Australian Government - Australian Education International

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ESOS regulation serving overseas students in Australia

Australia has a reputation as a safe, progressive and dynamic place to study, and we maintain this reputation by providing quality education and consumer protection specifically developed for overseas students. 

The Education Services for Overseas Students (ESOS) Act 2000 and associated legislation are the legal framework governing the responsibility of education institutions towards overseas students.

ESOS Act and complementary legislation

The ESOS legislative framework comprises:

  • Education Services for Overseas Students (ESOS) Act 2000
  • Education Services for Overseas Students (ESOS) Regulations 2001
  • The National Code of Practice for Registration Authorities and Providers of Education and Training to Overseas Students (National Code)
  • Education Services for Overseas Students (Registration Charges) Act 1997
  • ESOS Assurance Fund Act.


Legislation benefits everyone

The ESOS laws benefit two particular groups:

  1. They protect overseas students coming to Australia on student visas. They do not cover overseas students on other kinds of visas, nor do they cover students studying at Australian institutions based in other countries.
  2. They set out clear roles and responsibilities for education institutions wanting to teach overseas students. 

What is CRICOS?

The Commonwealth Register of Institutions and Courses for Overseas Students (CRICOS) is a database of more than 1200 Australian education institutions. Any education institution that recruits, enrols or teaches overseas students must be registered on CRICOS for every course offered to overseas students. 

To become registered on CRICOS, an education institution must first satisfy rigorous quality assurance requirements. Australia is currently working towards the national regulation of all education providers and courses with the establishment of the Australian Skills Quality Authority (ASQA) for the Vocational Education and Training (VET) sector in July 2011 and the the Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency (TEQSA) for the higher education sector due to be established in early 2012.

Each institution and course registered on CRICOS has an identifying CRICOS number. This number must be shown on all promotional material for that institution offered to overseas students. If there is no CRICOS number, the institution may not be registered to teach overseas students.

To determine if an institution or course is registered on CRICOS, please check the publicly available CRICOS website.      

What is PRISMS?

The Provider Registration and International Students Management System (PRISMS) provides a secure computer system for education institutions on CRICOS to manage their student enrolments and comply with ESOS requirements.

The system interfaces with the Department of Immigration and Border Protection (DIBP) and includes all registered education institutions and their courses as well as each student studying in Australia on a student visa.

Through PRISMS, education institutions notify DIBP of each student’s enrolment in a course. This occurs before the student applies for a student visa to study in Australia. The enrolment information generates an electronic Confirmation of Enrolment (CoE) as evidence of enrolment in a registered full-time course. This CoE is a key requirement for DIBP to issue a student visa.

Education institutions also use PRISMS to notify DIBP of students who may have breached the terms of their student visa  for example, when the student has not met their education institution's attendance requirements.

PRISMS has reduced visa fraud and ensured education institutions keep track of the students in their care.

Ensuring students get what they paid for

The ESOS legislation requires all education institutions to enter into a written agreement with overseas students when they enrol. The agreement must specify a student's entitlement to a refund in cases of both provider and student default.

What students should do if they want to enrol in a course in Australia

Students should make sure the education institution provides all the information they are required to provide under the ESOS legislation to help students make an informed choice. This includes information such as: a description of the course and campus locations, facilities and learning resources, the minimum English language proficiency and any conditions on enrolment. 

The education institution must also provide a detailed list of the costs of the course or courses and information about refunds and how students can apply for a refund if they are entitled to one before the student signs a written agreement.  Students must read and understand their written agreement before paying any fees to their education institution. Consult the National Code Part D Standard 2 and Standard 3 and visit the Study in Australia website for more detailed information. 

Making a complaint

Students who feel that they have not received the education they have paid for or have another kind of complaint about their course or institution should first try to resolve the matter with their education instituiton. Information about the institution's complaints and appeal processes can generally be found on the institution's website.

Under the ESOS legislation, education institutions are required to provide students with access to an external statutorily independent complaints and appeals process for matters that can not be resolved between the student and the education institution internally.

Overseas students attending publicly funded education institutions generally have access to the relevant state or territory Ombudsman.

The Overseas Students Ombudsman investigates complaints about problems that overseas students have with private education and training institutions in Australia. Their website can be found at: The Training Advocate of South Australia investigates complaints from overseas students attending a private education institution in South Australia.

The Department of Education provides information and advice to help students understand their rights and obligations. The Department of Education does not follow up individual student complaints.

Please refer to enquiries for the Department of Education's contact details.

The Department of Education's role

The Department of Education manages the ESOS legislative framework. It maintains CRICOS and PRISMS, and educates education institutions about their ESOS obligations. It works closely with DIBP and also has the authority to investigate education institutions to make sure they are complying with the ESOS laws. 

The Department of Education can impose sanctions against an education institution if they are not following the law. Sanctions include suspending or cancelling the right of the education institution to teach overseas students. Breaching the laws may also be a criminal offence attracting fines or imprisonment. 

The ESOS Framework – providing quality and protecting your rights

A broad outline of the ESOS framework designed for prospective students is now available.