Last call for dodgy providers in international education

Department of Home Affairs

Last year, the Government released a Migration Strategy for Australia. The goal of that strategy is to build a better planned, more strategic migration system that works for Australia and brings migration levels back to normal.

Strengthening the integrity and quality of international education is one of eight actions in the strategy’s action plan. International education is a huge national asset – economically, socially, and diplomatically. However under the former government a number of providers intent on rorting the system gained a foothold in the sector, undermining these strengths.

This week, the Albanese Government is issuing a first tranche of warning letters from the Department of Home Affairs to 34 education providers for non-genuine or exploitative recruitment practices.

These warning letters make clear that providers will have six months to significantly improve their behaviour, or risk being issued with suspension certificates. This would ban these providers from recruiting more international students, with breaches of these actions punishable by up to two years imprisonment.

This would be the first time any Government has used these powers under the Education Services for Overseas Students Act since it was enacted in 2000, following the Government passing new regulations in March of this year to support the use of this power.

This is just one of the measures the Government has taken to crack down on these dodgy providers. Since the Migration Strategy was released in December 2023, these providers have seen a 79% reduction in visas granted since the same period last year, compared to a 39% reduction on average across the sector, as the Government works to bring migration back to sustainable levels.

Enabled by the investment of $37.8 million into integrity in the VET sector, including ASQA’s Integrity Unit, sanctions issued to international education providers have increased by 73% in this financial year, compared to the same period in 2021/22. ASQA has issued 35 sanctions to cancel in full or not renew registration of providers of international VET, 10 sanctions to suspend registration for those providers, and issued 33 written directions.

ASQA’s new Integrity Unit has more than 150 serious matters under investigation, and as part of the crackdown on non-compliant international education providers, ASQA has conducted 67 site visits so far this financial year of which 39 were unannounced site visits, including on 21 of the 34 providers being considered for the new powers under the ESOS Act.

The Government is also further increasing the amount of savings international students will need in order to get a student visa. This was increased from $21,041 to $24,505 on 1 October last year to account for indexation since it was frozen in 2019 and will now further increase to $29,710. These changes will come into effect on Friday 10 May 2024.

This change will further ensure that students coming to Australia to study can afford to support themselves and will not face an increased risk of exploitation.

The Government is committed to working with genuine providers to navigate these changes and the raft of action the Government has taken since being elected.

Quotes attributable to Minister for Home Affairs Clare O’Neil​

“The migration system we inherited was completely broken, and our goal is to build a smaller, better planned, more strategic migration system that works for Australia.”

“We are significantly reducing migration levels – we are in the middle of the biggest drop in migration numbers in Australia’s history, outside of war or pandemic.”

“Dodgy providers have no place in our international education sector. These actions will help weed out the bottom feeders in the sector that seek to exploit people and trash the reputation of the sector.”

/Public Release. View in full here.