education.vic.gov.au

School operations

Sister School Partnerships

Arrangements with overseas partners

Engagement with international counterparts is a valuable way of ensuring our education system remains connected and relevant in an increasingly complex world.

Australia’s Foreign Relations (State and Territory Arrangements) Act 2020 (Cth) (the Foreign Relations Act) establishes a framework for the Australian Government to ensure that arrangements between Australian state and territory governments and foreign governments (and their associated entities) are consistent with Australia’s foreign relations policy.

This framework applies to relationships between government schools and foreign entities. This includes, but is not limited to:

  • relationships with overseas governments, their departments and agencies
  • universities that do not have institutional autonomy
  • schools which form part of or are operated and controlled by overseas governments.

The Victorian Department of Premier and Cabinet (DPC) coordinates and liaises with the Australian Government Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) for the approval process for all Victorian foreign arrangements.

The Foreign Relations Act establishes 2 types of foreign arrangements:

  • non-core foreign arrangements
  • core foreign arrangements.

Prior to varying existing, or negotiating and/or entering into new written arrangements with foreign entities, including sister school arrangements, schools must follow the below steps to ensure the arrangements obtain appropriate approval. This policy relates to changes to existing arrangements, or new foreign arrangements.

Non-core foreign arrangements

Non-core foreign arrangements are arrangements between Victorian government schools and overseas sub-national government departments, agencies or government schools (for example, at provincial/prefectural/state, municipal or county level).

The Australian Government has implemented a notification process that schools must undertake before signing a non-core written arrangement with a foreign entity.

  • Step 1: Schools wishing to vary or enter into a written arrangement with a non-core foreign entity must complete the school foreign arrangements form (Word)External Link and a draft sister school memorandum of understanding (Word)External Link , and email both to the International Education Division (IED) at schools.connect@education.vic.gov.au
  • Step 2: IED will submit both documents to the Department’s Secretary and DPC for approval. DPC will notify the Australian Government of the school’s intention to enter into a written agreement with a foreign entity.
  • Step 3: If approved, IED will advise the school to sign the written arrangement.
  • Step 4: School can proceed to sign the written arrangement and provide a copy to IED. A final copy of the signed written arrangement must be provided to DFAT, via IED, for inclusion on DFAT’s online public register within 14 days of its execution.

Core foreign arrangements

Core foreign arrangements are those arranged between Victorian government schools and an overseas national-level government department or agency (for example, a national Ministry or Department of Education).

The Australian Government has implemented a 2-stage approval process that schools must undertake before negotiating and entering into a core written arrangement with a foreign entity.

Stage 1 of the approval process – prior to negotiation

  • Step 1: Schools wishing to vary or enter into a written arrangement with a core foreign entity must seek approval before commencing negotiation of the arrangement or variation. Schools must complete the school foreign arrangements form (Word)External Link and email it to IED at schools.connect@education.vic.gov.au
  • Step 2: IED will submit the form to the Australian Government via the Department’s Secretary and DPC to seek approval for the school to begin negotiations with the core foreign entity.
  • Step 3:
    • If the Australian Government grants initial approval, IED will advise schools to begin negotiations with the core foreign entity.
    • If the Australian Government does not grant initial approval, schools must advise the core foreign entity that the proposed negotiations cannot proceed.

Stage 2 of the approval process – during negotiation/drafting written arrangement

  • Step 4: Schools must provide IED with a copy of the draft unsigned written arrangement following the conclusion of negotiations.
  • Step 5: IED will provide the draft unsigned written arrangement to the Australian Government via the Department’s Secretary and DPC to seek secondary approval for schools to formalise the partnership with the core foreign entity.
  • Step 6:
    • If the Australian Government approves the draft written arrangement, the school can proceed to sign the written arrangement and provide a copy to IED. A final copy of the signed written arrangement must be provided to DFAT, via IED, for inclusion on DFAT’s online public register within 14 days of its execution.
    • If the Australian Government does not grant secondary approval, schools must advise the core foreign entity that the proposed partnership or variation to an arrangement cannot proceed.

Online public register

The Australian Government has established an online public register of foreign arrangements established by state and territory government departments and their agencies, Australian public universities and local governments. Details of school foreign arrangements will be published online and include the title and parties of the foreign arrangement, date it was entered into and any decision made by the Minister for Foreign Affairs. The online register is available at: Foreign Arrangements Public RegisterExternal Link .

Includes information on core and non-core foreign arrangements and online public register of foreign arrangements

Reviewed 21 October 2021

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