The Federal Government says it will overhaul the international education sector and crack down on ‘dodgy’ visa providers.
It’s part of a wider review of Australia’s migration system, coinciding with the release of the Nixon Review — a paper highlighting flaws in the system.
The paper found international students and other migrants were exposed to criminal activity, such as human trafficking and sexual exploitation.
International student migration is critical to the Australian economy, contributing $40 billion in 2019.
The Government is concerned the quality of education for international students is lagging due to several factors such as dishonest education providers.
International students have also been found to be at risk of job exploitation, with many performing underpaid work without realising it.
The Federal Government to study in Australia.
Prospective international students often work with education agents — professionals who connect students with education providers — to support their visa applications. They can help students select a course, and advise them on living options in Australia.
Three-quarters of overseas students use an education agent to help secure a visa in Australia.
Agents are subject to strict rules and must provide accurate advice about education courses and life in Australia. They cannot advise a student on visa and immigration matters.
Evidence suggests some agents take advantage of students. For example, a taskforce established by the Australian Border Force (ABF) last year found agents working with illegitimate education providers to funnel students into criminal activities.
Changes for international students
Education providers will soon have better access to information on the performance of education agencies, such as the completion and visa rejection rates of their students. The government hopes this will encourage providers to work with reliable education agents.
Education agents also won’t be allowed to charge students commission fees if they change education providers, for example, through a university transfer. It’s hoped this will remove incentives being exploited by dishonest agents.
The Nixon Review
The changes for international students largely reflect the recommendations in the Nixon Review. The review also found significant issues in the wider migration system, including reports of dishonesty by migration agents to support criminal activities.
The Government announced new migration measures on Wednesday in response to the review. These included a permanent ABF probe into migrant exploitation, and new roles dedicated to immigration compliance and visa protection.
The Federal Government attributed much of the blame for migration system flaws on Opposition Leader Peter Dutton. Dutton was Immigration Minister from 2014 to 2018.
Dutton dismissed this criticism today. He said he made “tough decisions” to support border safety, and that he refused to “take a lecture” from the Government on migration.