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Australia bans commission for onshore switching and targets cross-ownership

Australia is introducing further decisive measures to combat student poaching and an abuse of its education system from operators driven by commercial gain – a ban on agent commissions earned from student transfers between providers in Australia is set to happen.

Students are impressionable and some were enticed to switch by fee discounts or cash-backs says AAERI president. Picture posed by models. Photo: CraigRJD

"International students are back, but so are the shonks seeking to exploit them"

A series of “risk indicators” will form a monitoring framework and education providers will be given greater access to agent performance data – such as student completion rates and visa rejection rates.

This framework will also enable better monitoring of student attendance – this is in response to concerns some students are transferring, not only to colleges which are cheaper and linked by ownership to an onshore agency, but also some which are “ghost colleges”.

Further, the ESOS Act standards required for education provider registration will be tightened – cross-ownership of businesses by education agencies and providers will be prevented.

Education minister Jason Clare announced, “International students are back, but so are the shonks seeking to exploit them and undermine our international education system.

“That’s why we are acting. Students from around the world choose to come here first and foremost for the high-quality education we offer.”

He explained that the Nixon Review identified the need to increase monitoring and compliance in the international education sector.

“The government will outline further measures to crack down on dodgy and unscrupulous players in the international education sector in the next few days,” said Clare.

Fellow minister for home affairs, Clare O’Neil, said this was the first of “many announcements” this week.

“The party is over, the rorts and loopholes that have plagued this system will be shut down,” she said.

The move was welcomed by Nishidhar Borra, president of AAERI which represents professional agencies in India that work to send students to Australia.

“AAERI welcomes the measures taken by authorities and it’s a very positive step forward,” he told The PIE.

“It’s a known fact that agents and institutes put in a lot of effort, time and resources to promote Australia and assist students with career counselling, enrolment and other issues. Unethical poaching of students onshore was a serious concern for all.”

Ravi Lochan Singh, owner of major agency Global Reach in India, also welcomed the move and noted his ESOS submission recommended removing the commission incentive for onshore switching.

He told The PIE,  “In recent years, onshore poaching of students had increased and there were instances of students taking advantage of streamlining to arrive in Australia and then switch to dodgy or ghost colleges facilitated by onshore migration agents.”

This news means the government is making further headway since the joint media release in August from the departments of education, home affairs and skills & training that announced an end to the “concurrent visa” loophole.

That was covered on The PIE here.

As part of the Nixon Review, further recommendations are made related to Registered Migration Agents (RMAs). These include: requiring a comprehensive background check on initial and repeat RMA applications; increasing the investigative powers of OMARA, the registration authority for RMAs, and increasing financial penalties for misconduct.

Nixon suggests removing CRICOS eligibility for low level private VET and non-award courses

A further suggestion is to extend the requirement to register to offshore migration agents and consider regulation.

Private vocational colleges are also under scrutiny from former police commissioner Christine Nixon. She suggests conducting targeted compliance activity for three months focused on private VET providers.

Developing “systemic risk indicators” seems to be the recommendation already taken up by ministers – she also suggests monitoring the reporting of non-attendance and removing CRICOS eligibility for low level private VET and non-award courses.

Borra at AAERI explained to The PIE that some genuine international students, “who have invested their time and money” are young and impressionable on arrival. “Many fall into this trap to few rogue agents onshore or other RTO’s who offer fee discounts, cash-backs, job promises, migration pathways, and other freebies.”

The wording of the latest ministerial announcement is that it will “prohibit agent commissions on student transfers”, rather than all onshore agent commissions.

Yini Reptis of AMET Education welcomed a move which protected students from unscruplous agents. But she noted, ” There are quality onshore agents who are providing excellent services to the 600,000+ international students who are currently onshore in Australia.”

She gave examples such as “high school international students who need services for their university degree advice and admission process… and working holiday visa holders who want to change to student visa onshore after they finish their WHV stay in Australia.”

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One Response to Australia bans commission for onshore switching and targets cross-ownership

  1. I am commenting on the recommendations/decisions made/taken by the Australian Government.
    I think the decision makers need to study Systems Thinking subject to understand and implement the Systems Thinking principles. It seems they are trying to address the symptoms rather than addressing the root cause. Imposing restrictions on Education Consultants on opening up a college is just like stopping the doctors from opening up a hospital or stopping an engineer from setting up a workshop business. Can they stop someone from setting up a business just because they are unable to retain students in the universities? What will happen to those Education Consultants who have already invested money in setting up a college? Will the government compensate them?
    If they really want to resolve the problem, they should:
    1. investigate why students are switching from uni courses to VET courses. Is it because of fee, study load or PR Pathway?
    2. they should refuse the visa to such students who transfer from uni to VET courses unless students have a convincing reason to do so.
    They should tighten up the visa system rather than taking shallow steps over cocktail parties!

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