Representing quality private education
providers in Australia

A new week, a different focus

Monday, April 16 2018

Firstly, call for abstracts for this year’s national conference have been extended by a week, if you think you have something worthwhile to contribute to this year’s dialogue then be sure to make a submission. The key themes are as follows:

  • Innovating under regulation
  • Achieving compliance
  • Strategy development, evaluation & monitoring
  • Leadership
  • Optimising technology in teaching
  • Assessment design
  • Capacity building
  • Governance
  • International

All the information you need can be found here.

Now, last week saw me breakaway from my normal challenges with the past and I had the opportunity to engage with the vibrant international education community.

Together with my colleagues from other peak bodies, the week started with a meeting with the Assistant Minister for Immigration and Border Protection, the Hon Alex Hawke.

The topic at hand was Australia’s vibrant International Education industry and the important role of visas in the process.

The Minister was very engaged and interested to hear views from the industry.

That of course makes one reflect on what are the challenges with the framework.

While there remains considerable debate about the merit of removing the business of international education from the management of immigration, that is a discussion for another day.

The current operation of the provider risk ratings is undoubtedly driving some unintended consequences. These consequences include that the immigration risk ratings are often perceived in the market as a quality measure, the approach unfairly disadvantages small providers and when a student transfers onshore from one provider to another the risk associated with that student does not transfer with them to the receiving provider.

The change from Streamlined Visa Processing (SVP) to the Simplified Student Visa Framework (SSVF) has resulted in improvements. However, the changes have also seen the shifting of immigration risk from the Government to education providers. This shift comes at great cost due to the need for providers to invest in systems and resources to manage that risk.

This undermines our capacity to deliver best practice education.

A related issue is that as a provider’s risk rating is calculated as a proportion of their overall cohort – that is the percentage of rejections, the percentage of visa cancellations, etc – means that providers with the capacity to recruit large numbers of students have greater capacity to absorb adverse visa outcomes.

Small providers and new entrants are disadvantaged.

The student transfer issue continues to cause concern. I constantly receive reports of large numbers of students being attracted to lower-quality, lower-cost providers once they are onshore. These providers have not typically required the student to supply a release letter from their original provider before enrolment (in contravention of the National Code).

Of considerable concern is that these providers can take students and the original provider continues to carry the risk and is held responsible for the actions of students, including post their completion of study. It is not sensible or equitable that an education provider is penalised for the
actions of other providers or students who DHA has assessed as genuine and who have complied with all relevant visa conditions during the period of their study.

Another report I am now receiving more regularly is the frustration with apparent inconsistent decisions regarding visa eligibility, particularly when a decision cites issues such as an applicant’s age, marital status, the economic conditions of their home country or employability. We are also hearing of considerable variability regarding decisions made for similar cases across different posts.

Some providers are questioning whether there is a bias against VET enrolments, due to the high number of rejections they are experiencing, including from well established markets.

Remember, all we want to do is offer a quality education!

The week then ended with a number of very exciting events organised by Study Gold Coast and Study Queensland.

The events were well attended, including by Assistant Minister Karen Andrews and State Government Ministers Shannon Fentiman and Kate Jones.

The Study Gold Coast event centered on the importance of diversity to communities and education and the Study Q function was all about International Agents. Keynote speaker and ‘innovator in residence’ Gus Balbontin wowed the audience with an engaging presentation on our own responsibility to change and the risk of being concreted into the past! This guy is worth seeing!

We then unpacked the real value of diversity to communities, cities and of course in education.

The Study Queensland event was an exciting new format, titled ‘Agents Pitch’.

The process involved five international agents who were the finalists ‘pitching’ to an expert panel and the audience about how they would market Queensland as an international study destination.

It was very engaging and well worth the effort to be there.

We of course recognise the important role of agents. Our members, however, are also mindful of their capacity to skew enrolments and unduly influence student decisions. It is undoubtedly a contradiction that Australian providers are heavily regulated and yet international agents operate outside of all regulation.

An issue that requires further thought.

The week finished with my attendance at the Queensland Trade 2018/Australian Indian Business Council Business to Business briefing and networking meeting with representatives from the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry.

Another very worthwhile and engaging events.

It was a real pleasure to think about Tertiary Education and its value – it helps remind me why we do all of this……

Rod Camm
Chief Executive Officer


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