The Albanese Government is today announcing a package of measures to support integrity in the international education system and to support genuine international students.
International education is our fourth largest export industry and maintaining the quality and integrity of this sector is critical for the Australian economy and our relationships in our region.
The Government has closed a loophole which allows education providers to shift international students who have been in Australia for less than six months from genuine study to an arrangement designed to facilitate access to work in Australia.
There has been a sharp uptake in the use of the concurrent function in 2023 – in the first half of 2023, 17,000 concurrent enrolments were created, compared to approximately 10,500 for the same period in 2019 and 2022 combined.
Recent investigations have identified this misuse of ‘concurrent enrolment’ as an integrity issue for the international sector. This change takes effect immediately.
The Government will also increase the amount of savings international students will need in order to get a student visa. This requirement has not been indexed since 2019 and needs to increase to reflect higher living expenses. From October 1 2023, international students will need to show evidence of $24,505 in savings, which is a 17% increase on current levels. This increase accounts for indexation since 2019.
This change will ensure students coming to Australia to study can afford to support themselves and will not face increased risk of exploitation due to an urgent need for employment.
The Government will apply additional scrutiny to high-risk cohorts and ask for additional documents to prevent fraud in applications.
The Government will also consider using its powers under Section 97 of the Education Services for Overseas Students Act (ESOS Act) to issue suspension certificates to high-risk education providers. A suspension certificate means providers would not be able to recruit international students.
This would be the first time an Australian Government has used this power and reflects how seriously the Albanese Government takes the issue of dodgy providers. The Government will immediately begin consulting on possible regulations to set clear grounds for the use of suspension certificates, such as application rates with fraudulent documents and provider refusal rates. The Government is particularly concerned about more than 200 providers that currently have visa refusal rates higher than 50%.
The Government is considering further measures to strengthen integrity in the international education system as part of the Migration Strategy, which is due to be released later this year.
Quotes attributable to Minister for Education Jason Clare:
“International student numbers are almost back to where they were before the pandemic. That’s a good thing. International education is an extraordinarily valuable national asset.
“But there are also challenges in international education. As students have come back, so have some dodgy and unscrupulous players who are trying to take advantage of them.
“This change will work to stop predatory ‘second’ providers from enrolling students before they have studied for the required six months at their first provider.
“This will help ensure the integrity of one of our biggest exports while cracking down on dodgy operators.”
Quotes attributable to Minister for Skills and Training, Brendan O’Connor:
“These changes reflect our determination to strengthen the integrity of the VET sector.
“Nine out of 10 future jobs will require a post-secondary qualification and VET is a vital pathway to secure jobs. We are committed to lifting perceptions of VET and this is an important step to do that.
“Ensuring we have a fit for purpose VET sector is critical in responding to skills shortages, and teaching and training our existing and future workforce.”
Quotes attributable to Minister for Home Affairs Clare O’Neil:
“International education is our fourth largest export – it’s essential that we maintain our global reputation for quality education. Our government has no tolerance for people who exploit students.
“Our message is clear – the party is over, the rorts and loopholes that have plagued this system will be shut down.”