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Thursday, 21 August 2003
Page: 19306


Ms Macklin asked the Minister for Education, Science and Training, upon notice, on 19 June 2003:

(1) What direct or indirect funding and in-kind support is provided to the Australian Education Office (AEO) in Washington by (a) his department and (b) Australian universities.

(2) What is the role of the AEO and how is it governed.

(3) What role does the Government play in the development of the material of the AEO.

(4) What role does the Government have in ensuring that the material is accurate and in the interests of Australia and its higher education system.

(5) What recourse does the Government have if it finds that material is inaccurate.


Dr Nelson (Minister for Education, Science and Training) —The answer to the honourable member's question is as follows:

(1) (a) The Department of Education, Science and Training (DEST) provides no operational or ongoing funding to the Australian Education Office (AEO). For several years DEST has provided modest project funding on a case-by-case basis. The last of these involved providing $48,000 in October 2002 to fund three specific projects including:

· $23,000 to develop and distribute three discipline-specific Guides to Postgraduate Study in Australia, aimed at informing the undergraduate community in North America about postgraduate study opportunities in Australia;

· $15,000 to increase the quality of the Australian Universities Exhibition Stand at the 2002 NAFSA Convention on international education in the United States of America (USA); and

· $10,000 towards the cost of developing an Academic Links Website to facilitate interaction between Australian and North American academics.

The funding for the Australian Universities Exhibition at the 2002 NAFSA Convention has been fully and properly acquitted. The first of the Postgraduate Guides has been produced and distributed in the field of Education, with the other two under development. The Academic Links Website, entitled the Academic Bulletin Board for Australia, Canada and the United States (ABBACUS) is under development.

(1) (b) Australian universities “own” the AEO in the sense that 36 of them fund it through subscription arrangements. The AEO is a USA not-for-profit corporation governed by a Board of Directors which includes a nominee of the Australian Ambassador and several Australian Vice-Chancellors. (A “Background Paper on the Australian Education Office”, produced by the AEO and containing details of its relations with Australian universities is provided at Attachment A.)

(2) The AEO is governed as described above and detailed in Attachment A. The AEO claims to have a dual role of providing services to its member universities, and also of providing generic services to Australian higher education. The former of these roles involves providing a range of informational, promotional and support services as detailed in the AEO paper “Services to Individual Member Universities” (provided at Attachment B). The latter role involves general promotional, liaison and information services about Australian higher education as detailed in the AEO paper “Generic Services to Australian Higher Education” (provided at Attachment C).

(3) The government does not have a role in the development of AEO materials.

(4) Providers who are registered on the Commonwealth Register of Institutions and Courses for Overseas Students (CRICOS) must comply with all requirements of the Education Services for Overseas Students (ESOS) legislation at all times.

These requirements include the obligation for registered providers to identify themselves accurately to overseas students by using their registered provider name and unique CRICOS provider code on all written materials. Additionally, registered providers must advertise with integrity and accuracy in order to uphold the reputation of the Australian international education industry. Providers are also required to advertise in a manner which is not deceptive or misleading in its content.

The role of the Government, through DEST, is to ensure that all registered providers comply with the ESOS legislation and act in the interests of Australia and its higher education system at all times.

(5) If DEST receives information that a provider registered on CRICOS is not complying with the ESOS legislation and using inaccurate material in advertising material, the Minister or his Delegate may take action against the provider to ensure compliance with the legislative requirements of the Act. Such action may include cancellation or suspension of the provider's registration, or imposition of conditions on its registration.

Attachment A

BACKGROUND PAPER ON THE AUSTRALIAN EDUCATION OFFICE

The Australian Education Office was established in 1992, and for most of its life has been housed within the Australian Embassy in Washington, DC. It is a USA not-for-profit corporation, governed by a Board of Directors, which includes:

· the Australian Ambassador to the USA or the Ambassador's nominee (currently Mr Peter Baxter, Deputy Chief of Mission);

· four Australian Vice-Chancellors elected by their peers through the mechanism of the Australian Vice-Chancellors' Committee (currently Professor John Rickard, Vice-Chancellor of Southern Cross University and Chair of the AEO Board; Professor Roger Holmes, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Newcastle; Professor Gerard Sutton, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Wollongong; and Professor Glenice Hancock, Vice-Chancellor of Central Queensland University);

· two Directors on nomination by IDP Education Australia (currently Professor Lance Twomey, Vice-Chancellor of Curtin University of Technology and President of IDP; and Ms Lindy Hyam, Chief Executive of IDP);

· the Executive Director of the AEO (currently Mr Tony Crooks);

· one co-opted Director representing higher education in the USA (currently Professor John Hudzik, Dean of International Programs at Michigan State University); and

· one co-opted Director representing higher education in Canada nominated by the Australian High Commissioner to Ottawa (currently Mr. Robert Giroux, President and Chief Executive Officer of the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada).

The mission of the AEO is to develop and enhance the bilateral relationships between Australia on the one hand and the USA and Canada on the other, by creating and fostering all forms of educational links. Its functions are:

· generic promotion of Australian education in the USA and Canada - through publications, newsletters, a website, visits and conference presentations;

· creation of an environment conducive to the promotion of Australian universities - by ensuring that Australian education has a high profile and a quality image, and by maintaining a close and collegial relationship with North American education associations;

· encouraging the establishment of exchange agreements involving students, faculty members and administrative staff between higher education institutions in Australia and North America; and

· providing a help desk for North American students and Study Abroad advisors enquiring about study opportunities in Australia and the procedures involved in enrolling in an Australian institution, including the visa process.

The AEO is a membership organization funded primarily by Australian universities. The 38 universities that are members of the Australian Vice-Chancellors' Committee each pay an annual subscription fee to the AEO to carry out its generic function on behalf of Australian education. The Australian Embassy provides generous support in the form of office space and access to infrastructure.

The AEO does not enrol students in to Australian universities, but it supports recruiting agents that do offer such services on a commercial basis. The Executive Director of the AEO fulfils the de facto role of Counsellor (Education and Training) at the Australian Embassy in Washington and sits on the Ambassador's Branch Heads team.

Attachment B

SERVICES TO INDIVIDUAL MEMBER UNIVERSITIES

The AEO provides exclusively to its member universities:

· a university prospectus distribution service, in response to enquiries from North American institutions or prospective students;

· access to the AEO's on-line student request database;

· a full-page profile in our flagship publication, Australia: Education Quality, Education Excellence;

· a profile on the AEO website, and a link to the site;

· profile distribution at the annual NAFSA Conference;

· the opportunity to contribute articles to the Study in Australia newsletter;

· one advertising space in an edition of the Study in Australia newsletter and the option to purchase additional space;

· regular information on the North American market via a monthly bulletin, quarterly newsletter, and ad hoc analysis of significant developments and statistical data;

· access to AEO workshops and familiarisation tours;

· the opportunity to second International Office staff to the AEO;

· individual advice as required on opportunities in North America;

· assistance with the setting up of appointments; and

· access to a contact and referral point for International Office staff while in the USA - for telephone messages, transmission and receipt of faxes and e-mail, consignment of freight.

Attachment C

GENERIC SERVICES TO AUSTRALIAN HIGHER EDUCATION

· Provision of free and impartial information to North American students and advisors on study opportunities in Australia and the student visa application process

· Non-commercial point of contact for North American institutions and organizations seeking information about Australian higher education

· Preparation and distribution of publications such as Australia: Education Quality, Education Excellence and Study Abroad Advisor's Guide to Australian Higher Education

· Publication and distribution to North American study abroad advisors of a quarterly newsletter, Study in Australia

· Conduct of familiarization tours of Australian universities for North American study abroad advisors, administrators and academics

· Promotion of the quality of Australian higher education through presentations at conferences and workshops and through targeted visits to North American institutions

· Liaison with various bodies in North America (e.g. US Department of Education, NAFSA: Association of International Educators, American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers, Canadian Bureau for International Education) to ensure that knowledge of Australian higher education systems is current and accurate

· Liaison with education agents in North America to ensure that knowledge of Government of Australia regulations and procedures regarding international education is current and accurate

· Liaison with NAFSA to coordinate the Australian presence at the annual NAFSA Conference

· Profiling of higher education issues within the Australian Embassy in Washington, DC

· Liaison with DIMIA to track and expedite individual student visa applications

· Investigation of and reporting on new opportunities in North America for the Australian international education industry