The Australian Government wants overseas students in Australia to have a safe, enjoyable and rewarding place to study. Australia’s laws promote quality education and consumer protection for overseas students. These laws are known as the ESOS framework and they include the Education Services for Overseas (ESOS) Act 2000 and the National Code 2018.
The Department of Education and Training has released a new fact sheet for international students containing important information about their rights and responsibilities while studying in Australia.
Students can access this fact sheet for information on:
choosing and enrolling in a course of study
support services available in Australia
the rights and responsibilities of students on a student visa
working in Australia
making complaints and getting help.
Please click the link “international student fact sheet” below to read the fact sheet from the Department of Education and Training website
Protection amd rights for overseas students
- As a student on a student visa, you benefit from Australian laws that ensure high standards of education, facilities and support services while you are in Australia. You also have rights to information about your course and the institution you wish to study with before and during your enrolment. The Education Services for Overseas Students (ESOS) framework offers you financial protection in case your education institution
does not deliver what it has promised you. You can find out more about the framework at https://internationaleducation.gov.au/regulatoryinformation/pages/regulatoryinformation.aspx
- As an international student, you can only study a course with an education institution listed on the Commonwealth Register of Institutions and Courses for Overseas Students (CRICOS). All institutions registered on CRICOS have met the quality standards set out in Australian law, which ensures you receive the
best possible education services.
- CRICOS is a good place to start when you want to find a course or education institution to study with, and can be found at http://cricos.education.gov.au
- Please check carefully that the details of your course − including its location − match the information on CRICOS.
Using an education agent
International students do not have to use an education agent. You can enrol directly with an Australian education institution. Information about what education institutions offer is usually on their websites.
If you want to use an education agent, it’s best to pick one used by the institution you want to study at. You can find a list of education agents on the institution’s website.
The law requires institutions to use only education agents that act honestly and with integrity. Agents must give you accurate advice about the courses on offer, including entry requirements, and information about living in Australia. You should still be careful and alert when dealing with agents to ensure you enrol in a course that is suitable for you and will help you achieve your learning goals.
In Australia, education agents cannot give you information on visa and immigration matters – only migration agents can do this. You can find out more about using migration agents at the Department of Immigration and Border Protection’s website at www.border.gov.au/Trav/Visa/Usin.
If you think your education agent might be behaving dishonestly or unethically, you should stop using them immediately and contact your education institution directly.
Written agreements or contracts between the student and institution
Under Australian law an education institution must have a written agreement with you outlining the services they will provide, all the fees you are required to pay, and conditions for refunds of money you pay for the course.
The written agreement is a legal contract. You should read it carefully and make sure you fully understand what it says before signing it. You and your education institution must follow whatever is set out in the
written agreement once you have accepted it, so you should keep a copy of it. Should you ever make a complaint about your institution, you will need to refer to your written agreement. You can find out more about making complaints on page 6 of this fact sheet, Making complaints and getting help.
Your rights before you enrol
Even before you enrol with an education institution, under Australian law you have the right to:
- receive current and accurate information about the courses, entry requirements, all fees and modes of study from your institution and your institution’s agent before you enrol
- sign a written agreement with your institution before or at the time you pay fees. You do not have to pay the institution any money or fees until you accept the agreement
- seek a refund in certain situations for course money you have paid. Information about refund arrangements must be included in your written agreement
- get the education you paid for. The law includes tuition protections that will allow you to be placed in another course or receive a refund if your institution is unable to teach your course
(known as a provider default), visit https://tps.gov.au/ for more information access complaints and appeals processes
- access complaints and appeals processes
- request to transfer to another institution and have that request assessed by your institution
Paying your tuition fees
From 14 December 2015, changes to Australian law give international students more choice about how they pay their fees. Previously you could not pay more than 50 per cent of your fees before you started a course. Now you can choose to pay more than 50 per cent of your tuition fees before you start. For example, you or the person who is paying your fees may decide this is a good idea if the Australian dollar exchange rates mean you will save money by paying more of your fees early.
Your education institution may ask you if you would like to pay more than 50 per cent of your fees before you start your course. This is your choice. Your institution cannot require you to pay more, unless you are doing a short course of 25 weeks or less. If your course is longer than 25 weeks, you cannot be asked to pay more than 50 per cent of your tuition fees before you start.
Your institution may wish to organise a payment plan so you can start regularly paying the rest of your tuition fees once you start the course. Your written agreement should include an itemised list of all the fees you will be charged for your course, including your tuition fees and how they will be paid, and refund arrangements.
In Australia there are also very strong protections for students’ fees, which you can learn more about on
page 5 of this fact sheet under Protecting your tuition fees.
What happens if you can’t start the course because your visa is refused?
If you have paid fees to an education institution and your visa is refused, you are entitled to a refund. Under Australian law, the institution is allowed to keep either 5 per cent of the tuition fees you paid or $500, whichever is the lowest amount, and must refund you the rest.
If your visa is refused after the course was due to start, the institution can keep tuition fees for the number of weeks that have passed since commencement, and must refund you the rest of the fees.
What happens if you decide you don’t want to start or continue the course?
If you change your mind and do not want to start the course, you may be entitled to a refund.
If you have a written agreement with the institution, the amount of your refund will depend on the written agreement, which should tell you what will or will not be repaid to you.
If you do not have a written agreement, you have the right to receive some of your fees back. Under Australian law, the institution is allowed to keep either 5 per cent of the fees you paid or $500, whichever is the lowest amount, and must refund you the rest of the tuition fees you paid them.
During your studies
Support services for you in Australia
Under Australian law your education institution must offer you support services to help you adjust to study and life in Australia, achieve your learning goals and maintain satisfactory progress in your learning. This support is available because we recognise that Australia may be a new environment for students, with different laws, culture and customs. Your education institution must give you advice on:
- support and welfare services available at the institution
- legal services
- emergency and health services
- facilities and resources
- complaints and appeals processes
- any student visa condition that relates to the course you are studying
- services international students can access for information on their employment rights and conditions, and how to resolve workplace issues, such as through the Fair Work Ombudsman (from 1 January 2018).
Many education institutions also offer career advice services. You should ask them whether they can help advise you on working and careers.
Your responsibilities as an international student in Australia
Your student visa
As an international student on a student visa, you must:
- comply with your student visa conditions
- ensure you have and continue to maintain your Overseas Student Health Cover (OSHC) for as long as you stay in Australia on a student visa
- tell your institution if you change your address or other contact details
- meet the terms of your written agreement with your education institution
- maintain satisfactory course progress and
Information about visa conditions for student visa holders is available on the Department of Immigration and Border Protection’s website at www.border.gov.au/Trav/Stud/More/Visa-conditions/visa-conditions- students, or call 131 881 on Monday – Friday from 8.30am to 4pm inside Australia (except public holidays).
Academic integrity and misconduct
The Australian Government and education institutions take issues of academic integrity very seriously. Education institutions have many ways of detecting cheating or plagiarism in exams and assessments.
Using ghost writing services, asking someone to take an exam in your place, or any other kind of academic misconduct will result in serious action being taken against you. Your enrolment or student visa could be affected, or cancelled altogether.
If you are struggling with your studies, it’s best to ask your institution what support services they can offer you.
Your consumer rights and protections
Protecting your tuition fees
Australia is widely recognised as a world leader in protecting the tuition fees of international students through its Tuition Protection Service (TPS). The TPS assists international students whose education institutions are unable to fully deliver their course of study, and ensures that international students are able to either:
- complete their studies in another course or with another education institution, or
- receive a refund of their unspent tuition
In the unlikely event your education institution is unable to deliver a course you have paid for, they have obligations to offer you an alternative course or, if you do not accept the alternative course, pay you a refund of your unspent prepaid tuition fees. If your institution is unable to meet these obligations for some reason, the TPS will assist you in finding an alternative course or getting a refund if a suitable alternative is not found.
For more information on the TPS, visit www.tps.gov.au. If you are a student whose provider is unable to fully deliver your course, you can call (02) 6271 3440 for assistance.
Working in Australia
Australian workplace laws provide basic protection and entitlements for all workers in Australia, including workers from overseas. International students have the same entitlements to minimum wages and conditions as Australian workers, as well as superannuation and workers’ compensation under Australian workplace laws.
The minimum wages and conditions to which an employee is entitled are set out in awards (also known as modern awards). Awards apply to employees depending on the industry they work in or the job that they do. Awards don’t apply when a business has an enterprise agreement or other registered agreement that covers the employee’s working conditions. For more information on awards and agreements, visit www.fairwork.gov.au/awards-and-agreements.
Australian laws also protect you from being discriminated against at work, for example because of your race, when you are applying for a job, about to begin a job, or any time during your employment. For more
information about discrimination at work, visit https://www.fairwork.gov.au/employee- entitlements/protections-at-work/protection-from-discrimination-at-work or https://www.humanrights.gov.au/.
The Fair Work Ombudsman (FWO) helps employers and employees to understand their rights and responsibilities at work. The FWO can also investigate suspected breaches of workplace laws. To find out what you should be paid and learn more about your minimum workplace entitlements you can visit www.fairwork.gov.au. You can also call 13 13 94 from 8am to 5.30pm Monday to Friday inside Australia (except public holidays). Getting help to resolve a workplace issue will not automatically affect your student visa.
You are limited to 40 hours of work per fortnight when your course is in session, and unlimited hours in out of session periods. This is to ensure you are mainly focused on your studies. Work conditions for student visa holders can be found on the Department of Immigration and Border Protection website at www.border.gov.au/Trav/Stud/More/Work-conditions-for-Student-visa-holders
Changing education institutions or courses
If you are not satisfied with the course you are doing and wish to transfer to another education institution, before you make the decision to enrol with another institution you should be aware that there are rules about what you can or cannot do.
From 1 January 2018, if you are a school student and want to change to another education institution before finishing the first six months of your first school course, you must seek permission from your original education institution to transfer. Six months after you start your first school course, you can change to another education institution without asking your original education institution for approval.
For all other students, if you haven’t completed six months of your principal course (the main course of study you are undertaking), Australian legislation says that you can only change education institutions if:
- your original institution can no longer provide the course you enrolled in, or
- your original institution says they will release you, or
- you have a government sponsor and that sponsor writes a letter saying they support your change of
In other words, you will usually need your institution’s permission if you want to transfer before you have completed six months of your principal course.
Your original institution can only provide a letter of release if:
- you have a letter from another institution saying they have made you an enrolment offer
- where you are under 18, you have the support of your parent or legal guardian, or the institution wishing to enrol you says they will take responsibility for your
You should read and understand your institution’s transfer policy, as it should clearly state the reasons that you may or may not be granted a transfer. Your education institution must assess or consider your request to transfer against this policy.
If you are not satisfied with your institution’s decision, you can appeal through their internal appeals and complaints handling process. If you are not satisfied with the outcome of that internal appeal process, your options are outlined in the section below, Making complaints and getting help.
If you are thinking about changing your course, you need to ensure that you continue to meet the conditions of your student visa. Further information about the impact of changing courses or education institutions is available on the Department of Immigration and Border Protection’s website at http://www.immi.gov.au/Study/Pages/changing-courses.aspx.
For more details about the legislative requirements around transferring courses, you can visit: https://internationaleducation.gov.au/Regulatory-Information/Education-Services-for-Overseas-Students- ESOS-Legislative-Framework/National-Code/nationalcodepartd/Pages/ExplanatoryguideD7.aspx
Making complaints and getting help
If you have a complaint about your institution, you should talk to them first. Your education institution must have complaints and appeals processes in place to help students resolve their issues.
If you cannot resolve your complaint with an institution, there are other actions you can take. You will need to find out whether your institution is a private or government type by searching them and looking at the Institution type field on the CRICOS website at http://cricos.education.gov.au/Institution/InstitutionSearch.aspx
If your institution is a private (non-government) organisation, you can take your complaint to the Overseas Students Ombudsman (OSO). Refer to the Overseas Students Ombudsman website at http://www.ombudsman.gov.au/about/overseas-student-ombudsman-landing-page for more information about how the OSO can help students, or call 1300 362 072.
If you are studying with a government education institution, which includes most universities and TAFEs , the external appeal body will most likely be the ombudsman for the state or Commonwealth. Your education institution can give you the best information about the appropriate external appeals process for their institution. You can find the contact details of all Australian ombudsmen at www.ombudsman.gov.au/about/our-history/state-and-territory-ombudsmen.
If you have any questions or concerns that haven’t been answered in this fact sheet, you can submit an enquiry at https://internationaleducation.gov.au/Regulatory-Information/Education-Services-for-Overseas- Students-ESOS-Legislative-Framework/ESOSenquiries/Pages/Default.aspx
Find out more and connect on social media
Study in Australia is the official Australian Government website for international students. You can connect with it through:
- Website: https://www.studyinaustralia.gov.au/
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/studyinaustralia
- Twitter: https://twitter.com/futureunlimited
- YouTube: http://youtube.com/afutureunlimited
The Fair Work Ombudsman gives you information and advice about your workplace rights and obligations. You can connect with it through:
- Website: https://www.fairwork.gov.au/
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/fairwork.gov.au
- Twitter: https://twitter.com/fairwork_gov_au
- YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/user/FairWorkGovAu
Subscribe to email updates at https://www.fairwork.gov.au/Website-information/staying-up-to- date/subscribe-to-email-updates