Australia proposes reforms to ESOS Act

16 July, 2015

Australia’s Minister for Education and Training, Christopher Pyne, has released a draft of amendments to the country’s Education Services for Overseas Student (ESOS) Act, aiming to reduce red tape and increase international competitiveness in international recruitment.


In the amendments, the government proposes to reduce the reporting burden on institutions, avoid the duplications of work within the current regulatory system and remove the requirement for non-exempt providers to maintain a separate, designated account to hold advance tuition fee payments.

One of the most significant changes for study travel agents in the updated Tuition Protection Service (TPS) measures will be the removal of the restriction on students or third parties paying more than 50 per cent of tuition fees up front. Under the new rules, students or agents will be allowed to request to pay more.

Other amendments to the TPS include the removal of the definition of study periods. In an explanatory overview document, the Department of Education and Training said the previous stipulation of 24 weeks as the maximum for a study period was not consistent with providers’ business operations.

Further measures to support providers include the removal of the requirement on providers to report student defaults and an extension of the reporting period for changes to a student’s study from 14 to 31 days.

“This is a significant step in ensuring the legislative framework for international education is contemporary, and that red tape is reduced, so that Australia’s education institutions can focus on their core businesses and be even more competitive,” said Pyne.

Other planned changes include the removal of the minimum two-year registration period and allowing for a maximum registration of seven years, with regulatory bodies TEQSA and ASQA given powers to determine the most appropriate period of registration for an individual provider.

Minister Pyne said that changes would be conducted in consultation with the sector. “That’s why we are releasing the bills and seeking further advice from stakeholders. We are determined to get the policy settings right.”

Sue Blundell, Executive Director of language school sector peak body English Australia, welcomed the amendments to the act. “We are pleased to see the government taking action to remove some of the meaningless ‘make work’ requirements that came out of the last ESOS review and to streamline the regulatory oversight of the sector.  Overall, these Bills will result in a number of positive changes that our member colleges will welcome. 

“The removal of the designated account requirement, allowing students to pay more than 50 per cent upfront of they wish, and streamlining reporting requirements are all important reforms that will reduce the administrative burden for colleges and make Australia easier for agents to work with.  We would have liked to see the removal of the 50 per cent limit altogether, however we believe that the steps proposed are at least a move in the right direction.”

The changes in the ESOS Act are the latest in a series of  recent government interventions in the industry, following the release of a draft international education strategy, the establishment of a cross-government/peak body Coordinating Council for International Education, and a reform of streamlined visa processing

Matthew Knott
News Editor



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