Friday, November 12, 2010

The Disappearing Dodgy College

Ever since student safety issues took centre stage following Indian student bashings in Melbourne in 2009, a new noun-phrase has entered the lexicon: The Dodgy College. A supposed contributor to the student safety problem: the idea that there were, (and perhaps still are), significant numbers of low quality international education providers quickly took hold in the public mind. All corners of the industry; institutions, peak bodies and Government agencies have bemoaned the existence of these rogue elements. Minister Evans recently said:"As happens in any boom—less reputable providers entered the market, causing concerns about quality, and leading to the very public failure of badly-run institutions."

The Dodgy College has/had the following basic characteristics:
  • Its student body contained only one or two nationalities of students.
  • It over enrolled students for its facilities and above its official CRICOS capacity.
  • It offered Hospitality or Hairdressing (VET courses on Migration Occupation in Demand List).
  • It promoted a permanent residency pathway as a key outcome.
These weren't characteristics that were confined to private institutions, but when the flow of students was lessened, some smaller providers' business model collapsed. The TAFEs and Universities who followed the same business model, could hide their losses in a larger revenue stream. It's important to recognise that a number of failures of private education providers have not been due to the low-quality of their programs or services, or being badly run; or being an unattractive option for students. Rather, the sudden difficulties in obtaining student visas, and the large increase in funds needed to be demonstrated by prospective students to cover living costs has made some "good" operators unable to maintain enough student enrolments to survive, regardless of whether they offer cooking or hairdressing.

Evans also said "over the last decade or so our international education sector galloped ahead far faster than its strategic thinking. " and I think he's referring to the link between gaining these particular VET qualifications and gaining permanent residency in Australia. The "strategic thinking" was done by the Australian Government itself by putting this policy in place and actively promoting it. For a number of years as the numbers of students coming grew (in both public and private institutions), some rumblings of concern did come from the industry, but seemingly not much from State or Federal Governments who were happy to promote the continued expansion of the VET to residency pathway. Yet seemingly, only the private VET providers offering such courses and outcomes have been demonised as the reason why "Brand Australia" has lost its shine. They were only doing the Governments bidding and to much acclaim.

Now, the Government has beefed up it's regulatory activities, and severed the link between migration and these two VET level courses. Any Dodgy College that continues in the same modus operandi as before has no future. Which, begs the question, are there any left or have they all been weeded out?

It's not easy to identify a Dodgy College by a statistic but the over-enrolment of students provides a real window into improvements being made. Collin Waters of AEI provided some very revealing statistics to the ACPET Conference in August:
  • in 2008, there were 52 institutions who had over enrolled students in Victoria, 44 in NSW and 18 in Qld
  • in 2010: only 5 in Victoria, 5 in NSW and none in Qld at all.
When you consider that there are more than 1,000 private providers registered on CRICOS, the number of Dodgy Colleges by this measure is very small, and certainly no reason to further tighten the noose on the overseas student visa process.

Now this business model has been dismantled, its time for the Government to actively stimulate the recruitment of international students into Australia via easing the conditions around the student visa process, to help counter the negative messages and reputation loss both public and private institutions have weathered recently. It's time to stop focussing attention on an issue that has been largely solved and start working toward a more pressing need to solve the downturn in student enrolments, otherwise there will be more College closures and they won't be "Dodgy Colleges".

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

International Students: Are they migrants?

Watching Graeme Hugo's excellent presentation at the Migration Institute of Australia's conference a couple of weeks back got me thinking - What happens when common words are put to differing usage? Associations that we have with particular words can influence political debate, and even drive policy - consider the word: "Migrant" What does this word mean to most people? Without looking at a dictionary, I'd suggest something like "a person who moves to live in another country on a long-term basis, potentially for the rest of their life"- this, or something similar might be a definition that the Australian public would agree with.

I don't think they would consider an international student, here for 4 years studying a bachelor degree, who then returns home, a migrant. If I go to live in London for a couple of years between school and University, and fully intend to come back for my studies to Australia, have I "migrated to the UK"? - it depends who you talk to...

Australian demographers, statisticians and many politicians use "migrant" in a different way to the rest of us it seems - a migrant is anyone who comes to live in Australia for more than one year - even if they are expected to leave after a particular date. Thus, any international students who study in Australia for more than a year are "migrants"(or young people on working holidays of a similar length for that matter). Students don't consider themselves as migrants until or if they get permanent residency, a job and settle here for good. But it's this counter-intuitive definition of "migrant" which has driven the public debate and unnecessarily frightened the population with visions of masses of new settlers, potentially placing stress on Australia's infrastructure, environment and way-of life.

There has not been an explosion in the number of permanent migrants to Australia, but there has been a large increase in international students. Nevertheless, IDP Australia estimate just 10-20% of students will ever settle in Australia, and the majority will go back home after their course of study as expected. The statistics show many more students arriving in the last 2-3 years than in previous years and not as many leaving (as the courses last 3-5 years). But they will leave when their time comes of course.

How this can play out in public is best illustrated by considering two related terms and two statistics for 2008/09 financial year (from DIAC):

Net Overseas Migration 313,414
Net Permanent Migration 143,601

Rather different statistics! Recent political conversations have used the net overseas migration figures to argue that we are heading towards an Australia of 35 million+ by 2050. Indeed, permanent migration rates of more than 300,000 per year would be a huge number for the country to absorb, but remember- half are expected to leave our shores in a few years, and in the meantime, far from being a burden, they are fully supporting their stay with their valuable overseas currency.

As international student enrolment numbers are now dropping, the Net Overseas Migration figure will plummet once the larger cohorts begins to go home at the end of their studies. No doubt, somebody will take political credit for this and link it to their policies on asylum seekers and other issues, but in fact it's just a function of turning off the international student pipeline - and in the process losing high value individuals who contribute so much to our economy.

I don't dispute that Net Overseas Migration is a worthwhile statistic (it gives a measure of the pressure exerted by overseas long-term visitors and migrants on infrastructure, for example) but as the indicator of the rate population growth in the public domain, it provides a distorted picture when international students are labelled migrants. As a stand alone figure, permanent migration figures give a more realistic view.

Fred Hilmer, VC of UNSW has also identified this issue and says " don't count these students as immigrants, they're not entitled to be immigrants... "

Helpfully, Hon. Chris Evans in his first address as Education Minister said "Student visas are temporary visas. They are not included in the nation’s permanent migration program numbers, and we remain committed to maintaining our international student program as an
uncapped program."

So, make sure when migrant numbers are quoted, you understand which measure they are using.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Australian Education Agents - We’ve got them all

PIER Agency Finder -
In a little over a year, the PIER Agency Finder has grown from being simply an idea, to now containing accurate data on 3291 education agencies in 4587 offices, spread across 115 countries worldwide. We are confident that we now have every education agent representing the Australian market listed in our database, so I thought now would be a good time explain how we have achieved our goal.

Over the past 7 years working at PIER, I have been in charge of the development of 3 separate, unique systems that are accessible by education agents in some form or another. These 3 systems have been developed at different times and for very different reasons, but they all contain core functionality targeted at agents. As these separate systems evolved independently, it became clear to us that the fragmentation of this data was causing an administrative headache, and thus a new suite of products emerged, based around a core, central data repository.

The PIER Agency Finder is the crux of these new products and is where we now store all agency-based data. We store Agency data representing an organisation, and also Office data representing each physical office location. We also store the employees working within each office, all of whom have access to maintain their offices’ subset of data via their own dedicated system, the Counsellor Dashboard.

We have gathered this data via systems like the Education Agent Training Course, the Australian Homestay Network and the newly released ICEF Agent Training Course. We have also dedicated a lot of time and resources to gathering data the old-fashioned way - by manually recording it from public websites, for example. Lastly, we also allow counsellors themselves to add their own office to the list if we don’t already have it.

Now that we have reached our goal of storing every education agent representing Australian providers, we are proud that our hard work has paid off. The PIER Agency Finder is now the most comprehensive public listing of education agents that exists today, and we are dedicated to maintaining the accuracy and currency of all data represented within it.

This system now powers the ACPET Agent Directory, the AIRC Agency Finder and a number of others. It’s also tightly integrated with the ICEF Agent Training Course and the Australian Homestay Network and we are planning on increasing it’s reach within the industry.

I suspect some of you may have got a little lost with the ‘tech-speak’ that is inevitable in a post like this, but hopefully you’re still with me. I will continue to post more tech-oriented articles in the future while Chris’s posts will be more industry-specific.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

International Education In Australia; How can I make a difference?

The past 12 months have been a challenging time for any institution offering programs within Australia to international students. An industry that had been very proud of its achievement in becoming Australia's $18 billion-dollar export poster child, employing more than 125,000 people, has found itself facing a barrage of negative publicity and sliding enrolments since student safety issues came to a head in Melbourne in 2009. Regardless of what or who is to blame for the slide in reputation of "Brand Australia", an uncomfortable truth has dawned on many - the Australian public barely cares.

As an industry we imagined that the benefits to Australia of our activities and the presence of international students in our institutions and society are self-evident and as a result, we haven't focussed the necessary energy on arguing our case. I, like many others, observed the xenophobic pronouncements on migration from all quarters in the recent federal election and was deeply disappointed. Bruce Baird recently noted how the Australian Government would willingly support an ailing (and strategically insignificant) car industry but would not dream of considering any form of help to international education to weather the storm. Even though visa changes have played a key negative role. I believe an important difference in the way we are politically considered is international education's well-educated, white-collar workforce can be expected to re-train if need be, and there is not the concern in the community of loss of employment that accompanies any prospective problems in a "blue-collar" industry.

So what can we, as individuals, achieve to turn this around and get the positive vibes following again?

When we have conversations with people outside of our industry, we've got to start converting people to our cause and explain the basics time-and-time again. There's a need to get the simple messages out and not get bogged down in arguments about the rights and wrongs of higher education funding - important for sure, but no political side will change this set of circumstances so it's all in the realm of the hypothetical. In my conversations, I try to stay away from discussing the financial benefits where possible but I do make sure I get in the following points:
  • International students, through the funds they contribute, help Australian students access more courses, they never "take" away available places in higher education. Yet 50% of the general population believe this!
  • Very few international students will actually migrate permanently to Australia (10-20%) - regardless of our attitude to increased migration or the future size of Australia's population; we should have nothing to fear by having them as guests in our country for a few years.
  • Just because the Government undervalues and underfunds Higher education, and Universities look to gain revenue from international students, that's not a reason to decry the quality and value of the educational experience that such students gain in Australia.
Normally, I'm pleasantly surprised how easy it can be to change opinions once these are explained - but I have had to work hard on some occasions...

Just think, if 125,000 people just spoke to 10 people that's a million people on our side.

Let's get to it.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Manager of Student Affairs - Carnegie Mellon University, Adelaide Campus

Manager of Student Affairs
  • Must possess a strong professional, yet nurturing work ethos
  • Must be attracted to the intrinsic rewards of developing a strong supportive relationship with talented scholars from around the world
  • Must thrive on making a measurable contribution to a small, dynamic team
Carnegie Mellon University, a top ranked American university is seeking an experienced professional with a passion for working with talented postgraduate students at its campus in Australia, Adelaide.

The Manager of Student Affairs will be a student advocate, who takes ownership of, and pride in providing a broad range of support services to students, while valuing international education and diversity.

This is a hands-on role and the candidate must be capable of providing the high standard of personalised support to students for which CMU Australia is renowned.

Tasks include:
  • Pre and post departure planning and assistance
  • Facilitating housing and accommodation
  • Planning, development and implementation of student events
  • Alumni relations
  • Assistance with writing resumes, job applications and interview techniques
  • Assistance with securing internships
  • A significant role in the graduation ceremony
The successful applicant must possess:
  • Analytical, project management, communication and problem solving skills
  • Excellent verbal and written communication
  • Strong computer literacy
  • Record keeping and data management experience
The university is an equal opportunity employer which offers a competitive compensation package commensurate with skills and experience.

For more information and a copy of the job description please contact Debra Mules on +61 (0)8 8110 9919.

An application, a resume and cover letter, can be submitted to addressing your relevant skills, experience. Previous candidates need not apply. Applications from agencies will not be considered.

Application closing date: 28 October 2010.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

International education issues: student enrolments

Speaking to a University of Melbourne seminar recently, Professor Simon Marginson argued that international student numbers could halve over the next four years unless the incoming government changes the immigration policy settings. Marginson claimed that there was ‘no acknowledgement that immigration policy is undermining the possibility of a sustainable market, even though the effects are blatant.’ He added that that immigration policy, including the ‘toughening of student visa processing’ was harming the international education industry’ (Campus Review 31st August p.1-2).

Concern about declining international student enrolments have prompted the Vice-chancellors of Australia's Group of eight universities to write to Prime Minister Julia Gillard and Opposition Leader Tony Abbott, to seek assurances that whoever forms government will act swiftly to fix problems in the international education sector, particularly the decline in student enrolments which affect colleges and universities receiving students from pathway institutions and courses. The Melbourne Age (7th September)reported the Vice-chancellors have requested a removal of student visa entrants from the government's net immigration goals, reviewing policy settings for student visas and a combined approach by government departments and administrative agencies.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Position: Education Counsellor

VisAustralia is a migration agency with offices in Canberra (Narrabundah) and Mexico City. We work with professional people applying to migrate to Australia, and increasingly, with international students.

VisAustralia is looking for an Education Counsellor with Spanish language skills for a full time position based in Canberra. You will be working under the direction of a senior lawyer and will be trained in all aspects of the visa rules. You are expected to have knowledge of the education sector and will be encouraged to complete studies in migration.

If the position is filled by an international student or Graduate visa holder the position may result in the offer of permanent visa sponsorship at the completion of 12 months of employment.

Job description

VisAustralia has developed a unique web based system that provides candidates with legally accurate information about their visa options including study options. The system generates phone and email enquiries and the successful applicant will be expected to respond to the preliminary questions of prospective students and migrants, and to work with prospective students by providing information about living in Australia and study and visa options. The position involves further developing the education agency at VisAustralia, assisting with the administration of e‐marketing campaigns through the Client Management System, and maintaining web content.

Please view our website for further details:

Selection Criteria:

  1. Familiarity with the Australian education sector and issues surrounding international student recruitment;
  2. Spanish language skills;
  3. Ability to work with client management software and to manage web content;
  4. Willingness to learn about migration law and practice;
  5. Well developed people skills and convincing phone manner;
  6. Well organised and efficient and able to work autonomously and professionally.

A brief submission is required addressing the selection criteria and describing why the applicant is interested in working with a migration and education consultancy, and a CV.

For more information please contact Nicholas Houston on 02 6295 5941.

Please send your application to:

Nicholas Houston

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Expressions of interest: representing Australian creative industries programs

International Vision Education ( is an international education consultancy working with a range of institutions in Australia, Europe and North America. We are an Australian-based company with a solid agent network in Asia and beyond, but are now seeking to grow this base as our clientele develops.

As Australia’s creative industries sector is growing both at home and abroad, institutions specializing in the creative industries are focusing more keenly on internationalization and education export. We have a growing number of clients from this exciting education sector (VET and HE) and are therefore seeking expressions of interest from agents who can promote these institutions.
The creative industries include:
  • Photography

  • Animation/Digital Media

  • Music Performance

  • Fashion

  • Sound Production

  • Film and Television Production

  • Entertainment Management

Expressions of interest should be brief and by email only, as we are also a Pier testing centre and do not wish to disturb test candidates. Please include the country/countries you represent, a contact phone number and a website if you have one. Email and we will contact you if we wish to continue the discussion.

Jim McIntyre, Director of Green Continent Pty Ltd, seeking interest in taking over resources in his agency

I am an education agent, recruiting mainly from Russia and surrounding countries, who has decided that, after 11 years and with the current major changes to the industry, it is time to do other things. Over this time my agency has built up the following resources:
  1. a Russian-language website with online forums -

  2. a portfolio of current contracts with education providers (universities, institutes, language schools, private secondary schools) in several States (can be supplied upon request)

  3. an impeccable reputation that would facilitate the transfer of any contracts to another suitable interested agent.
I am hoping to interest another agent(s), particularly those wanting a presence in Russia and surrounding countries, in taking over any or all of the above resources. My contact details below:

Jim McIntyre
Green Continent Pty Ltd
29 Railway Crescent
Tel/Fax: (03) 9399 8032
Mobile: (0438) 099 401
Website: (Russian language)

Friday, April 30, 2010

PIER Agency Finder

On 9th April we introduced two new products we’ve been developing: PIER Agency finder and Counsellor Dashboard. Today we’d like to tell you about the PIER Agency Finder, and why it’s an important and useful tool for a range of oragnisations and education providers.

The ESOS Amendment Act (new subsection 21A) which comes into effect Thursday, 3rd June 2010 requires all Australian education providers listed on CRICOS to provide a searchable list of their recruiting agencies on their own website.

The online location of this information must be readily accessible to students and regulators and must include the agency name, name of principal agent, legal entity and street address.

PIER Agency Finder will help organisations easily meet this new requirement at no cost by providing simple tools to manage your agents and display them publicly on an interactive, up-to-date map.

For more information on obtaining the PIER Agency Finder for your organisation, please visit To view the Agency Finder in action, visit the ACPET Agent Directory. ACPET has shown great initiative in contributing to the development of the Agency Finder.