Student in the Quadrangle at the University of Sydney.
The federal government is cracking down on "shonks" taking advantage of international students. Image by Paul Miller/AAP PHOTOS
  • politics

Party over for shonky international education providers

October 2, 2023

A crackdown on dodgy practices by education providers is being welcomed as a key stakeholder declares “enough is enough”.

International students will get greater protection with changes to the education system, with the introduction of risk indicators across the sector to boost compliance and stop exploitation.

Standards governing educational centres with international students will be increased with owners banned from having a stake in education agent businesses.

Agent commissions will be banned for international student transfers in a bid to crack down on student poaching.

It follows revelations overseas agents had been exploiting the market through earning bonuses when bringing foreign students to Australia.

Universities Australia CEO Catriona Jackson says the federal government crackdown will help protect students from unscrupulous operators.

“Universities have called for action in this space and the enhanced monitoring and compliance measures announced today send a firm message to dodgy agents that we are cracking down,” she said in a statement on Monday.

The changes follow a review of Australia’s immigration and visa system by former Victorian police commissioner Christine Nixon.

It was set up amid reports of human trafficking and exploitation.

Education Minister Jason Clare says the changes will help protect international students.

“International students are back, but so are the shonks seeking to exploit them and undermine our international education system,” he said.

“The Nixon review identified the need to increase monitoring and compliance in the international education sector and the government is responding.”

Educational providers will get more access to the performance data of education agents as part of the changes, which will include metrics such as student completion rates and visa rejection rates.

It’s hoped the changes will allow for academic institutions to have more transparency on the work of education agents and their practices.

The peak body for independent tertiary operators agreed with the call to ban commissions on student transfers, but said it must done in a robust way,

“They could bypass the new ban by levying marketing fees or other creative ways of extracting funds from tertiary education providers,” Independent Tertiary Education Council Australia CEO Troy Williams said in a statement.

“ITECA wants to put students at the heart of the international education sector and the associated visa framework.”

The coalition questioned if the government’s crackdown would have much impact.

“The government is aware of ‘serious, organised crime related to student visas’… yet more than 320,000 additional international students arrived in Australia while the Labor government was sitting on this report,” a statement said.

“Now the wait is over, Labor is dripping out announcements over the course of a week to cover for their lack of action.”