Australia making tougher rules to protect foreign students


Sydney : The Australian government is bringing in tougher rules to protect international students from dubious operators, a minister told parliament Wednesday. The move follows a string of attacks on Indian students and reports of overseas students being exploited.

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“The message to providers is, if you’re not providing your students with a quality education in a safe environment, clean up your act or risk being shut down,” The Age quoted Education Minister Julia Gillard as telling parliament Wednesday.

Gillard was introducing amendments to the law regulating schools that provide courses to the nearly half a million overseas students who come to Australia each year, the report said.

She said the industry had grown too fast, with insufficient checks and balances, which attracted a small number of unscrupulous operators.

“We need to weed out the shonky operators,” she said.

It will now require all institutions registered on the Commonwealth Register of Institutions and Courses for Overseas Students to re-register under tougher criteria by the end of next year and make the use of education agents “more transparent and accountable”.

Gillard said requiring re-registration would restore confidence in the quality of Australian education.

She said all providers would have to publish a list of the agents, whether within or outside Australia, they use.

The government was also considering forcing providers to develop websites to allow students to make anonymous comments about agents.

Nearly 100,000 students from India are enrolled in various courses in Australia. The assaults on Indian students and reports of colleges exploiting international students had caused an uproar in India.

India’s External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna had visited Australia, during which he was assured that students would be protected. The attacks had caused concern in Australia’s education sector with many fearing a significant drop in the number of students enrolling here.

Former Liberal MP Bruce Baird was recently appointed to review the laws covering overseas student services.

“We’ll take advice from the Baird review, but this is the first, important step in the process of cleaning up an industry that has grown too fast, too soon,” Gillard said.