The government has introduced new legislation that it says will ensure quality and integrity in international education. 

Minister for Education Jason Clare this week introduced the Education Services for Overseas Students Amendment (Quality and Integrity) Bill 2024 to Parliament. 

The bill aims to protect Australia's lucrative international education sector from dodgy agents and shonky providers.

Although student numbers are recovering post-COVID-19, the sector faces challenges from unscrupulous agents and providers.

“The students are now back, but so are the shonks. The shonks and crooks looking to take advantage of students and make a quick buck at the expense of this critical national asset,” Clare told Parliament on thursday.

The bill incorporates recommendations from the Parkinson Review of the Migration System and the Nixon Rapid Review into the Exploitation of Australia's Visa System. 

Key measures include:

  • introducing a new definition of "education agent" and strengthens the "fit and proper" requirements to prevent collusion between agents and providers. It also defines "education agent commission" to ban commissions for onshore student transfers, addressing the issue of agents poaching students to cheaper courses

  • requiring new providers to deliver courses to domestic students for two years before enrolling international students. This aims to prevent the establishment of "ghost colleges" and ensure new providers have a track record of quality education

  • granting the Minister for Education the power to set enrolment limits to manage sustainable growth. These limits can apply at the provider or course level and consider factors such as Australia's skills needs and the availability of student accommodation

  • new rules allowing courses with systemic quality issues or limited relevance to Australia's skills needs to be suspended or cancelled by the Minister for Education, in consultation with the Minister for Skills and Training

  • allowing for the automatic cancellation of a provider's registration if they have not delivered a course to an overseas student for 12 consecutive months, targeting integrity risks posed by dormant providers

“We have to ensure that we manage the international education industry in a way that delivers the greatest benefit to Australia, whilst maintaining its social licence from the Australian people,” Clare said.

“In the last decade we have helped to educate more than 3 million people from around the world.

“[Education is] a $48 billion dollar industry… but it doesn’t just make us money.

“It also makes us friends.”

The introduction of the bill follows measures announced by the Albanese government to tighten controls on international education and temporary migration. 

These include reintroducing a cap on working hours for international students and increasing the English language and financial requirements for student visas.

Universities Australia chief executive Luke Sheehy has described aspects of the bill as being “contrary to risk-based and proportionate regulation”, while International Education Association of Australia head Phil Honeywood says the changes include “unprecedented powers for any education minister”.