Important update for VET providers delivering or seeking to deliver English-language courses to overseas students

17 January 2018

New standards for English-language Intensive Courses for Overseas Students (ELICOS) have been developed by the Australian Government Department of Education and Training (DET).

The ELICOS Standards 2018 have replaced the ELICOS Standards 2011.

ASQA has written directly to providers most affected by changes to the ELICOS Standards, which are those that deliver VET accredited English courses as RTOs. If you are concerned about the changes but have not received correspondence from ASQA in recent weeks regarding this matter, please contact the Info Line.

Will VET providers be affected by the new ELICOS Standards?

The new ELICOS Standards include a significant change to the definition of what constitutes an ‘ELICOS’ course.

Under the revised standards, an ELICOS course is defined as a course of education or training that is:

  • solely or predominantly of English-language instruction, and
  • provided, or intended to be provided, to an overseas student as defined in the Education Services for Overseas Students Act 2000 (ESOS Act).
This change will affect providers delivering—or seeking to deliver—courses to overseas students who deliver English-language instruction through a vocational education and training (VET) course as an RTO.


Frequently asked questions

How were the ELICOS Standards 2018 developed?

The revised ELICOS Standards 2018 were developed by DET following an open public consultation as well as extensive consultation with the English-language and international education sectors. The revised ELICOS standards were published by DET in October 2017.

The introduction of the ELICOS Standards 2018 from 1 January 2018 seeks to support quality in English-language teaching and protect Australia’s integrity and reputation as a provider of international education.

Why are solely or predominantly English-language courses delivered to overseas students required to be registered as ELICOS under the ELICOS Standards 2018?

When delivering a course in English-language instruction to overseas students, a provider is unable to comply with both Standards for Registered Training Organisations 2015 (Standards for RTOs) and the ELICOS Standards 2018 due to fundamental pedagogical differences between the two frameworks, including:

  • The Standards for RTOs and vocational education and training (VET) courses are premised on each learner achieving a standard vocational competence exit point, with their performance being measured against industry-determined competency-based assessment principles; and
  • ELICOS learners are different, with most seeking to improve their English-language proficiency for the purpose of entry to further study. As such, under the ELICOS Standards a learner can enter and exit at predetermined English proficiency levels. Their performance is assessed against both formative and summative assessment criteria determined by academic outcome benchmarks.

My organisation is an RTO that is currently delivering English-language instruction to overseas students through a VET course. What do the ELICOS Standards 2018 mean for my RTO?

RTOs that are currently delivering English-language VET courses will no longer be able to enrol new overseas students in these courses from 1 March 2018.

In accordance with arrangements in the ELICOS Standards 2018, providers that are currently delivering English-language VET courses to overseas students will be permitted to ‘teach-out’ students enrolled on or before 28 February 2018.

Development and delivery of ELICOS courses requires the provider to meet the ELICOS Standards 2018, which differ significantly to the Standards for RTOs 2015. The ELICOS Standards demand a broad range of additional and higher requirements than the RTO Standards to ensure the quality of English-language instruction for overseas students (for example, in relation to resources, staff/student ratios, staff qualifications, library resources and more).

Providers currently delivering an English-language VET accredited course as RTOs who seek to continue delivering English-language instruction to new overseas students after 1 March 2018 will need to be registered for an ELICOS course that meets the ELICOS Standards 2018. This may require a provider to apply to ASQA as its ESOS Agency, and have that application approved, before enrolling any new students. A VET accredited course cannot be used for this purpose.

My RTO currently delivers English-language courses to overseas students at one location. Can I add additional English-language VET courses or locations to our scope of registration during the teach-out period?

ASQA is no longer accepting Commonwealth Register of Institutions and Courses for Overseas Students (CRICOS) applications for registration of VET accredited courses in English-language instruction to overseas students, either from existing providers seeking to expand their scope or from new providers seeking initial registration.

ASQA is no longer accepting CRICOS applications to deliver VET accredited courses in English-language instruction to overseas students at new locations.

I have applied to ASQA to deliver a VET accredited course in English-language instruction to overseas students—what happens now?

If your organisation wants to deliver English-language instruction to overseas students, you will need to apply to add a course to your CRICOS registration that complies with the ELICOS Standards 2018.

As such, RTOs (or applicant RTOs) that have recently applied to ASQA to deliver VET courses solely or predominantly in English-language instruction to overseas students can either:

  • supplement their application, at no additional cost, by applying to deliver a course that complies with the ELICOS standards or
  • withdraw their application and be refunded accordingly.

If it hasn’t done so yet, ASQA will contact you directly with information about your next steps.

I am an RTO and would like to apply to deliver an ELICOS course for the first time—what resources are available?

Providers considering applying to deliver ELICOS for the first time may want to consider the options for resources and support provided by membership of specialist English-language bodies:

  • English Australia: English Australia is the national peak body for the English-language sector of international education in Australia and provides a broad range of resources for its members, or
  • National ELT Accreditation Scheme (NEAS): NEAS is a globally recognised body that provides quality assurance services to English-language and vocational providers in Australia and internationally.
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