The Australian government is getting tougher with private education providers, who recruit international students through unscrupulous agents, making it mandatory for them to provide the list of agents.

This was one of the key aspects included in the changes proposed to the Education Services for Overseas Students Act, 2000 (ESOA) by the government. The amendment Bill was introduced by Minister for Education Julia Gillard in Parliament on Wednesday.

The proposed changes will require education providers to list names of education agents, who represent them and promote their education services, and comply with any matter prescribed in the regulations. The changes will also ensure that the principal purpose of educational institutions is to provide education, and the provider has demonstrated capacity to give education of a satisfactory standard.

The amendments also call for re-registration of all institutions currently registered on the Commonwealth Register of Institutions and Courses for Overseas Students (CRICOS) by December 31, 2010. Conditions imposed by states and territories on education providers will be recognised by the Commonwealth.

Under the scanner

The amendments are the first in a series of measures the government is taking to ensure Australia continues to offer world-class, quality international education in the changing environment. These measures assume significance in view of the quality of education coming under the scanner after the international media, particularly Indian media, highlighting the issue after several Indian students were attacked here.

Many students and teachers from popular universities here view the courses, mostly vocational diplomas, offered by the private colleges as sub-standard, which do not meet the quality prescribed by the Australian government and are being used as a dashboard to get into Australia. Interestingly, majority of students coming under attack are enrolled in such institutions here and mostly in Victoria.

Earlier, Skills and Workforce Participation Minister of Victoria Jacinta Allan told a visiting Indian media delegation that Victoria had initiated a rapid audit of education and training providers suspected of breaching their legal obligations. “The audit is on and expected to be completed soon,” she said.

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