Australia’s Tuition Protection scheme moves forward
July 12, 2012
Consumer protection for international students in Australia has moved forward with the appointment of professional services company PricewaterhouseCoopers (PWC) as the administrator to run the Tuition Protection Scheme (TPS). The new TPS arrangements for the collection of student fees came into effect on July 1.
PWC held a similar administrative role with the government’s previous Esos assurance fund. Meanwhile, the Minister for Tertiary Education, Senator Chris Evans, has announced the Director of the scheme as Vipan Mahajan, a former Senior Manager in international education in the Department of Industry, Innovation, Science, Research and Tertiary Education.
Mahajan said PWC would deliver “a comprehensive, client-focused, end-to-end service to assist international students affected by provider default.” He added that the administrator would use an online placement system to help students displaced by the closure of their school to find suitable alternative courses.
As previously reported in Your World, concerns had been expressed that no administrator had been appointed as the commencement of the TPS approached and a number of industry-run protection schemes were disbanded. Claire Field, CEO of Acpet, praised Mahajan’s sector background and welcomed the reassurance that key aspects of the arrangements were now in place.
One of the major changes of the TPS system is that for courses of 24 weeks or longer, providers can only collect 50 per cent of fees prior to commencement of the course. Although agent commission fees are outside the scope of the TPS, agents that collect 100 per cent of fees from students must also comply with the legislation.
Field said there had not been enough consultation prior to the commencement of TPS. “A lack of communication with the sector still sees many providers and their partner education agents confused and concerned about what the changes mean.” She stated that Acpet had specific examples of agents looking elsewhere because of the impact of TPS changes.
English Australia Chief Executive, Sue Blundell, said the appointment removed some of the uncertainty around TPS and acknowledged PWC’s experience in running the Esos scheme. However, she questioned a lack of experience in the placement of students, “The placement process is very different to the refund process that drove the fund operations where will they bring in the expertise related to placing students appropriately?”
The TPS was instigated as part of the Baird Review recommendations. An advisory committee will now develop recommendations for a risk levy to be paid by private providers from 2013. Field said, “Of grave concern to Acpet is the retrograde decision taken by the Commonwealth to privilege public institutions in the new arrangements.” She added the exemptions for public institutions contravene the policy of competitive neutrality and that Acpet would be lodging a complaint with the productivity commission. Acpet has also developed a designated trust account on behalf of members, which Field said complies with TPS requirements.
Blundell also raised concerns that the service could be expensive to operate and questioned how much of the levy would go towards the operating costs rather than schools and colleges. She added that English Australia would continue to operate its tuition assurance scheme. “What is important for students and agents to note, however, is that whilst the TPS arrangements will provide world-leading protection for student visa holders, English Australia remains the only body providing similar protection to non-student visa holders,” she said.
Australian Education International (AEI) has recently updated its FAQ sheet on the TPS website.