School operations

International Student Program (ISP)

1. Introduction and legislative framework

This section covers an overview of the legislative framework and roles and responsibilities.

Overview of the International Student Program

The ISP enables international students, i.e. those students who have been issued a student visa from the Department of Home Affairs, to enrol in accredited Victorian government schools.

The ISP is integral to internationalising schooling in Victoria: a strategy to ensure Victorian schools develop globally ready students and foster internationally minded schools. A globally oriented education system is crucial to ensuring that Victoria’s young people have the skills they need to succeed in an increasingly inter-connected world and workplace. An internationalised education system enables students to speak more than 1 language, demonstrate intercultural understanding, respect cultural diversity, undertake part of their schooling overseas, and understand their responsibilities as global citizens.

The importance of an internationalised education is acknowledged explicitly by the inclusion of languages and intercultural capabilities in the Victorian Curriculum F-10 and global citizenship in the Framework for Improving Student Outcomes (FISO):

  • The different perspectives that come from studying alongside people from other countries, and learning about other cultures, can stimulate critical and creative thinking.
  • Cultural immersion programs build global citizenship, build student resilience and school pride.
  • Global learning opportunities with students from another country add a new dimension to classroom learning and lift engagement levels.
  • Global networks enables excellence in teaching and learning through collaboration projects which build practice excellence and curriculum planning and assessment.

This is reflected in the ISP’s core objectives which are to:

  • enhance the cultural diversity of Victorian government schools and giving Victorian school students the opportunity to engage with international students and share learning experiences
  • provide rich and educationally rewarding experiences for school aged international students which reflect the culture and value of Australia
  • facilitate a pathway to further education and training in Australia for international students
  • promote the qualities of education in Victorian government schools in international markets
  • afford opportunities for curriculum diversity and program expansion through an income stream that is additional to funding provided by government and locally raised funds in schools.

Legislative framework and roles and responsibilities

The Legislative Framework — CRICOS registration and school accreditation

The ISP is enabled by the Department of Education having sought, and been approved for, registration on the Commonwealth Register of Institutions and Courses for Overseas Students (CRICOS) through the Victorian Registration and Qualifications Authority (VRQA). The Department is registered for the maximum period of 5 years. Once 5 years has elapsed, DE must apply to the VRQA for a renewed period of registration on CRICOS. The VRQA can only grant registration if it is satisfied that the Department together with the schools accredited to participate in the ISP.

As the CRICOS registered provider, DE is responsible for ensuring that schools it accredits through the ISP also complies with ESOS requirements. This is achieved through the Department’s ISP accreditation program. Only those government school who have been accredited by DE International Education Division (IED) and continue to meet accreditation requirements can accept international students.

About ESOS

ESOS is an acronym that refers to the legislated framework underpinned by the Education Services for Overseas Students Act 2000 (ESOS Act) (Cth)External Link . The ESOS framework protects the interests of overseas students by:

  • assuring the quality of education services offered to international students by allowing only recognised education and training providers to be approved for registration on CRICOS (only CRICOS approved providers can access PRISMS to issue an electronic Confirmation of Enrolment to an international student which then enables them to apply for a student visa to study in Australia), and
  • protecting students’ financial interests through compulsory consumer protection mechanisms such as pre-enrolment information and formal written agreements about the education services students can expect to receive.

Components of the ESOS framework most relevant to Victorian government schools include:

The National Code

The National Code is a set of standards that govern the protection of international students and delivery of courses to those students by providers registered on CRICOS. Providers must comply with the National Code to maintain their CRICOS registration. The 11 standards in the National Code reflect the lifecycle of an international student as follows.

Standard 1 — Marketing information and practices

Links to Australian Consumer Law by making sure providers do not give prospective students false or misleading information.

Standard 2 — Recruitment of an overseas students

Requires providers to give detailed information to prospective students to help them make an informed choice about their study options in Australia. Providers must also assess the suitability of applicants by making sure they have suitable academic and English language skills to participate in the course.

Standard 3 — Formalisation of enrolment and written agreement

Requires providers to enter into a formal contract with an international student before accepting any course fees.

Standard 4 — Education agents

Clarifies requirements for a written agreement between a provider and education agents. Providers must enter and maintain details of agents with whom they have a written agreement in PRISMS.

Standard 5 — Younger overseas students

Provides guidance on the care and welfare of international students under the age of 18.

Standard 6 — Overseas support services

Specifies the range of support services that providers must offer to students to help them adjust to life and study in Australia.

Standard 7 — Overseas student transfers

Provides guidance for providers on when a student’s transfer request should be granted. For the school sector, international students are now restricted from transferring until they have completed the first 6 months of their first school course.

Standard 8 — Overseas student visa requirements

Requires providers to monitor international students’ compliance with their visa conditions relating to course attendance, progress and completion according to the sector of education. The expected duration of study cannot exceed the CRICOS registered duration for the course unless there have been compassionate or compelling circumstances affecting an international student’s study plans.

Standard 9 — Deferring, suspending or cancelling the overseas student’s enrolment

Sets out how providers must manage and report changes to the enrolment of an overseas student in order to protect the integrity of the student visa system.

Standard 10 — Complaints and appeals

Ensures that international students have access to natural justice through professional, timely, inexpensive and well documented complaints handling and appeals processes.

Standard 11 — Additional registration requirements

Sets out additional registration requirements related to CRICOS course approvals including limitations on online or distance education and delivery through third parties.

Roles and responsibilities

Department of Education
  • The Department of Education and Training (DE) is a registered provider on CRICOS.
  • DE is responsible for meeting requirements under Commonwealth and Victorian legislation, and for supporting Victorian ISP schools to meet legislative requirements.
Victorian government schools accredited by DE
  • DE accredits individual Victorian government schools as ISP schools. These ISP schools are responsible for the delivery of educational, welfare, accommodation and support services to international students. When DE (IED) accredits a school, it accredits the school with a maximum international student enrolment cap, and will accredit the school as either a:
    • Level 2 School — Can undertake all ISP activities, including providing homestay accommodation and participating in DE (IED) marketing activities
    • Level 1 School — Can undertake all ISP activities, except for providing homestay accommodation and participating in DE (IED) marketing activities
  • International students cannot enrol in a Victorian government school by any avenue other than through DE (IED).
Responsibility for compliance with obligations under the ESOS framework
  • Although the ultimate responsibility for compliance rests with the IED, schools and IED share this responsibility in order to ensure that international students engage in a high quality learning experience.
  • Policies and procedures underpinning the ISP specify actual responsibility for each obligation under the ESOS framework.
  • Schools should use DE’s ESOS Training for School Staff videoExternal Link to run annual training with staff who interact directly with international students so they understand their ESOS obligations.
  • The ISP school compliance checklist (DOCX)External Link is provided as a resource to assist schools in meeting the requirements of the ESOS framework.
Section 1 of the ISP School Toolkit providing an overview of the International Student Program and outlining relevant legislation, roles and responsibilities

Reviewed 29 February 2024

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