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Aus government to develop agent code of ethics

The Australian government will fund the development of a code of ethics for education agents working with Australian institutions in order to enhance the quality and reputation of the sector, Minister for Education and Training Christopher Pyne announced last week.

Members of the Association of Australian Education Representatives in India, which has contributed to discussions on an agent code of ethics, with Christopher Pyne at the Australian High Commission, New Delhi. Photo: AAERI.

“The quality of the educational services that Australia offers to the rest of the world is an asset that we should protect and enhance”

The government will also fund a feasibility study into an industry-led quality framework for agents.

“There is certainly an appetite among education agencies for change”

The code, which is being developed with the International Education Association of Australia, is part of the draft National Strategy for International Education, which is currently in the industry consultation stage.

As the country’s fourth largest export industry, the Australian government said it is keen to safeguard the quality and reputation of its international education sector.

“The quality of the educational services that Australia offers to the rest of the world is an asset that we should protect and enhance,” Pyne said, announcing the initiative at the Australian Council for Private Education and Training’s Asia Pacific International Education Forum and National Conference in Melbourne.

“These initiatives complement our robust legislative frameworks, which offer world class student protections,” Pyne said.

How much funding will be allocated to the initiative and specifics of the framework have not yet been announced.

However, course hopping is an area of particular concern – where students are encouraged to transfer from one institution to another by unscrupulous agents once they arrive onshore.

How to tackle this problem has been widely debated by industry stakeholders in recent months, and may be one reason for the government’s support for increasing oversight.

An initial government-backed review this spring into the potential for a quality framework revealed widespread industry support for greater oversight of agents.

The survey carried out by IEAA of nearly 1,000 industry stakeholders, showed 77% of respondents agreed that existing quality arrangements for agents are effective, but 58% said they want a framework that went further.

Overall, three quarters of the respondents, which included agents, educators and government representatives, said they want accreditation standards. Two thirds called for a highly or very highly regulated agent quality framework.

“There is certainly an appetite among education agencies for change,” Sue Blundell, outgoing executive director of English Australia, told The PIE News.

Pyne also reiterated Australia’s intention to formally endorse the London Statement, a statement of principles for agent best practice agreed to by Australia, the UK, Ireland and New Zealand in 2012.

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