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Thursday, 25 August 1994
Page: 461

(Question No. 1558)

Senator Bell asked the Minister for Employment, Education and Training, upon notice, on 11 July 1994:

  (1) Given that federal ministers have expressed concern to ensure that Australia's international reputation as a reliable provider of educational services is maintained, why did the Government introduce legislation to transfer responsibility for accreditation of private colleges from the department to the States.

  (2) What mechanism was put in place to ensure standards of performance, in terms of teaching and course content, student welfare and administration were: (a) uniform across all States; and (b) of a quality that would ensure that Australia's international reputation is maintained.

  (3) By what means is the department being assured that any such mechanism is adequate, reliable and up-to-date.

Senator Schacht —The Minister for Employment, Education and Training has provided the following answer to the honourable senator's question:

  (1) Formal responsibility for approval of institutions to provide courses to full fee paying overseas students was transferred from the Commonwealth to the States and Territories on 1 January 1990. This transfer was consistent with the allocation of responsibility for education and consumer services under the Australian Constitution and the development by the States and Territories at that time of provisions for the licensing of institutions and development of criteria for institutions and courses for domestic students.

  (2) A National Code of Conduct and minimum standards for approval of institutions and courses for international students were endorsed by the former Australian Education Council (AEC) in 1988 and 1990 respectively. The minimum standards are intended to ensure that international students receive the courses and services they pay for and protect and underpin the quality of education services provided by Australian education institutions. The standards are reflected in the legislation, policy and administrative requirements of the State and Territory education authorities for the accreditation of institutions and courses. Compliance by institutions with these standards is monitored by State and Territory education authorities.

  Since June 1991, the Education Services for Overseas Students (Registration of Providers and Financial Regulations) Act 1991 (ESOS Act) has required the Commonwealth to maintain the Commonwealth Register of Institutions and Courses for Overseas Students (CRICOS). Only institutions and courses accredited by the relevant State and Territory authorities are placed on the CRICOS. International students are able to study only courses on the CRICOS. When a State/Territory authority advises the Department of Employment, Education and Training that an institution's course's accreditation is suspended or cancelled, the registration of that institution or course on the CRICOS is suspended or cancelled as the case may be.

  (3) A working group convened by the Commonwealth Department of Employment, Education and Training comprising nominees of Ministers to the former AEC is currently undertaking a review of the Code and Standards. The revised Code and Standards will take into account: the various industry codes in operation at present, the considerable experience gained by the Commonwealth, States and Territories since adoption of the Code and Standards, changes in the regulatory arrangements of the Commonwealth, States and Territories and changes in the focus of Government policy in international education and training.