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Prepare for changes on overseas students, universities told

 Image: SolStock, via Getty Images

Head of Australian regulator outlines likely changes and expects “productive relationship” with Tertiary Education Commission

The new chief executive of Australia’s Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency has warned that the higher education sector must prepare for changes in regulation.

In a bulletin on 28 May, her first since being formally appointed on 3 May, Teqsa chief Mary Russell outlined likely changes including those flowing from legislation on international student numbers currently before parliament.

The head of the higher education regulator said that although the government had decided not to include Teqsa under the umbrella of the forthcoming Tertiary Education Commission, “we expect to have a productive relationship with the new commission once it is up and running”.

Education minister Jason Clare has set up an advisory committee, headed by Department of Education secretary Tony Cook, to design the new commission and to advise on other changes to the education system.

International intake

Russell said that changes to the Education Services for Overseas Students Act, currently before the House of Representatives, would also “mean some changes to how Teqsa applies its Education Services for Overseas Students powers, and we are presently looking into what adjustments we would need to make to our regulatory approach to support the government’s policy decisions”. 

The changes to the act will give the education minister greater powers to direct universities on the numbers of international students they can accept and the courses the students can take. Clare has said the changes are necessary to rein in unscrupulous training colleges and migration agents, as well as to ensure students are trained in areas of skills needs.

Russell urged universities and other tertiary education providers to try to understand the associated draft international education and skills framework published by the government on 11 May.

Teqsa expects providers to “consider what actions they can take to mitigate any risks to the integrity of overseas student enrolments or changes to operating models that may be required”.

Campus protests

Russell also said that the regulator was continuing to engage with universities around issues of student and staff “safety and wellbeing” as campus protests over the war between Israel and Hamas continue.

Teqsa has “established a regulatory response group…to monitor how institutions were assuring student and staff safety and freedom of speech and academic freedom related to increased community tensions regarding the ongoing Middle East conflict”, she wrote.