Labor MP Calls For ‘nuclear’ Reforms To Stop International Education Providers Teaching Poor Quality Courses
Julian Hill, a Member of Parliament representing the Labor Party, has called for significant reforms in the vocational education system to eliminate poor quality educators using the system like a "cheap work visa." Hill, who was previously the executive director of international education in Victoria, proposed suspending intakes for low-quality courses for international students and discontinuing internal assessments. He is also the co-convener of the ministerial advisory committee that oversees international education in Australia.
In a recent parliamentary committee meeting, shocking claims emerged that vocational education providers were "gaming the system," which included working with unregulated international education agents to draw students away from the more prestigious public institutions. The providers of vocational education and training (VET) were selling work visas, and setting up "ghost schools" where students did not attend classes but still received degrees. According to Hill, this sector is vital for Australia’s prosperity, but radical thinking is needed to clean up its negative aspects.
Hill emphasized that Australia’s future success relied heavily on high-quality education, which has been compromised over the last decade due to neglectful governance. Hill, therefore, proposed four viable options for reform, which he calls "nuclear" in private conversations. One of these includes revamping the entire accreditation framework for VET providers, separating training and assessment, and forcing re-application for licenses. Another option is to suspend enrolments in "low-value" courses that do not provide vocational outcomes and banning the payment of education agent commissions.
Most of the vocational education providers do positive work, but a significant minority is exploiting the work visa system, leading to an influx of students who are only here to work rather than study. Hill said that the rogue providers could only be weeded out if students are properly tested and the bar is raised to become an assessment provider. The riskier private VET providers could be forced to have their students externally assessed, which would significantly shock the system. The Australian Skills Quality Authority (ASQA) could put an end to colleges selling dubious qualifications.
The post-pandemic growth in international student numbers is a source of worry, and Hill said suspending enrolments to courses that do not have relevant vocational outcomes is "controversial" but not without cause. Thousands of international students enroll in cheaper courses related to studies like marketing, leadership, and business, offering few, if any, migration pathways. Hill said that too many students are working part-time, ignoring their studies.
According to Hill, the issue with regulating the agents is that it is expensive and complex, and the intermediaries end up harming the integrity of the sector. Hill said that banning the payment of commissions for onshore students entirely could help avoid these agencies’ involvement.