The clean-up commenced in late August 2023. Measures introduced then included closing access to a pandemic work visa, restricting students from concurrently enrolling with other providers, increasing the savings requirements for international student visa applicants, and “additional scrutiny” being placed on “high risk cohorts”.
Separately, the government also strengthened the ‘fit and proper person test’ for operators of all Australian VET providers.
This week further changes were announced including:
- new risk indicators to “drive targeted compliance by education regulators”
- increased monitoring of student attendance
- the strengthening of the fit and proper test for providers of international education
- restrictions on education agents operating international education providers
- prohibiting agent commissions on student transfers between providers in Australia, and
- giving providers greater access to agent performance data to help them partner with quality education agents.
In a speech on October 3, the Minister for Skills and Training, the Hon Brendan O’Connor MP announced an extra $37.8m (£19.8m) in funding for Australia’s VET regulatory agency, the Australian Skills Quality Authority (ASQA) for a new integrity unit which has “the technology and data matching capability to identify and respond proactively to unethical and potentially illegal activity”.
A confidential ‘tip off’ line will also be established to allow anonymous reports to be made to ASQA.
With such a raft of changes being made, it is reasonable to ask if students and their families can have confidence in Australia’s international VET providers?
The answer is yes.
But that is not to deny that the changes the government is making are needed. Providers who have sought to exploit the system and their students need to be identified and removed.
What gives me heart is that these measures are well targeted and are not focussed on the majority of Australia’s international VET providers who offer a quality learning experience.
The success of the government’s changes now rests with ASQA. The funding the government is investing in the new integrity unit is significant, equivalent to 60% of ASQA’s total annual budget.
“The changes the government is making are needed”
The sector can only hope that after the problems in the international VET sector emerged on ASQA’s watch, it can use these funds and its new capacities wisely so that the rebound of the Australian international VET sector can continue with quality education and student engagement at its heart.
And finally, this might not be the end of the crackdown. There could still be more changes to come when the government releases its long-awaited Migration Strategy.
Claire Field is an independent consultant who has previously held senior positions in the Australian and NSW state government. She established Australia’s first national VET regulatory agency (the predecessor to ASQA).