July 2, 2024

IRU submission on the Education Services for Overseas Students Amendment (Quality and Integrity) Bill 2024

 The Innovative Research Universities (IRU) welcomes the opportunity to provide feedback on proposed amendments to the Education Services for Overseas Students Act 2000. The ESOS Act is a critical component of the policy and regulatory framework that has been developed over many years to ensure the quality of Australia’s international education system and the protection of students. 

International education is an Australian success story – it benefits individual students and it delivers significant social, cultural and economic benefits for communities across the nation. Partnership between universities and governments has supported the development of an export industry worth $48 billion in 2022-23 and has strengthened Australia’s position in its region and the world. 

The Australian Government is now proposing changes to policy (through the new International Education and Skills Strategic Framework) and to legislation (through amendments to the ESOS Act) that would fundamentally alter the way that the international education system works. 

Earlier this month, the IRU provided feedback on the draft Strategic Framework (submission available here) based on the shared priorities and distinct international profile of its member universities. The IRU response below to the proposed amendments to the ESOS Act should be read in conjunction with this feedback, which sets out broader IRU priorities for international education. 

It should also be read in conjunction with the IRU submissions to the Australian Universities Accord process (see here). There are critical interdependencies between proposed legislative change for international education and new measures currently being introduced by government to implement key recommendations from the Accord final report – in particular, the commitment from government (announced in May) to implement a new Australian Tertiary Education Commission (ATEC) and a new “managed growth” system for universities. 

The specific changes proposed to the ESOS Act should not be rushed but should be carefully designed to align with these broader changes to the policy framework. The IRU supports measures to further improve quality and integrity in international education, but these must be evidence-based, targeted and proportionate to risk. The IRU also supports the principle of “managed growth”, with universities negotiating sustainable future growth targets for both domestic and international students with the ATEC. 

We recommend that amendments to the ESOS Act that are not consistent with these principles should not proceed, and that the Bill as written should not be passed. We highlight three specific areas in the attached PDF where changes are required to the ESOS Amendment Bill 2024.