National Code hands providers responsibility

Australia’s new Code for agents and providers came into force on January 1 2018.
“The registered provider is responsible at all times for compliance with the ESOS Act and National Code 2018”

The new National Code 2018, implemented on 1 January, makes significant tweaks to its language, as well as detailing items that must be included in an agency agreement, and confirming provider responsibilities as part of the International Education Agents Data Project.

Taking a harder line than the 2017 National Code, the new legislation clarifies that education providers are answerable for all points outlined in Standard 4 on education agents.

“The written agreement [with an education agent] must outline… the registered provider is responsible at all times for compliance with the ESOS Act and National Code 2018,” the legislation reads.

TAFE Directors Australia CEO Craig Robertson told The PIE News the changes were welcome within the sector.

“There are always laws of unintended consequences, especially when it comes to government regulating things”

“Requiring providers to be more aware of the behaviour of their agent representatives, and to take sanctions against some behaviour, is a reasonable expectation,” Robertson said.

“The real ‘stick’ in the regulatory chain will be in action taken by Commonwealth agencies against providers who continue to use agents that demonstrate questionable practice for the sake of increased enrolments,” he said.

The update also includes a stipulation that providers require their partners have a working knowledge of the Australian International Education and Training Agent Code of Ethics, marking the first time it has been officially recognised in the code.

Mark Fletcher, CEO of payments and agent management system provider Cohort Go, said requiring providers ensure their agents understood and complied with the code of ethics was a positive step forward, but warned the rollout and its sustainability would dictate whether it was successful.

“There are always laws of unintended consequences, especially when it comes to government regulating things,” he told The PIE.

“The strong have marketing power… so when it comes to [larger universities] being able to dictate what they require out of an education agent, they’re going to be a lot more capable of doing that, over a struggling, international education provider.”

A new addition to the National Code also sees providers required to input and update agency details within the Provider Registration and International Student Management System for the first time, which appears to be part of the IEADP announced last year.

“Requiring providers to be more aware of the behaviour of their agent representatives, and to take sanctions against some behaviour, is a reasonable expectation”

Implemented on 30 November 2017 after an amendment to the Education Services to Overseas Students Act 2000, information on agent performance has been confirmed to be available only to users with Confirmation of Enrolment Administrator permissions, with additional information only available by request, alleviating earlier concerns from agents.

As well as containing a standard relating to education agents, the National Code stipulates provider’s requirements on areas including marketing and student services.

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