International students studying in Australia, and the global competitiveness of Australian education providers, will be enhanced by new laws being debated today in Parliament.
Minister for Education and Training Senator Simon Birmingham said the Education Services for Overseas Students Amendment (Streamlining Regulation) Bill 2015 cut red tape for education providers, while maintaining Australia’s stringent student protections.
“Under the new laws, education providers must still pay a tuition protection levy for each and every international student,” Senator Birmingham said.
“Those funds are managed by the government’s Tuition Protection Service, the only such scheme in the world enshrined in legislation.
“The Tuition Protection Service will continue to place students in alternative courses or provide refunds where a provider ceases to operate, just as it does now. Nothing in the Bill changes these unique safeguards.
“Removing a requirement on some providers to keep prepaid tuition fees in a designated account allows them greater operational flexibility, but does not change their obligations to protect students and pay their fees through the TPS.”
Senator Birmingham said the Bill was developed in close consultation with the international education sector and international students over the last two years.
“The Bill is strongly endorsed by the Australian international education sector as it removes ineffective provisions while maintaining the guarantee that international students cannot be left high and dry through no fault of their own,” Senator Birmingham said.
“This is an important reform that will also allow students greater choice in when they pay their tuition, so they or the person paying on their behalf, can take advantage of favourable exchange rates and have the convenience of only paying once – if they choose to.”
Students cannot be compelled by these amendments to pay more than 50 per cent of their tuition before their course starts, if they do not wish to.
Laws also still require providers to have a written agreement with each international student setting out their course details, tuition fees and conditions of refunds, preventing unilateral changes from providers.
Senator Birmingham said union claims that the new laws reduced student protections were not only wrong, but were also disingenuous, given the National Tertiary Education Union’s failure to provide a submission on the Bill’s Exposure Draft, which was released for consultation in July 2015.
“Careful consultation on the Exposure Draft reiterated the strong support these amendments have from the international education sector, and the benefits that will flow to providers and students,” Senator Birmingham said.