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Clarity and Compliance: ASQA’s Guide to Written Agreements with Overseas Students

ASQA written agreement with overseas students

The Australian Skills Quality Authority (ASQA) has recently released guidance to assist Education Services for Overseas Students (ESOS) providers in understanding their obligations when negotiating and documenting written agreements with overseas students.

This guidance is designed to provide clarity and support to providers, ensuring they meet regulatory requirements effectively. The move aims to ensure that providers and students know their rights and obligations, fostering a positive and enriching experience for international students studying in Australia.

Under Standard 3 of the National Code, it is a requirement for ESOS providers to establish written agreements with overseas students. These written agreements serve as formal contracts, outlining the terms and conditions of the student’s enrolment and clarifying the responsibilities of both the provider and the learners.

Creating a positive student experience is essential in building Australia’s robust and highly respected international education and training sector. And ensuring the student’s course is of high quality and offering excellent support services are essential for reaching this objective.

Education providers are strongly encouraged to review the recently published guide by ASQA to ensure compliance with their regulatory obligations. By adhering to these guidelines, providers and overseas students can better understand their rights and responsibilities, leading to a more positive and rewarding educational experience in Australia.

Why are Written Agreements with Overseas Students Necessary?

Written agreements are crucial for establishing the terms and conditions of an overseas student’s enrolment in a training course. These agreements serve as contracts between the provider and the student, ensuring fairness and reasonableness, especially regarding refund terms in case a party defaults.

A written agreement clearly outlines the student’s enrolment details, specifying the rights and responsibilities of both the provider and the student. It covers essential information such as course details, institution services, tuition and non-tuition fees, refund policies, and procedures for complaints and appeals. The provider must have a written agreement with the student before or simultaneously accepting course fees.

So what should the written agreement include?

Registered ESOS providers are required to:

  • Establish a written agreement with overseas students, which can be in any format as long as it fulfils the requirements specified in the ESOS Act and the National Code.
  • Ensure the written agreement is signed or accepted by the overseas student. If the student is under 18, their parent or legal guardian should sign or accept the agreement on their behalf.
  • Contain important information about the course, including entry requirements and any conditions related to enrolment (if applicable). It should also cover fees, refunds, cancellation policies, and the provider’s procedures for handling complaints and appeals.
  • Any information students need to know.

Structure and Content of the Written Agreement with Overseas Students

In addition to fulfilling all the requirements set forth in the ESOS Act, the agreement should be written in clear and easily understandable language. Plus, it should contain:

  • Course details, including the expected start date, location(s) of course delivery, and offered modes of study.
  • Prerequisites for entering the course, such as English language requirements.
  • Any conditions imposed on the student’s enrolment.
  • Tuition fees payable for the course, including payment options.
  • Details of any non-tuition fees that may be incurred, such as reassessment fees or late payment fees.
  • Situations in which the ESOS provider may share the student’s personal information with the Commonwealth, including the Tuition Protection Service (TPS) or state and territory agencies, per the Privacy Act 1988.
  • Internal and external complaints and appeals processes as per Standard 10.
  • Refund requirements in case of student or provider default, including amounts to be repaid and the refund claiming process.
  • A statement advising that the agreement does not affect the student’s rights under Australian Consumer Law, where applicable.
  • Guidance to overseas students, emphasising their obligation to inform the training provider about their current contact details, as well as any updates or changes to their contact information. Additionally, it should specify whom to contact in case of an emergency while studying in Australia.
  • Advice for students to keep a copy of the written agreement and payment receipts.
  • The use of links for supplementary material.

Record-keeping requirements state that registered providers must retain all written agreements with overseas students and payment receipts for at least two years after the student ceases to be enrolled. This is in accordance with the ESOS Act and the Education Services for Overseas Students Regulations 2019.

It’s important to note that if an overseas student is enrolled in consecutive courses with the same provider and the terms of the agreement remain the same, a single written agreement can cover all the courses.

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