Schools can only enrol and deliver education services to students in Australia on a student visa if they are registered on the Commonwealth Register of Institutions and Courses for Overseas Students (CRICOS). Registered providers must have met, and continue to meet, the requirements of the Education Services for Overseas Students Act 2000 (Cth) (ESOS Act), the Education Services for Overseas Students Act 2019 (Cth) (ESOS Regulations) and the National Code of Practice for Providers of Education and Training to Overseas Students 2007 (National Code). In addition, schools must meet any state/territory-produced guidance from their registration authority-for example, in Victoria the VRQA Guidelines for the Enrolment of Overseas Students Aged under 18 and in New South Wales the NESA Guidelines for Approved NSW School Providers Delivering Courses to Overseas Students.
Who Conducts the Assessment?
Schools seeking to renew their CRICOS registration must apply through their designated state authority (DSA). The DSA will then assess the school’s appropriateness for CRICOS registration renewal. If the DSA is satisfied that the school is meeting its ESOS registration requirements, it will issue a recommendation certificate for the school to be registered on the CRICOS register. The Australian Government Department of Education (DoE) will conduct a final assessment and then, if satisfied, will register the school. The DSA per state/territory is (generally) the education authority responsible for a non-government school’s registration under the state/territory education laws-for example, the VRQA in Victoria and NESA in NSW. If the school meets the requirements, its registration will be renewed on CRICOS for a specified period and the school will receive written notification of its renewal and any conditions of registration if relevant.
What are Assessors Looking For?
A school’s approval to deliver courses to overseas students lasts for a maximum of seven years and there is no minimum registration period. Typically, a non-government school’s CRICOS registration period will align with its state/territory school registration period. While registered, a school must implement and maintain its processes, policies and procedures to ensure it is complying with the ESOS Act, ESOS Regulations, the National Code and other legislative, regulatory and guidance requirements. Assessors will assess a school’s compliance with each Standard in the National Code in addition to other state/territory evidentiary requirements. An audit or rectification report will then be provided informing schools of areas for improvement – if any.
Detail is Key
Although we are not assessors ourselves, we have some common sense practical tips to help schools ensure that their next assessment is a success.
- CRICOS number and school name: Written and online information and marketing materials must include both the CRICOS number and school name (Standard 1, National Code).
- Procedures, procedures, procedures: Where the ESOS Act/ESOS Regulations/National Code and any state/territory guidance require the development and implementation of a procedure (for example regarding record keeping in relation to the maintenance of PRISMS information) that procedure must actually exist and be documented (Section 21 of the ESOS Act).
- Homestay arrangements: Schools must have established procedures to ensure compliance with all aspects of Standard 5 – especially in relation to WWCCs or Criminal Record Checks and the monitoring of homestay arrangements.
- Template materials: Develop and use template materials to facilitate compliance with obligations including where a school extends the duration of a student’s enrolment (Standard 8, National Code), where a suspension or cancellation of enrolment is intended (Standard 9, National Code) and where a school releases a student to another provider (Standard 7, National Code).
- Comply with legal and regulatory changes: Maintain compliance with updated ESOS Act/ESOS Regulation/National Code and any state/territory guidance. Understanding when a source of obligation has changed, and the impact it will have on existing policies and procedures, will enable a school to then review and update the content.
- Demonstrate actual implementation of and compliance with policies and procedures: It is not enough to say that a school does something, evidence of the processes and procedures must exist. Having and implementing a risk management software tool to assign responsibility for managing a policy can assist with this requirement.
If a school maintains ongoing compliance with the various obligations under the ESOS framework during the term of its CRICOS registration, assessment time should not be a scary occurrence but instead an opportunity to test the strength of internal policies and procedures.