Sector alert: Provider responsibilities when using education agents

4 November 2022

TEQSA is reminding all higher education providers of their obligations for monitoring the performance of education agents and ensuring that international students are genuine and engaged with learning.

Background

There have recent media reports outlining the alleged misuse of student visas, including education agents working to secure visas for non-genuine students.

Education providers delivering to overseas students are responsible for ensuring that their education agents act ethically, honestly and in the best interest of overseas students and uphold the reputation of Australia’s international education sector.

Providers are also required to monitor student engagement throughout a course of study.

These obligations are set out in standards 1.3.4, 1.3.5, 7.1.1 and 7.1.5 of the Higher Education Standards Framework (Threshold Standards) 2021, and standard 4 of the National Code of Practice for Providers of Education and Training to Overseas Students 2018 (the National Code).

TEQSA’s role

TEQSA does not regulate education agents. As per the TEQSA Act, it regulates all registered providers that offer higher education qualifications in or from Australia, as well as some standalone ELICOS providers.

TEQSA monitors providers’ compliance with the requirements of the Education Services for Overseas Students Act 2000 and associated legislative framework (the ESOS framework).

Under standard 4 of the National Code, registered providers are responsible for ensuring that their education agents act ethically, honestly and in the best interest of overseas students and uphold the reputation of Australia’s international education sector.

In particular, higher education providers delivering to overseas students must:

  • have a written agreement with each education agent
  • not accept students where it suspects the education agent of engaging in dishonest recruitment practices
  • take immediate corrective action where it believes or becomes aware of an education agent that has not complied with its responsibilities under relevant ESOS and migration legislation.

Provider actions

All higher education providers must ensure that:

  • Education agents that they have contracts with are published on their website and that this listing is correct and up-to-date.
  • Student engagement policies and procedures are in place and followed. This includes monitoring international students’ engagement in learning and their academic progress and taking action where students are at risk.
  • Robust oversight is in place for all contracts with education agents. This includes monitoring performance, ensuring students referred by agents are genuine and engaged in learning and taking prompt corrective action in the event or likelihood of misrepresentation or unethical conduct.
  • Staff managing relationships with education agents are aware of the responsibilities and obligations incumbent on providers under the Higher Education Standards Framework and National Code, as well as institutional policies and procedures.

Relevant standards

Higher Education Standards Framework (Threshold Standards) 2021

Standard 1.3.4:
Processes that identify students at risk of unsatisfactory progress and provide specific support are implemented across all courses of study.

Standard 1.3.5:
Trends in rates of retention, progression and completion of student cohorts through courses of study are monitored to enable review and improvement.

Standard 7.1.1:
Representation of the higher education provider, its educational offerings and charges, whether directly or through agents or other parties, is accurate and not misleading.

Standard 7.1.5:
Agents and other parties that are involved in representing the higher education provider are bound by formal contracts with the provider, their performance is monitored and prompt corrective action is taken in the event or likelihood of misrepresentation or unethical conduct.

National Code of Practice for Providers of Education and Training to Overseas Students 2018

Standard 4.1:
The registered provider must enter into a written agreement with each education agent it engages to formally represent it, and enter and maintain the education agent’s details in PRISMS.

Standard 4.2:
The written agreement must outline:

  • 4.2.1  the responsibilities of the registered provider, including that the registered provider is responsible at all times for compliance with the ESOS Act and National Code 2018
  • 4.2.2 the registered provider’s requirements of the agent in representing the registered provider as outlined in Standard 4.3
  • 4.2.3 the registered provider’s processes for monitoring the activities of the education agent in representing the provider, and ensuring the education agent is giving students accurate and up-to-date information on the registered provider’s services
  • 4.2.4 the corrective action that may be taken by the registered provider if the education agent does not comply with its obligations under the written agreement including providing for corrective action outlined in Standard 4.4
  • 4.2.5 the registered provider’s grounds for termination of the registered provider’s written agreement with the education agent, including providing for termination in the circumstances outlined in Standard 4.5
  • 4.2.6  the circumstances under which information about the education agent may be disclosed by the registered provider and the Commonwealth or state or territory agencies.

Standard 4.3:
A registered provider must require its education agent to:

  • 4.3.1 declare in writing and take reasonable steps to avoid conflicts of interests with its duties as an education agent of the registered provider
  • 4.3.2 observe appropriate levels of confidentiality and transparency in their dealings with overseas students or intending overseas students
  • 4.3.3 act honestly and in good faith, and in the best interests of the student
  • 4.3.4 have appropriate knowledge and understanding of the international education system in Australia, including the Australian International Education and Training Agent Code of Ethics.

Standard 4.4:
Where the registered provider becomes aware that, or has reason to believe, the education agent or an employee or subcontractor of that education agent has not complied with the education agent’s responsibilities under standards 4.2 and 4.3, the registered provider must take immediate corrective action.

Standard 4.5:
Where the registered provider becomes aware, or has reason to believe, that the education agent or an employee or subcontractor of the education agent is engaging in false or misleading recruitment practices, the registered provider must immediately terminate its relationship with the education agent, or require the education agent to terminate its relationship with the employee or subcontractor who engaged in those practices.

Standard 4.6:
The registered provider must not accept students from an education agent if it knows or reasonably suspects the education agent to be:

  • 4.6.1 providing migration advice, unless that education agent is authorised to do so under the Migration Act
  • 4.6.2  engaged in, or to have previously engaged in, dishonest recruitment practices, including the deliberate attempt to recruit a student where this clearly conflicts with the obligations of registered providers under Standard 7 (Overseas student transfers)
  • 4.6.3 facilitating the enrolment of a student who the education agent believes will not comply with the conditions of his or her visa
  • 4.6.4 using PRISMS to create CoEs for other than bona fide students.

Further information

Last Updated:

4 Nov 2022