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Wednesday, 24 August 1994
Page: 308

(Question No. 1563)

Senator Bell asked the Minister representing the Minister for Employment, Education and Training, upon notice, on 12 July 1994:

  (1) When did the Commonwealth require overseas students to pre-pay full tuition fees for courses at private colleges as a test of bona fides and a condition of being granted a student visa.

  (2) Is this policy still in operation; if so, does it apply to all categories of courses; if not, what variations exist between courses and/or type of college.

  (3) If this policy is not in operation, what changes have occurred and when and why.

  (4) If the requirement on overseas students to pre-pay full fees is purely a college decision, what is the basis for the Commonwealth supporting the arrangement by legislation imposing trust accounts and tuition assurance schemes.

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

  (1) The requirement was introduced in 1986 but withdrawn after representations from industry. It was reintroduced in June 1987 for ELICOS students from the People's Republic of China and in July 1988 for all full fee paying students.

  (2) No international student is required to pre-pay tuition fees for any type of course or college. Indeed the procedures for intending international students from non-gazetted countries require them to undergo pre-visa assessment before confirming enrolment and payment of fees.

  (3) The Migration Regulations, which had the pre-payment of tuition fees as a criterion to be satisfied before visa issue, were amended on 1 October 1992 to remove pre-payment of course fees as a requirement for a student visa, as recommended in the Industry Commission Report 1991 on the export of education services.

  (4) The requirement to pre-pay tuition fees as a requirement for visa issue has been removed. The bona fides of international student applicants from countries with high ratios of non-compliance with visa conditions now are checked by the rigorous pre-visa assessment procedure.

  Most private colleges and public institutions retain their own requirement that applicants pre-pay part or all course fees. Recognising the need to safeguard such pre-paid tuition fees and the integrity of Australia's international reputation following the collapse of the Australian Business College in Perth in January 1993, the Senate Standing Committee on Employment, Education and Training held an inquiry into the efficacy of the Education Services for Overseas Students (Registration of Providers and Financial Regulation) Act 1991 (the ESOS Act). The Committee's report recommended that the ESOS Act be amended to require that pre-paid international students' funds be placed in formal trust accounts. Similarly, the Committee recommended that providers be members of tuition assurance schemes which would guarantee the protection of students' funds and/or the delivery of courses equivalent to those that had been paid for. The requirements relating to trust accounts and tuition assurance schemes apply only to non-exempt providers.