International student visa applications to Australia on downward spiral

International student visa applications to Australia on downward spiral

Smaller universities and private Vocational Education and Training (VET) providers expect to be hardest hit because of their greater reliance on students from India and Nepal.   Applications from Nepal dropped 61 per cent and those from India by 47 per cent last financial year, putting further pressure on Australia’s $40 billion a year international student sector amid COVID-19 restrictions.  

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Universities Hit By Data Breaches

Summary —

In the past month the Australian National University (ANU) and Australian Catholic University have been hit by data breaches affecting more than 200,000 people. It’s in this environment that providers across the independent tertiary education system are reviewing their data protection protocols.

Key Issues —

Advice of a major data breach that occurred in late 2018 was released by ANU in early June 2019, some two weeks after it was discovered. The university said that there was unauthorised access to significant amounts of personal staff, student and visitor data extending back nineteen years.

Depending on the information provided to ANU, the data accessed may have included names, addresses, dates of birth, phone numbers, personal email addresses and emergency contact details, tax file numbers, payroll information, bank account details, and passport details. Student academic records were also accessed.

Upon identifying that the data breach had occurred, ANU set about working to further strengthen our systems against secondary or opportunistic attacks.

Some two weeks after ANU released public information concerning its unfortunate data breach ACU said that a data breach was discovered on 22 May 2019 and a number of staff email accounts and some University systems had been compromised.

The data breach at ANU originated from a phishing attack: an email pretending to be from ACU tricking users into clicking on a link or opening an attachment and then entering credentials into a fake ACU login page. In a very small number of cases, staff login credentials were obtained successfully via the phishing email and were used to access the email accounts, calendars and bank account details of affected staff members.

These two attacks have highlighted the importance of the tertiary education system being vigilant and proactively working to protect student and staff records. It’s a topical issue and one being considered at the ITEC19 conference to be held over 21-23 August 2019 on the Gold Coast. For conference information visit:

At the ITEC19 Conference Mr Damien Manuel, Chair of the Australian Information Security Association, will make a presentation entitled ‘Cyber Threats To Student Data Security.’ Precipitously, this presentation was planned before news of the unfortunate data breaches at ANU and ACU was made public.

Mr Manuel’s presentation will highlight the fact that independent tertiary education providers store a great deal of information about their students and it’s not possible to assume this is safe from cyber criminals. In this thought-provoking presentation lean about how student databases and other sources such as email may be subject to theft and what your business can to protect itself, and your students.

In light of the cyber attacks at ANU and ACU that saw the data breaches occur, ITECA advises all independent tertiary education providers to review their data security arrangements.

Member Engagement:

ITECA’s ability to play a lead role in matters associated with this issue rests on the advice and guidance of individuals belonging to the ITECA Higher Education Sector Interest Group.

Further Information:

For more information on this issue please send an email to or telephone 1300 421 017.  Stay up to date via Twitter @ITECAust or via Facebook at


The decline of Australian corporate culture

Former ASIC Chairman Greg Medcraft pushed for a change in corporate culture (Screenshot via YouTube)

Poor conduct by principals and CEOs has resulted in Australia’s corporate culture in need of a change, writes Dr Kim Sawyer.

ON 8 DECEMBER 2016, Greg Medcraft, the Chairman of ASIC at the time, gave a speech on the importance of corporate culture. Medcraft asserted that culture matters because it can be the driver of bad conduct.

Nearly every day we see evidence of bad corporate conduct at Royal Commissions like the Banking Royal Commission or in individual company collapses. There is a recurring problem. It seems company regulations don’t matter, at least not for some.

Culture is a vague term. Culture generally refers to values. A good corporate culture is represented by things like transparency, honesty, perhaps even social responsibility — characteristics that seem to have disappeared from the corporate balance sheet. Medcraft was not alone in calling for cultural change. It has been recommended by every inquiry into corporate practice for the last 20 years; for example, the 2014 Financial System Inquiry. Yet there is little evidence that Australia’s corporate culture is changing.

In last year’s budget, $70 million was given to ASIC to establish a governance taskforce. One of the first actions of the taskforce was to insert a psychologist into boardroom discussions of more than 20 leading Australian companies including Qantas, Lendlease and Woolworths and to report back to the regulator on board behaviour by September.

There are two problems with such a study. Alessandra Capezio from the Australian National University pointed to the fact that directors are likely to behave differently when they are being observed by a psychologist. They are likely to be on their best behaviour. But there is also a second problem in that corporate culture depends on the Chairman and CEO. In smaller companies like start-ups and small resource companies, the CEO tends to be more important for the corporate culture. In smaller companies shareholders and creditors are less protected against the bad conduct of directors. They are at the mercy of the Board.

This is amplified by two recent high-profile cases involving two high-profile individuals. Both cases involve companies in the for-profit education sector which now has 65 registered companies (Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency). The first case is that of Acquire Learning, a Victorian registered education provider which collapsed in May 2017 with debts of $145 million. The case is currently being heard in the Victorian Supreme CourtThere are three aspects of this case that show the problems of Australia’s corporate culture.

Acquire became what it was through the generosity of taxpayers. The Gillard Governmentboosted vocational learning by allowing students of private colleges to use the VET FEE-HELP scheme, which cost $325 million in 2012 but ballooned to $2.9 billion in 2015. Enter the rorters. Acquire targeted students through telemarketing and there were red flags everywhere. The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission took Acquire to court over its targeting of students and won, but it was too late for shareholders and creditors.


The psychologist inserted by the corporate regulator into boardroom discussions of more than 20 blue-chip companies including Qantas, Woolworths and AMP warns that Australia’s financial sector culture is broken. @patrickdurkin 

ASIC shrink says corporate culture is broken

The psychologist sent by ASIC into the boardrooms of blue chip companies such as Qantas and Woolworths warns the culture of our financial sector is broken.

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What Acquire Learning shows is the problem of bad conduct. Andrew Demetriou, the former Chairman of the AFL, was Chairman of the company’s advisory board between 2014 and 2016. Also the uncle of the CEO, Demetriou was used to profile the company. They leveraged him. He was paid $900,000 a year for a three-day-a-week advisory role. He was the beneficiary of a company loan of $311,000 now being contested in the Supreme Court hearings. Taxpayers and creditors subsidised the bad conduct of the principals.

The second case is that of Vocation, a vocational skills and training company that collapsed in November 2015. Vocation was dependent on subsidies offered by the Victorian Government for private providers of vocational training. Subsidies were granted on the condition of course quality. But an audit in 2015 by the Victorian Department of Education found Vocation had subcontracted to cheaper third-party providers, lowering standards. As a result, Vocation lost their $20 million government subsidy just before a $74 million private placement. Vocation had 40,000 students. Students, shareholders and creditors paid the price for the bad conduct of the principals.

One of those principals was John Dawkins, Chairman of Vocation and the architect of Australia’s Unified National System of Universities in 1988 where colleges became universities and universities became colleges. The Federal Court has found that Dawkins breached his duties as a director of Vocation by failing to make continuous disclosures to the market about the fact Vocation was facing subsidy cuts and enrolment suspensions for two of its biggest training colleges. Dawkins faces a potential five-year ban from sitting on boards and a million dollar fine. The penalties are still to be determined. Like Acquire Learning, Vocation depended on taxpayer subsidies, on regulators not knowing until it was too late and on the ignorance of creditors and clients.

Financial Review


Former federal Treasurer John Dawkins breached duties in Vocation collapse, the Federal Court has found. 

Former Treasurer John Dawkins breached duties in Vocation collapse

Former federal treasurer John Dawkins breached his director duties as chairman of Vocation, the Federal Court has found.

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Corporate culture is more than that on show at Royal Commissions. Corporate culture is also exhibited by the average CEO earning nearly 80 times what the average worker earns, by one-third of large companies paying no tax and by principals of small companies using taxpayer subsidies to rort. I have long advocated for a False Claims Act that specifically targets those who rort the Government. The deterrent effects of such an Act are significant.

Charles Grassley and Howard Berman, the proponents of the U.S. Act, observed:

“Studies estimate the fraud deterred thus far… runs into the hundreds of billions of dollars. Instead of encouraging or rewarding a culture of deceit, corporations now spend substantial sums on sophisticated and meaningful compliance programs. That change in the corporate culture… may be the law’s most durable legacy.”

We need a False Claims Act. Surely, it would be as good as psychologists in boardrooms.

When we look at Acquire Learning and Vocation, we see the corporate culture of Australia. We see the networks at work. We see the use of taxpayer subsidies. We see regulatory failure of a deregulated sector. We see the role of the principals. Andrew Demetriou presided over the expansion of the AFL from 2005 to 2014, doubling its revenue. John Dawkins was a Federal Treasurer. Both will be remembered for their contributions other than Acquire Learning and Vocation, which will only be footnotes in their histories. Yet Acquire and Vocation exemplify a culture that ASIC wants to change. For culture begins with leaders.

Adam Curlis@TAFEeducation

‘Teetering education company Acquire Learning planned to pour $1 million a month into the pockets of its shareholders including former AFL boss Andrew Demetriou shortly before its collapse left tens of thousands of students stranded’ instead 

‘Boom! $1 million for the boys’: Acquire eyed success ahead of fall

Acquire Learning arranged to pour $1 million a month into the pockets of its shareholders including Andrew Demetriou shortly before its collapse left thousands of students stranded.

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Dr Kim Sawyer is a senior fellow in the School of Historical and Philosophical Studies at the University of Melbourne.


Here is part two of our look at the state of corporate culture in some of the world’s biggest economies with insights into Japan, Australia and France. 

How France, Japan and Australia Take On Corporate Culture

Here is part two of our look at the state of corporate culture in some of the world’s biggest economies with insights into Japan, Australia and France.

See CorporateBoardMember’s other Tweets

“Business as usual” after surprise Australian election result

Australian international education stakeholders have returned to “business as usual” after the weekend’s federal election failed to live up to expectations that a new Labor-led government would take power.

Expected changes to Australia's education systems are unlikely, after a surprise election result. Photo: Aditya Joshi/UnsplashExpected changes to Australia’s education systems are unlikely, after a surprise election result. Photo: Aditya Joshi/Unsplash

The shock result on May 18 saw the Liberal-National Coalition retain power to defy the majority of opinion polls, and has received a mixed reception from the industry as the promise of substantial reforms under Labor all but disappeared.

English Australia chief executive Brett Blacker said the government retaining power provided “continuity to the international education sector” and added that it ensured a continuation of the current work being undertaken as part of the National Strategy for International Education 2025.

“That council will continue to lose a vital perspective that they need”

In the lead up to the election, the Labor opposition had promised to revamp both the national strategy as well as the overarching Council for International Education that oversees its implementation.

While a stabilising factor, others observe the government returning to power means the same concerns and lobbying efforts from before the election continue.

In particular, Labor pledged $10 billion in university funding over ten years, a move peak bodies believed would reduce reliance on international student revenue.

“The worry now is to the effect that universities will now look to alternative revenue sources and that usually will mean they’ll up the ante on their international student recruitment,” said Phil Honeywood, chief executive of IEAA.

“We have to be very careful that we don’t go for quantity of students because this additional revenue expectation is not now forthcoming.”

Both Universities Australia and the Group of Eight, which lobbied the government to undo a series of funding freezes, welcomed the return of the government but renewed their calls to return funding to previous levels.

“We must ensure young Australians – especially from battling communities really doing it tough – don’t miss out on the chance of a university education,” said UA chair Deborah Terry.

“Our focus must continue to be on opportunities for all Australians – because without those opportunities, our economy will be less competitive and our people and communities will miss out.”

A reduction in international student numbers coinciding with the current funding freeze would lead to job losses

However, Andrew Norton, higher education program director at the Grattan Institute, warned universities may have their funding squeezed on dual fronts if scrutiny of English language proficiency and the impact of temporary migrants including international students on capital cities’ infrastructure continues.

“[Education minister Dan Tehan] has already indicated that he’s pursuing the English language standards issue with TEQSA and so I think that’s a clear signal that he’s interested in whether the required English is, in fact, being achieved prior to commencement,” he told The PIE News.

A reduction in international student numbers coinciding with the current funding freeze would lead to job losses and a reduction in universities’ activities, Norton continued, before adding it wasn’t a given that the scrutiny would lead to significant changes.

“Counter to that, I think [the government is] still very much seeing international students through an export and business focus and that will make them reluctant to act.”

From a vocational perspective, Independent Tertiary Education Council Australia (formerly ACPET) chief executive Troy Williams said his organisation was “comfortable with the reelected government’s approach to the vocational education and training sector.”

In particular, he cited the Joyce Review into vocational education, released shortly before the election was announced, as a commitment by the government to improve the sector.

“We have to be very careful that we don’t go for quantity of students”

“ITECA was extensively involved in the Joyce Review consultation process and endorses its broad direction that seeks to speed-up the development of new qualifications, and revision to existing qualifications, so as to ensure that they provide students with job-ready outcomes,” Williams said.

While not directly related to international education, it has been understood the review could in part increase the global competitiveness of Australian vocational education.

Craig Robertson, chief executive of TAFE Directors Australia, said the election result meant his organisation would continue their lobbying efforts, particularly around the axing of the Endeavour Scholarshipprogram which provided the only government-funded mobility program for vocational students.

“They’ve basically sacrificed that experience for the purview of trying to attract international and also domestic students to regional Australia,” he said.

“We think that sacrifice for regional Australia is too high.”

Robertson told The PIE it was also disappointing the Council for International Education would not be overhauled, as it currently did not have a TAFE representative.

“That council will continue to lose a vital perspective that they need to be able to make sure that international education works. We’re concerned about that.”

It is understood education minister Dan Tehan will remain in his portfolio.

Monash Commission recommends a new model for tertiary education for all Australians

The Monash Commission has released its vision for post-compulsory education with three transforming recommendations for the future.

Among them are the introduction of a universal learning entitlement, supported by income contingent loans, and a ‘Lifetime Learning Account’ for all Australians to help students track, credit and verify their training. Each student would have a universal student number to cover all publicly subsidised education and training across their lifetime.

In conducting its inquiry, the Monash Commission canvassed research from scholars, conducted interviews with a wide range of industry representatives, students, and leaders of educational institutions, and tested its recommendations with key individuals who have worked at the forefront of post-compulsory education.

Chair of the Monash Commission, Elizabeth Proust, said the Commission has started a community-wide conversation about the importance of lifelong learning.

“The Commission’s vision for the post-compulsory education system in Australia is one that provides adaptable, capable global citizens who are both job-ready and resilient in dealing with change.”

The inquiry found that while 56 per cent of Australians 15 years and older hold some sort of post-school qualification, 90 per cent of new jobs created by 2023 are expected to require a Certificate II or higher, which will leave many working Australians with poor employment prospects.

To effectively address these concerns, the Commission advocates for major funding reform in the sector, including separate funding pools for research and education, and calling for education and all research to be fully funded by the state and federal governments.

The Commission also recommends the establishment of a statutory agency for post-compulsory education and training, which would advise government and control funding across the sector. It would be the single funding authority distributing the allocated budget for all state, territory and Commonwealth subsidised post-compulsory education.

Monash University’s President and Vice-Chancellor, Professor Margaret Gardner AO said the Commission’s findings highlight that in coming decades, Australia’s prosperity will increasingly depend on the relevance of workers’ education and skills, and that no-one should be left behind.

“Access, at any time in one’s career, to relevant and high quality education is critical to Australia’s future. Education inspires citizens to build the future they want, and respond to the continually evolving set of skills needed to maintain a healthy and prosperous society,” Professor Gardner said.

What is the Monash Commission

Formed in April 2018, the Monash Commission brings together Australian and international leaders who are driving policy discussion and decisions.

The Monash Commission is conducting a series of in-depth inquiries that capture the best available evidence and public perspectives to effect major change on vital matters.

The Report ‘Three Recommendations for Renewal of Post-Compulsory Education in Australia’, is the response to the first enquiry into post-secondary education conducted by the Monash Commission.

This was led by industry leader Ms Elizabeth Proust AO, Immediate past Chair of the Australian Institute of Company Directors, Nestle Australia and Bank of Melbourne.

She was joined by:

· Professor Ian Chubb AC – former Vice-Chancellor, Australian National University and Flinders University, and former Chief Scientist

· Marie Persson – former Chair, NSW Skills Board Industry Reference Group, and former head of NSW TAFE and Community Education

· Professor Rory Hume – Associate Vice-President for Academic Affairs and Education, and Dean of Dentistry at the University of Utah

· Mette Schepers – Mercer Australia’s client growth leader for the Pacific market, and financial and professional services executive

· Sir Nigel Thrift – former Vice-Chancellor, University of Warwick, and former Executive Director of the prestigious Schwarzmann Scholars international leadership program

/Public Release.