s intelligence.

“We’ve had a further 40 compliance directions issued to ESOS providers”

The volume of intelligence all pieces together for our analysts in a way that allows us to better target our resources and focus on areas of risk,” she said.

It will help the regulator to revoke or cancel providers registrations and pursue criminal sanctions.

In the last year, ASQA has really been able to apply a range of enforcement and compliance actions and many of those have actually been directed to providers in the international,” Bolger continued.

Over 12 months, it has made 30 decisions to cancel or reject registration, eight decisions to suspend registration and 12 providers have had conditions imposed on their registration.

“We’ve had a further 40 compliance directions issued to ESOS providers,” she said. “We can expect to see an amplification of some of those activities through the high volume intelligence received.

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