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Updated: March 9, 2010 19:38 IST

Australia to amend law to better protect foreign students

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Australian Deputy Prime Minister Ms. Julia Gillard. Photo: AP.
Australian Deputy Prime Minister Ms. Julia Gillard. Photo: AP.

Australia will strengthen legislation to better protect international students, including Indians, and ensure world class quality education for them, Education Minister Julia Gillard, said on Tuesday.

Ms. Gillard released a review report presented by former MP Bruce Baird and agreed to work towards implementation of its recommendation to amend the country’s Education Services for Overseas Students (ESOS) Act.

The government supports in principle recommendations to amend the ESOS Act to lift the bar on entry into the international education industry in Australia, Ms. Gillard said.

She said the government will also move to implement recommendations which relate to restricting unethical student recruitment practices as soon as possible, according to a statement released by the department of foreign affairs.

Mr. Baird will brief the opposition and other parties on his recommendations this week with a view to having them available for consideration by the parliament as soon as possible.

The report “Stronger, Simpler Smarter ESOS: Supporting International Students” has detailed issues facing the sector and made recommendations for strengthening legislation with a view to better protect international students and ensure Australia continues to offer a world class quality education, the statement said.

Mr. Baird observed in his report that nearly a fifth of the Australian private colleges were working as “permanent residency factories”, helping foreigners to avail residential visa.

“We have permanent residency factories, (and) if you ask any of the good providers they’ll quickly name those who they believe are the dodgy operators...

“It is those groups that we should be directing our attention to. I certainly think that they represent... about 20 per cent of the vocational sector,” Australian news agency AAP quoted Mr. Baird as saying.

The report suggests improved information system for international students, stronger mechanisms to protect them from unscrupulous operators, enhance regulations related to international education sector and improved support for those studying in Australia.

Mr. Baird recommended that foreign student hubs be set up to provide information and advocacy services and wanted the government to expand its Study in Australia website to include a manual available in major languages.

The recommendations follow extensive consultation with international students, education providers, state and territory governments, regulatory bodies, student organisations, international education professionals, education unions, industry bodies and diplomatic missions.

Mr. Baird was asked to review the education sector, the country’s third largest export industry, which has been affected by a string of assaults on international students, particularly Indians.

Ms. Gillard said: “We’re saying to international students, come, study in this country, it’s a great place to study.”

“But the purpose of coming here as a student is to engage in study and end up with a qualification, not with an immigration pathway,” she was quoted as saying.

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