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Administrative arrangements and guidelines

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Administrative arrangements for approval of school providers to deliver courses to overseas students

Administrative arrangements

Providers of courses to overseas students are required to be registered under the Commonwealth Education Services for Overseas Students Act 2000 (ESOS Act) and placed on the Commonwealth Register of Institutions and Courses for Overseas Students (CRICOS). CRICOS is administered by the Commonwealth Department of Education (DoE).

Under the ESOS Act, specified State and Territory government agencies are ‘designated authorities’. Designated authorities are responsible for approving (or not) providers and courses for overseas students. A provider must be approved by a designated authority to be eligible to be registered on CRICOS.

In NSW, the NSW Education Standards Authority (NESA) is the designated authority for this purpose under Part 7A of the Education Act 1990 (Education Act). NESA advises the DoE of approved providers and recommendations for registration. NESA’s authority relates to school providers of courses to overseas students at government or non-government schools, as defined at section 3 of the Education Act

Under the Education Act, NESA’s functions relate to approval and amendment, suspension and cancellation of approval processes, certification and the issue of guidelines.

The administrative arrangements for NESA to exercise the designated functions are set out below.

Guidelines

NESA has published Guidelines for Approved NSW School Providers Delivering Courses to Overseas Students (the Guidelines). The Guidelines describe NESA’s functions and provide information about the regulatory framework, requirements and evidence of compliance to be maintained by school providers delivering courses to overseas students.

Applications for approval

NESA has authority, on the application of a person, to approve the person to provide courses for overseas students. The person must be a type of legal entity approved by the Minister to be the proprietor of a registered non-government school or be a representative of a state education authority. The types of legal entity approved by the Minister to be the proprietor of a non-government school include a corporation, registered company, registered association and trust including religious bodies. Procedures and timelines for an application for initial approval, renewal of approval, and amending approval are available in section 7 of the Guidelines. NESA may grant approval unconditionally or subject to such conditions (which may be imposed when the approval is granted or at any later time) as determined by NESA.

Approval may be granted for a maximum period of five years. Typically, the maximum period for initial approval is 12 months.

Inspectors and authorised persons

Inspectors have been appointed to exercise the function of this role under the Education Act. The role of Inspectors in the approval process is identified in section 2.4 of the Guidelines.

Inspections

The approval process involves dialogue between schools and personnel at NESA including Inspectors. Inspectors have a delegated role to conduct compliance inspections to ascertain whether or not the school provider complies with the requirements for approval. Inspections, including visits to the school’s site, are conducted when a school provider:

  • applies for initial approval to deliver courses to overseas students
  • applies to renew approval
  • applies to amend the scope of approval for courses
  • applies to amend the scope of approval to increase student capacity
  • applies to establish or relocate to a new site.

NESA can also initiate a site inspection at any time under the authority of the Education Act.
Inspectors may talk with staff and students to verify that the requirements for approval are being met.

Decisions regarding an application for approval

NESA has authority to, before making any decision under Part 7A of the Education Act (other than a decision to require a person to provide further information in relation to an application or a decision to grant such an application for approval or a decision to grant such an application unconditionally):

  • cause written notice of the proposed decision to be served on the provider concerned, and
  • give the provider a reasonable opportunity to make representations to NESA in relation to the proposed decision.

Notice of decisions

NESA has authority to:

  • serve notice of any decision under Part 7A of the Education Act, together with the reasons for the decision, on the provider to which the decision relates
  • require an approved school provider to cause notice of any change in provider’s details as identified in section 3.22 of the Guidelines to be given to a nominated person or body.

Providing information

Applications for approval specify the documentation to be provided. NESA has authority to require an applicant to provide further information in relation to an application.

Notifications to NESA

NESA has authority to require an approved school provider to give notice of any change in the provider’s details as identified in section 3.22 of the Guidelines.

Certificates

The Chief Executive Officer of NESA has authority to sign certificates that certify that on a specified date or during a specified period a specified person was or was not an approved provider, or as such a provider, was or was not approved to provide courses generally, a specified class of courses or a specified course, is admissible in any proceedings and is evidence of the fact or facts so certified.

Refusing an approval

NESA has authority to refuse an application for approval based on one or more of the grounds identified in section 2.5.4 of the Guidelines.

Amending, suspending, cancelling an approval

NESA has authority to:

  • amend, suspend or cancel an approval or revoke, amend or impose additional conditions as identified in section 2.5.5 of the Guidelines
  • lift the suspension of an approval at any time and to determine the payment of a fee that may be required before any such suspension is lifted
  • suspend or cancel an approval based on one or more of the grounds identified in section 2.5.5 of the Guidelines.

Appeal for review of certain decisions

NESA has authority to be or to appoint an internal review decision maker with respect to decisions conducted under the Administrative Decisions Review Act 1997 No 76 and identified in section 10 of the Guidelines.

Sharing information

NESA is authorised to disclose any information to any agency of the State or the Commonwealth or any other State or Territory or, to the extent authorised by the regulations, any other persons for the purposes of its functions as a designated authority under the ESOS Act.

Complaints

Responsibility for investigating complaints regarding overseas students is shared by NESA and the DoE. The Shared Responsibility Framework, developed by the DoE, identifies the responsibilities for investigating complaints. Section 4.9 of the Framework identifies the responsibilities for investigating complaints of state authorities such as NESA. Section 4.10 identifies the responsibilities of the DoE. The Shared Responsibility Framework is available on the Australian Education International website.

For those complaints identified as the responsibility of NESA, information regarding the process for raising concerns is available.

Where NESA receives a complaint that is identified in the Shared Responsibility Framework as the responsibility of the Commonwealth, the complaint will be referred to the DoE.

The Commonwealth Overseas Students Ombudsman investigates complaints about problems that overseas students have with private education and training in Australia. Information about the service provided by the Overseas Students Ombudsman is available on the Ombudsman’s website.

Fees

The NESA Chief Executive is authorised to determine a fee schedule for activities related to approval including an annual fee, and the fee to accompany an application for approval to provide courses for overseas students or a notification of a change to approval. Procedures for payment of application fees are identified in section 7.1 of the Guidelines. See the fee schedule.

NESA may take recovery action with respect to any fee payable as a debt, in any court of competent jurisdiction.

School providers operating more than one non-government school

A provider may operate more than one registered individual non-government school.

Providers that operate more than one registered individual non-government school are required to make a separate application for renewal of approval for each individual school that delivers courses to overseas students. The application must be made at the time the individual school makes an application for renewal of registration as an individual non-government school.

An application for renewal of approval is required to be made at least nine (9) months before the existing school’s registration as a non-government school is due to expire.

Where a provider operates more than one individual registered non-government school but is not the approved authority for a system of non-government schools as defined by the the Education Act, the end date of the approval period for the provider is determined by the latest date of approval of any one of the registered individual non-government schools operated by the provider.

School system providers

A ‘school system provider’ is an entity that has been approved to deliver courses to overseas students enrolled at schools owned and operated by the entity or for which the entity is the recognised school authority for the purpose of the relevant legislation. This is the case for the NSW Department of Education and Communities which is the approved school provider for government schools in NSW. It is also the case where the approved school provider is the approved authority of a system of non-government schools pursuant to section 42 of the Education Act, to monitor the compliance of its member schools with the requirements of the Education Act for registration and accreditation.

A school system provider may be approved by NESA to monitor the compliance of its member schools with the requirements for approval described in section 3 of the Guidelines. If approved, NESA will monitor the school system provider’s processes for ensuring the compliance of its member schools delivering courses to overseas students with the requirements for approval as detailed in the Guidelines.

NESA approval of a school system provider’s monitoring procedures requires that the school system provider monitor its school delivery sites in the manner which has been approved by NESA. If the school system provider proposes to change the manner in which the compliance of its school delivery sites is monitored, the school system provider must seek NESA approval nine months prior to implementing the proposed change.

NESA will monitor annually the monitoring procedures of a school system provider and a report on the monitoring will be provided to NESA’s School Registration Committee.

Wherever feasible, NESA’s monitoring of a school system provider that is also a registration system will align and integrate with NESA’s annual monitoring of the registration system.

In accordance with NESA’s Guidelines, Inspectors will assess the compliance of a school system provider with all requirements for approval when an application for renewal of approval is made.

Assessment of the compliance of a school system provider may also occur if concerns are raised that the school system provider and/or one of its school delivery sites may not be complying with the requirements for approval.

In most cases, the period of approval of the school system provider will apply to all member schools delivering courses to overseas students.

An application for renewal of approval from a school system provider must be made at least nine (9) months before the existing approval to deliver courses to overseas students is due to expire or at a later date decided by NESA and communicated to the approved authority for the system in writing.

A school system provider must also have documented processes for notifying NESA with regard to the circumstances identified in Section 3.22 of the Guidelines.

NESA’s Guidelines provide information about the regulatory framework and requirements for school providers delivering courses to overseas students.

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