International students; visas: Federal government announces crackdown on dodgy VET colleges

Dodgy training providers who rort public funding and take advantage of vulnerable students will be targeted in a new compliance blitz, the federal government has announced.

In an address to the National Press Club on Tuesday, Skills and Training Minister Brendan O’Connor will announce a new $37.8m investment towards a new integrity unit to crack down on non-genuine vocational education and training (VET) providers.

“We are working to weed out the minority of non-genuine VET providers, the bottom feeders, who seek to exploit people and traduce the integrity and reputation of the entire sector in the process,” Mr O’Connor said in a statement announcing the new funding.

The unit will be established within the Australian Skills Quality Authority (ASQA) and will work to address threats to the integrity of the VET and improve student outcomes.

A new confidential tip-off line will also be established, giving whistleblowers the ability to alert the regulator to serious breaches without fear of punishment.

To conduct compliance checks, the integrity unit will work in tandem with other government bodies including the Department of Home Affairs, the Australian Federal Police and other commonwealth and state law enforcement agencies.

Mr O’Connor added that focus on training quality was essential to ensure students, and the economy more broadly, received the skills they needed.

“These actions are aimed at stopping domestic and international students and graduates from being exploited by unscrupulous operators,” he said.

“I will continue to pursue changes to VET legislation necessary to ensure ASQA has the regulatory powers it needs to prevent and remove non-genuine training organisations from the sector.”

On Monday the government additional announced changes to limit widespread rorting of the student visas.

Under the changes revealed by Education Minister Jason Clare, universities will be banned from paying education agents who actively poach students.

The government will also monitor student attendance and prohibit cross ownership between training colleges and education agents.

It follows revelations that thousands of recently arrived Indian students had been arriving in Australia under the guise of attending established universities only to never attend and instead enrol in cheaper private training providers.

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