Australia invites public consultation on ESOS framework

The ESOS Review — 2022 discussion paper provides the background of the government’s plans to carry out a review of the framework in 2022. The review is a key aspect of the Australian Strategy for International Education 2021–2030, released in November 2021 responding to the “changing environment” in education.

“The government is seeking to ensure that policy and regulatory frameworks keep pace with global developments and support the delivery of the strategy’s objectives,” the new discussion paper highlighted.

As part of the strategy, the government is undertaking a review of its 2000 ESOS Act, which sets out the legal framework governing delivery of education to international students in Australia on a student visa, it detailed.

“The review will support the strategy’s priorities of diversification, meeting Australia’s skills needs, placing students at the centre, sector growth and global competitiveness,” it pointed out.

Speaking to The PIE, a Universities Australia spokesperson said the organisation welcomed a legislative framework that “supports a robust international education system, especially as we emerge from the pandemic”.

UA will closely consult with members and key stakeholders”

“UA will closely consult with members and key stakeholders to ensure any proposed changes to the ESOS Act are well considered, and promote a sustainable framework for international education,” they said.

The paper has invited consultations across a range of broad areas of expansion and diversification; meeting skills needs and graduate workplace readiness; supporting the quality of third‑party relationships; course transfers; written agreements between providers and international students; and English language.

Brett Blacker, CEO, English Australia spoke to The PIE on the release of the discussion paper and said that, “Overall, English Australia welcomes the review and sees this as an opportunity to maintain what is widely considered as one of the best regulatory systems in the world”.

“The review is timely to support the implementation of Australia’s Strategy for International Education through 2030,” he said.

“There is strong alignment between the ESOS reviews considerations around ‘expansion and diversification’ and the work English Australia has undertaken over the past year exploring the future of ELICOS.

“Our sector has undergone significant transformation due to the innovations in online delivery over the past two years. English Australia will be undertaking further forums with our members, the Department of Education, Skills and Employment, and our regulators on this topic in the coming month.”

Our sector has undergone significant transformation due to the innovations in online delivery”

Blacker also pointed out that the review should “seek to identify the benefits technology acceleration has brought and infuse them into the current operational settings”.

He alluded to a need for the sector to build on the innovations that have been brought on as a result of the pandemic and cautioned that “reverting to pre-pandemic structures of course design and delivery would be both counterproductive for providers, given the scale of innovation and investments already made”. 

Given the new modes of teaching and learning that everyone had become familiar with now, this would end up being “misaligned to the student learning preferences that have emerged during the pandemic”, he continued.

Focusing specifically on some of the questions that the discussion paper wants the stakeholders to consider while giving their insights on the front of English language skills requirements for international students, Blacker told The PIE that Australia “already has the most highly regulated ELT sector globally”.

“English Australia recognises the importance of appropriate English language skills but was surprised to see the questions on this area given the governing standards were recently reviewed and no systemic risks have been identified in the sector,” he noted.

“We welcome the opportunity to further consider these topics and call for an evidence-based approach,” he concluded.

The consultation process with stakeholders is scheduled to continue till April, with the aim of delivering the final review to the education minister by mid-year.

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