Australia: 34 “dodgy providers” get warning letter

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The Australian government has issued the first of its warning letters from the Department of Home Affairs to 34 education providers for “non-genuine or exploitative recruitment practices”.

The letters warn providers they have six months to significantly improve their behaviour, or risk being issued with suspension certificates.

They would see providers banned from recruiting international students, with breaches of such actions punishable by up to two years imprisonment.

“The migration system we inherited was completely broken, and our goal is to build a smaller, better planned, more strategic migration system that works for Australia,” said minister for home affairs Clare O’Neil​.

“We are significantly reducing migration levels – we are in the middle of the biggest drop in migration numbers in Australia’s history, outside of war or pandemic,” O’Neil continued.

“Dodgy providers have no place in our international education sector. These actions will help weed out the bottom feeders in the sector that seek to exploit people and trash the reputation of the sector.”

O’Neil has expressed concerns about “ghost colleges” acting as private training colleges, in an issue she said has plagued the sector for “too long”.

“Dodgy providers have no place in our international education sector”

By sending the warning letters, an Australian government will use powers under the Education Services for Overseas Students Act for the first time since it was enacted in 2000. In March, new regulation was passed to support the use of the power.

According to reports in The Sunday Morning Herald, eight of the institutions to receive letters were based central Melbourne, eight in central Sydney and eight in western Sydney, with the others located elsewhere in Australia.

In a statement, the Department of Home Affairs highlighted that since the Migration Strategy was released in December 2023, these providers have had a 79% reduction in visas granted in one year, compared to a 39% reduction on average across the sector.

It added that sanctions issued to international education providers have increased by 73% in this financial year, compared to 2021/22.

As part of the government’s crackdown on “dodgy providers”, the Australian Skills Quality Authority has issued 35 sanctions to cancel or not renew registration of providers of international VET, 10 sanctions to suspend registration for those providers, and issued 33 “written directions”.

An investment of $37.8 million into “integrity in the VET sector” saw ASQA’s Integrity Unit set up in late 2023.

Today, the unit has more than 150 “serious matters under investigation”, the Department for Home Affairs said.

It added that, as part of the crackdown on non-compliant international education providers, ASQA has conducted 67 site visits, including on 21 of the 34 providers being considered for the new powers under the ESOS Act.

The government has said it is “is committed to working with genuine providers to navigate these changes and the raft of action the Government has taken since being elected”.

“International education is a huge national asset – economically, socially, and diplomatically,” the Department of Home Affairs said in a statement.

“However under the former government a number of providers intent on rorting the system gained a foothold in the sector, undermining these strengths,” it continued.

In the same week as the letters were issued, the department announced it will raise the amount of savings needed by international students to gain student visas, a change that will come into effect on May 10.

The post Australia: 34 “dodgy providers” get warning letter appeared first on The PIE News.

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