Compliance Checks Loom for Schools with Overseas Students

01 March 2018

In December 2017 the Federal Government published its updated 2018 National Code of Practice for Providers of Education and Training to Overseas Students 2018 (the 2018 National Code).

The 2018 National Code modernises the previous 2007 Code and reworks the previous 15 compliance standards into 11 streamlined, yet comprehensive standards.

Compliance with the 2018 National Code, which took effect on 1 January 2018, is mandatory for all schools that provide education to overseas students as part of their CRICOS registration requirements.

In numerous jurisdictions around Australia, compliance with the 2018 National Code is audited at the same time as non-government school registration, which many schools are preparing for as we speak. The fact that state-based regulators are empowered by legislation to initiate an inspection and audit of a school’s compliance at any time means that all CRICOS registered schools need to have policies and procedures in place that comply with the 2018 National Code.

A minefield of obligations

Schools don’t just have to comply with the 2018 National Code to ensure that they keep their CRICOS registration – they have to comply with the entire Education Services for Overseas Students (ESOS) Framework.

The ESOS Framework is made up of seven key laws, regulations and legislative instruments:

  • Education Services for Overseas Students Act 2000 (Cth) (ESOS Act)
  • Education Services for Overseas Seas Students Regulations 2001 (Cth) (ESOS Regulations)
  • National Code of Practices for Providers of Education and Training to Overseas Students 2018 (National Code)
  • Migration Act 1958 (Cth) (Migration Act)
  • Migration Regulations 1994 (Cth) (Migration Regulations)
  • English Language Intensive Courses for Overseas Students (ELICOS) Standards 2018 (ELICOS Standards)
  • ESOS (Calculation of Refund) Specification 2014 (Cth).

Various Standards in the Code directly require compliance with elements of the ESOS Framework in addition to the Code itself. It is up to schools to understand what parts of the legislation they need to comply with.  Additionally, various jurisdictions have state or territory-based legislation and guidelines that schools must meet to ensure their continued registration to educate overseas students.

If your school participates in overseas student exchanges, it will also need to meet national guidelines and state and territory requirements.

What’s new in the Code?

In our previous School Governance article, we provide a detailed explanation of the 2018 National Code. In summary the most significant changes to the 2018 National Code are:

Written Agreements

  • an improvement in the transparency of written agreements between schools and overseas students
  • the Code introduces additional details schools now need to include in their written agreements

Education Agents

  • increased requirements on schools in relation to their use, monitoring and reporting on the actions of education agents
  • schools must require their agents to:
    • declare and avoid conflicts of interest
    • observe appropriate levels of confidentiality and transparency
    • act honestly and in good faith, and in the student’s best interest
    • have knowledge of the international education system

Younger Overseas Students

  • introduction of additional measures to strengthen the welfare of younger overseas students
  • references to other regulatory requirements, including state and territory child protection requirements
  • new requirement to provide child protection training to students, including information on who to contact in emergency situations and in cases of abuse
  • increased accommodation approval and verification requirements for schools

Student Support Services

  • increased requirements for supporting students to achieve expected learning outcomes
  • new requirement to take all reasonable steps to provide a safe environment on campus and give students information on seeking assistance and reporting incidents impacting on their wellbeing, and safety and awareness relevant to life in Australia

Overseas Student Transfers

  • schools may only assess an overseas student's transfer requests after the first six months of the student's course, unless:
    • exceptions relating to provider registration and sanctions apply
    • there is provider agreed release (upon second course registration), or
    • the student's government sponsor considers it to be in the best interests of the student
  • student transfers now to be recorded in PRISMS
  • schools are no longer permitted to finalise transfer requests until the student has had a chance to access the school’s complaints and appeals process
  • new list of circumstances where transfer should be granted to students

Student Visa Requirements

  • increased requirements for monitoring student progress, attendance and student visa requirements

PRISMS Notifications and Record Keeping

An essential part of compliance with the 2018 National Code is knowing why, and when, to notify the Commonwealth DET via PRISMS.  Section 19 of the ESOS Act and regulation 3.01 of the ESOS Regulations prescribe a comprehensive list of circumstances when the school must notify the Commonwealth DET about a change in its, or an overseas student's, enrolment and/or circumstances. To ensure compliance with the PRISMS notification obligations, a school must understand its notification obligations, which could be triggered on a daily basis in the school environment.

Section 21 of the ESOS Act sets out record keeping obligations which are supplemented by state and territory record keeping obligations.  NSW in particular has detailed obligations which essentially require NSW schools to keep records of all their activities and actions in relation to managing overseas students. Schools must have an efficient record keeping process in place to meet their overseas students' record keeping obligations.

How does my school prepare for this?

CRICOS-registered schools will need to review their policies and procedures relating to the management and education of overseas students at their school as soon as possible to ensure they are compliant with the 2018 National Code that has been in effect since 1 January.

Given the restructure of the Code, it is likely that schools will need to review, restructure and re-draft a considerable amount of their policy content to ensure that they are compliant. Also, given the requirements for staff training under the Code, schools will also need to re-train all of their staff to ensure they are aware of their increased obligations under the 2018 National Code.

In light of this significant update to the Code, CompliSpace’s Managing Director, David Griffiths will be hosting a webinar on the subject on Thursday 15th March 2018.

The webinar, “Schools with Overseas Students: What Does the New ESOS National Code Mean for You?” will include:

  • a high-level overview of the ESOS Framework and the changes to the National Code and ELICOS Standards for 2018;
  • what impacts these changes have on your school; and
  • what your school needs to do to ensure compliance.

Click here to register for the webinar.

Cara Novakovic

Cara is a Content Product Manager at CompliSpace. She works predominantly with education clients to ensure ongoing compliance with the myriad of laws, regulations and guidance notes that apply to schools across Australia. Cara’s key area of expertise is Child Protection governance, risk and compliance. Cara holds both a Bachelor’s Degree in Communications (Journalism) and a Juris Doctor from the University of Technology, Sydney.