The Australian government announced that institutions will no longer be able to issue concurrent confirmation of enrolments (CoE) after evidence this was being used as a “loophole” by “dodgy” providers to poach newly-arrived students.
Multiple organisations representing the international education sector have been lobbying for these changes.
“We welcome the government’s action, which we have called for, to crack down on dodgy and unscrupulous operators seeking to exploit students for personal gain,” said Catriona Jackson, CEO of Universities Australia.
“These measures put students first, which is where they belong.”
The Australian Technology Network of Universities agreed that the new measures will ensure Australia’s international education sector is “both better protected and future proofed”.
The organisation said in a statement, “International students are an important component of Australian campuses, classes and communities and it has been heartening to see them returning to study in increasing numbers, post-Covid.
“These measures put students first”
“It is important that we ensure all students are protected once they have decided to study in Australia.”
Troy Williams, CEO of the Independent Tertiary Education Council Australia, said the membership body supported the move despite the “administrative burden” the changes could bring.
“Although increased compliance activity comes with an unwanted administrative burden on quality providers, those that are doing the right thing by students have nothing to fear, and non-genuine providers will exit the system,” he said.
The government promised to continue cracking down on “predatory” providers, warning that it may use its powers to issue suspension certificates to high-risk institutions, which would stop them from recruiting any international students.
It has also given the Australian Skills Quality Authority more power to regulate Registered Training Organisations in order to help “eliminate… non-genuine operators”.
Education agents also welcomed the intervention, but called for more oversight.
“This is an excellent development for the entire sector,” said Nishi Borra, president of the Association of Australian Education Representatives in India.
“It’s a known fact that agents and their institutional partners spend a lot of time and resources to recruit students. Student retention was a serious issue and it worried us all.”
But he added that the government should link visas to institutions, meaning any student wishing to switch providers would need to re-apply for a visa and non-compliance risks are passed on to the new institution.
Ravi Lochan Singh, managing director of student recruitment agency Global Reach, agreed: “What I am campaigning for is that onshore poaching should be discouraged even more.
“Allowing change of provider after six months should also require a release from the first institution unless a fresh student visa is applied.”
Study visas are already linked to institutions in New Zealand and the UK.
The government also raised the amount of money students must prove they have in savings in order to be eligible for an Australian visa.
Williams said the move was “expected” but not “positive” as it increases financial barriers for students hoping to study in Australia.
“Broadly speaking, ITECA is of the [belief] that any international student wishing to come to Australia needs to be able to support themselves and the current visa framework reflects that in part,” he said.
“Further consideration of the announcement needs to be made to ensure that an artificially high barrier hasn’t been placed before students that come to Australia with a genuine intent to study.”
Australia is expected to announce further measures linked to the international education sector later this year as part of its ongoing review of the country’s migration system.
Recent reports have suggested the government may scrap the Genuine Temporary Entrant requirement in student visa applications, which prevents potential students from expressing a desire to migrate permanently.