Performance of Education Agents under Government’s Watch

By a Staff Reporter / Sunday 10th Feb. 2019

Australian Government, Department of Education and Training (DET) is set to publish
education agent performance data for public use.
The department released a policy paper which describes about the strategy for the publication
of performance data. DET is finished collecting feedback which was open until 8 February
2019. The data will focus on Australia’s international education system. It will provide public
with a comparative data of education agents to improve transparency.
“Since 2013, the number of enrolments involving education agents recorded in the
Department of Education and Training’s Provider Registration and International Student
Management System (PRISMS) has increased by 8.5 per cent”, the policy paper states.
While Australian law does not require providers or students to involve agents for enrolments,
more than 70% of overseas students enrolled via education agents in 2017.
Among Australia’s top 10 source countries for international students in 2017, China, India
and Nepal stood in the top 3 position for enrolments. However, 89.2% of students from Brazil
involved education agents leading to the first position in the list of countries enrolling via
agents. Brazil was followed by Thailand with 85.8%. Likewise, 83% of Nepalese students
were facilitated by education agents with a little less than 70% Indian students being
facilitated by agents.

The Education Services for Overseas Students Act 2000 (ESOS Act) looks after the best
interests of overseas students. Yet, the act does not have direct control over the activities of
education agents including the one in overseas. The ESOS act requires the provider itself to
regulate the conduct of education agents they have agreement with.
“As a result of the passage of the Education Legislation Amendment (Provider Integrity and
Other Measures) Bill 2017, the ESOS Act permits the Government to give information about
education agents’ performance to providers, and publish information about education agents’
performance”, the paper reads.

In addition to that, the publication is set to be available for public use as well. The policy
paper suggests that the publication is intended to provide greater transparency of agents’
performance with release of data related to student enrolment and VISA outcome. The release
of performance data will help providers to get a more detailed information of agents with
improved understanding.

Likewise, students will get access to agent’s performance for the first time ever. Students and
providers can make informed decision based on those data. On the education agents’ side, it
will help them to self-evaluate and adhere to the legislation.
Following the release of the policy paper, Association of Australian Education
Representatives in India (AAERI) has opposed to the performance data based on
discrimination ground.

The media release by AAERI states, “AAERI believes that data collection (not publication) is
a step in the right direction and we strenuously oppose the intent of this policy paper as it
currently stands as it will actively discriminate against genuine education agents who
represent Australian education providers and international students globally”.

It further reads, “It appears that the data collection process as described, would be
incomplete and invalid and therefore unfair on serious players in the Australian education
agent industry”.

AAERI emphasises on data collection to be comprehensive by including that data from
onshore education agent activities as well for the duration of student visas. It further warns, if
the current form is not changed, it will negatively impact genuine education agents operating
across the world.

Speaking to The Nepalese Voice, Education and Migration agent Saroj Sharma stated that it
is a commendable approach from DET’s side which will encourage ethical work practices
and will benefit students. “The publication will categorise education agents based on their
performance. However, it should be updated regularly, and the data should be collected
objectively”, Sharma said.

Resonating with the media release of AAERI, Sharma also stated that in many cases students
change their education agent during the duration of visa, which subsequently might create
problem to the previous agents and even the education providers. DET will publish the education agent performance data in the mid of 2019.