Approximately 75 per cent of overseas students obtain the assistance of an education agent for research, enrolling and applying for a visa in Australia.
While ASQA recognises education agents play a vital role in recruiting overseas students for the Australian market, we play no part in the supervision of agents.
ASQA does monitor CRICOS providers to make sure they meet their obligations under the Education Services for Overseas Students Act 2000 (ESOS Act) and the National Code of Practice for Providers of Education and Training to Overseas Students 2018 (the National Code 2018).
CRICOS providers have a responsibility to monitor their affiliated education agents’ activities under Standard 4 of the National Code 2018.
Standard 4 requires registered providers to ensure their agents’ act ‘ethically, honestly, and in the best interests of students’. Providers are also required to take action where an agent has not complied with their responsibilities.
Please note, agreements with education agents to assist overseas students with enrolment into VET courses delivered by RTOs are classified as third party arrangements and are subject to the same rules. Find out more about third party arrangements.
The following paragraphs detail the responsibilities that CRICOS providers must be aware of when employing the services of education agents.
You must have a written agreement with each education agent with which you work. You may determine the format and content of the written agreement, but the agreement must:
- outline your obligations to be compliant with the ESOS Act and National Code 2018
- set out the education agent’s legal requirements under Standard 4 of the National Code 2018
- detail a process for monitoring the activities of the education agent and ensuring the education agent is giving students accurate information about your provider services
- describe the actions you will take if the education agent does not comply with its obligations in the written agreement which includes providing for corrective action outlined in Standard 4.4
- describe the grounds for terminating the written agreement with the education agent and should cover for the circumstances for termination outlined in Standard 4.5
- specify the conditions where information about the education agent may be disclosed to Australian, state or territory agencies.
Any education agent that has a relationship with a provider must have their details entered and maintained in the Provider Registration and International Student Management System (PRISMS).
Publishing and updating education agent associations
You must maintain a list of education agents your organisation is associated with. You must also enter this information into PRISMS and publish it on your website. Non-compliance with these obligations is a strict liability offence.
A strict liability offence is an offence that has been committed, even in the absence of fault or criminal intent. See Division 6.1 of the Criminal Code Act 1995 for more information.
Education agent conduct
If you engage the services of an education agent, you must make sure the agent declares, in writing, that they will avoid conflicts of interest with their duties as an education agent.
You are also required to make sure education agents observe appropriate levels of confidentiality and transparency in their dealings with overseas students or intending overseas students. This behaviour includes acting honestly, in good faith and the best interests of the student.
Standard 4.3.4 of the National Code 2018 requires providers to ensure their education agents have knowledge and understanding of the international education system in Australia, including the Australian International Education and Training Agent Code of Ethics (PDF).
Corrective action and termination
You must enforce a written agreement with an education agent. You will also need to ensure your agents are meeting their conduct obligations under Standard 4.3 of the National Code 2018.
If you become aware of, or suspect, an education agent has been non-compliant with their obligations, you must take immediate corrective action. This corrective action may include termination of your agreement with the education agent.
If you become aware of an education agent engaging in false or misleading recruitment practices, you should terminate your relationship with that education agent immediately.
You must not accept students from an education agent if you know, or reasonably suspect, the agent is:
- providing migration advice without being authorised to under the Migration Act 1958
- engaged in, or has previously participated in, dishonest recruitment practices
- assisting the enrolment of a student who the education agent believes will not comply with the conditions of their visa
- using PRISMS to create confirmations of enrolment for non-genuine students.
An agent enrolled a student in a course, but the course was full. The education provider cancelled the student's enrolment and refunded the tuition fees to the agent. However, the agent did not pass on the refund to the student. Following our investigation, the education provider reimbursed the student.
The Department of Home Affairs refused to issue a student with a visa. The education provider refunded the tuition fees to the agent, but the agent did not pass the refund on to the student. The student complained and the education provider reimbursed the student directly and terminated its relationship with the agent.
Publishing education agent data
In 2017, the ESOS Act was amended to allow for greater transparency around education agents’ performance. An explanatory memorandum accompanying these changes provides further information.
The information providers may release about education agents includes:
- the number of applications for student visas made by, or on behalf of, students recruited or otherwise dealt with by an agent which have been:
- deemed invalid
- the number of student visas issued to students recruited or otherwise dealt with by an agent which have been cancelled or ceased to be in effect
- the number of students accepted for enrolment in courses provided by registered providers by students recruited or otherwise dealt with by an agent
- the completion rates of accepted students recruited or otherwise dealt with by agents.
Currently, providers receive data about the performance of the education agents they have agreements with, but this data is not made publicly available. On 10 October 2018, the Australian Government committed to publicly publishing performance data on education agents in Australia’s international education system. The then Department of Education and Training (now the Department of Education, Skills and Employment), released a policy paper setting out their strategy to meet this commitment.
How to enter education agent data in PRISMS
The Department of Education, Skills and Employment has published a provider user guide to PRISMS. Section 4.7 of this guide (pages 19–21) provides a clear set of instructions for entering education agent details in PRISMS.