Simon Birmingham, Minister for Education and Training, speaking at the English Australia Conference in Adelaide.
Australia's ELICOS sector awaits National Code updates
Australia-based ELICOS (English Language Intensive Courses for Overseas Students) providers are due to undergo a small series of changes to matters affecting younger student welfare and written enrolment agreements as part of an update to the National Code to the sector.

The National Code of Practice for Providers of Education and Training to Overseas Students 2018, which will commence on January 1, 2018, has been reviewed as part of a reform to the Education Services for Overseas Students (ESOS) Act framework, which comes under the country's National Strategy for International Education 2025.


Presented at the annual conference of language school peak body English Australia in Adelaide on September 21, one of the key aims of updating the reforms was to reflect the dynamic ELICOS sector and protect the interests of international students, said Angela Zhang, Assistant Director in the Policy and Legislation team, International Group, Department of Education and Training (DET).


She added that Australia's DET wanted to make the National Code easier and simpler for providers to interpret while retaining Australia's reputation for quality education.


One area of reform was focused on strengthening the welfare of students under the age of 18. From next year, providers will need to check that the accommodation for younger students is appropriate to their age and needs every six months. While in-person visits are not always necessary, Angela noted that best practises must be ensured.


If a younger student is transferring between providers, both parties must ensure there is no gap in welfare during the transfer process. This means the school receiving the student might have to provide welfare earlier than the course start date (e.g. in arranging accommodation), or else the student should be sent home or a parent or guardian should visit Australia to take care of the student.


The rules surrounding written agreements, including course details, are now more comprehensive and transparent with the aim of further protecting the student. From 2018, the written agreement may also take any form provided it meets the requirements of the ESOS Act and the National Code, and may also use hyperlinks as a form of supplementary material.


Updates also include an increase in online learning. In the previous National Code 2017, the student was not able to undertake more than 25 per cent of a course online. In the new stipulations, students in Australia on a student visa are still prohibited to complete their course exclusively online or via distance learning, and providers must ensure there is at least one unit is not by distance or online learning, unless the student is completing the last unit of their course.


The National Code 2018 also states, "For school, ELICOS or foundation programs, any online or distance learning must be in addition to minimum face-to-face teaching requirements approved by the relevant designated State authority or ESOS agency as part of the registration of the course, if applicable."


Giving a ministerial address at the conference, Simon Birmingham, Minister for Education and Training, said, "The National Code represents our commitment to being a global leader in education, training and research. It requires providers to give information to students about their safety on campuses, and strengthens arrangements for care and welfare for students under the age of 18 in particular.


"It will also require providers to give students transparent information to help them make decisions about studying in Australia and maintain strong protections against the poaching of students by more dubious providers. We will do all of this while minimising the regulatory burden on providers."


Commenting to StudyTravel Magazine, Brett Blacker, CEO of English Australia, said it was a "strong sign of support for English Australia and also the ELICOS sector" to have Senator Simon Birmingham speaking at the conference. "I think his speech really resonated how important the ELICOS sector is to a vibrant and flourishing international education community.


"He touched upon the importance of ensuring we maintain the quality standards. It's always a volatile system and if you ever lose that quality system, it's hard to bring it back," Brett added.


A Q&A with Brett Blacker features in the September 2017 issue of ST Magazine.



By Georgina Deacon

Staff Journalist