|Regulation with intent
When a student studies abroad, I imagine that their parents’ concerns revolve around social issues: will my child be happy; will their host family be nice to them; will they make friends? And perhaps academic issues enter their thoughts too: will they make good progress in their studies?
Of course, these two concerns are linked: a happy and settled student is more likely to succeed in their studies. More regulatory concerns such as: will my child receive an adequate refund if they have to cancel their course for an unavoidable reason; what happens if the education provider fails? are unlikely to enter their heads.
But for education agents, whose professional remit is to be concerned about such questions as well as the more obvious social and academic considerations, it pays to be clued up on varying refund rules and tuition assurance (pages 28-32).
Australia is really trying very hard to provide a comprehensive umbrella of international student support via its existing tuition assurance scheme, recent visa changes to support this scheme, and ongoing regulatory efforts to improve the international student experience (page 7). The official in charge of the Esos Act review has called for greater efforts to be made in terms of social cohesion of domestic and international students; better regulation of accommodation provision and a whole raft of other measures (such as a national body for dispute resolution), which will be officially presented to government sometime this year.
Such macro-efforts to tighten up the nuts and bolts of an industry will translate, if adopted, into a more satisfactory outcome to the international student experience, even if these are not considerations at the forefront of the mind of a student or their parents when deciding where to study.
Meanwhile, the UK is making its own efforts to redefine the international education industry, but without the end consumer in mind; rather, with the electorate and the upcoming general election. Concerns over bogus immigrants continuing to enter the country, despite an overhaul of the visa system which is still in the process of being rolled out led the government to announce a very hasty review of the system and outline specific proposals, all of which left the industry aghast (page 6).
One point that Australia and the UK seem to agree on is that a greater focus on agent integrity is a good thing, and this seems likely to be a focus in 2010. A government official in Australia is advocating agent certification, for the benefit of Australia-bound clients; while English UK recommends introducing a trusted partner scheme, for the benefit of nervous visa officials.