Australian Government - Australian Education International

National Code Part D, Standard 4

Education agents

 

Explanatory guide for Standard 4

 

Frequently asked questions on this page:

Registered providers take all reasonable measures to use education agents that have an appropriate knowledge and understanding of the Australian international education industry and do not use education agents who are dishonest or lack integrity.

 

This standard strengthens the ability of providers to manage the activities of their education agents, ensuring providers use only reputable education agents. Intending students will benefit from the monitoring strategies of the provider and from the provider’s ability to terminate agreements with education agents who engage in false or misleading recruitment practices.

 

Key requirements for all sectors

The provider has a written agreement with each education agent it engages to recruit students on its behalf. Providers are not required to have a written agreement with agents who act on behalf of students or parents.

  • The provider specifies the responsibilities of the education agent and the provider and the need to abide by the National Code 2007.
  • The provider ensures its education agents have up-to-date and accurate marketing information.
  • The provider monitors the activities of its education agents and takes action, including terminating the agreement, when the education agent does not fulfill its responsibilities.

 

It is mandatory for a provider to have a written agreement with education agents it engages to formally represent it. ‘Formally’ covers situations where the agent promotes courses of the provider with the intention of recruiting students for the provider.

 

What this standard involves:

 

4.1  

The registered provider must enter into a written agreement with each education agent it engages to formally represent it. The agreement must specify the responsibilities of the education agent and the registered provider and the need to comply with the requirements in the National Code. The agreement must include:

a.

processes for monitoring the activities of the education agent, including where corrective action may be required; and

b.

termination conditions, including providing for termination in the circumstances outlined in Standard 4.4.

 

  • Standard 4.1 applies to providers who negotiate with education agents to encourage students to study with the provider. The agreement formalises an ongoing and significant relationship in which the agent has undertaken to recruit students.
  • Where an agent approaches a provider on behalf of the parents or students, no agreement is required. In this case the provider has not issued the education agent with marketing material and there is no formal understanding that the education agent will promote the provider’s courses on its behalf on an ongoing basis.
  • Providers’ agreements with education agents include processes for monitoring the activities of agents and termination conditions. Monitoring processes, which must allow providers to evaluate the activities of the education agent, may include one or more of the following:
    • regular face-to-face meetings with agents onshore or offshore;
    • telephone/teleconference meetings;
    • regular reports from agents;
    • surveys of students recruited by particular agents;
    • surveys of parents of the students recruited by particular agents;
    • performance benchmarks included in agreements;
    • spot checks by providers, for example, to observe agents at work at education fairs; or
    • surveys of agents.

    4.2  

    The registered provider must ensure that its education agents have access to up-to-date and accurate marketing information as set out in Standard 1 (Marketing information and practices).

     

    • Providers who engage education agents to persuade students to study with them are responsible for providing up to date marketing material to the agents.
    • Information used for marketing and recruitment purposes should be updated as changes occur.

    4.3  

    The registered provider must not accept students from an education agent or enter into an agreement with an education agent if it knows or reasonably suspects the education agent to be:

    a.  

    engaged in, or to have previously been engaged in, dishonest practices, including the deliberate attempt to recruit a student where this clearly conflicts with the obligations of registered providers under Standard 7 (Transfer between registered providers);

    b.

    facilitating the enrolment of a student who the education agent believes will not comply with the conditions of his or her student visa

    c.

    using Provider Registration and International Students Management System (PRISMS) to create Confirmations of Enrolment for other than bona fide a student; or

      

    d. 

    providing immigration advice where not authorised under the Migration Act 1958 to do so.

     

    • ‘Reasonably suspects’ means that there are grounds for believing that the education agent is involved in the activities listed in Standard 4.3. ‘Grounds for believing’ could arise as the result of monitoring activities or reports from a number of students and that number is proportionate to the total number of students recruited from an agent. Complaints about an education agent from three students of 100 recruited may not create grounds for reasonable suspicion, but complaints from three students of a cohort of ten students recruited by an education agent may be grounds for reasonable suspicion. The National Code does not prescribe the behaviour that should be regarded a suspicious. Providers are in a position to judge from the circumstances (for example, the scale) of their operation.

     

    4.4  

    Where the registered provider has entered into an agreement with an education agent and subsequently becomes aware of, or reasonably suspects, the engagement by that education agent, or an employee or sub-contractor of that agent, of the conduct set out in Standard 4.3, the registered provider must terminate the agreement with the education agent. This paragraph does not apply where an individual employee or sub-contractor of the education agent was responsible for the conduct set out in Standard 4.3 and the education agent has terminated the relationship with that individual employee or sub-contractor.

     

    • The provider has an agreement with the education agent, not the employee or sub-contractor of the agent.
    • The provider must terminate the agreement with the education agent if the education agent does not take action against the individual employee or sub-contractor.

    4.5  

    The registered provider must take immediate corrective and preventative action upon the registered provider becoming aware of an education agent being negligent, careless or incompetent or being engaged in false, misleading or unethical advertising and recruitment practices, including practices that could harm the integrity of Australian education and training.

     

    • Preventative action could include training sessions for agents and ensuring they have all the material they need to represent the provider accurately and professionally.
    • Corrective may include providing additional information/material or targeted training in, for example, the expectations of the provider. Corrective action may also include termination of the agreement with the education agent.

    Compliance tips

    For a provider to show it is complying with Standard 4, it may need some of the following as evidence:

    • a written agreement with each education agent a provider engages to formally represent it
    • evidence that the provider has undertaken monitoring activity of its agents
    • copies of agreements that have been terminated, where applicable
    • evidence of processes for updating promotional material used by agents and for informing agents of any changes; or
    • evidence of immediate corrective and preventative action (for example, record of telephone conversation, email) taken when the registered provider becomes aware that the education agent has become negligent, careless or incompetent or has engaged in false, misleading or unethical advertising and recruitment practices.

     

    Common questions and answers

     

    Written agreement

     

    Q

    Must we review and update all our current contracts with our education agents, specifically to include a reference to compliance with the National Code 2007?

    A

    You should review the agreements you have in place to ensure they are compliant with the National Code 2007.  If they are not, you should vary the contracts at the first available opportunity.  Most contracts include a procedure for making variations to the contract.

     

    Q

    Can we pay a commission to education agents who approach us if we don’t have a written agreement with them?

    A

    Yes. You may pay a commission if you do not have a formal agreement with the agent. However you must enter into a written agreement if the relationship changes to an ongoing one where the agent formally represents your institution.

     

    Q

    Does a provider need to state on a letter of offer that they do not have a written agreement with an agent?

    A

    The provider does not have to advise an intending student whether or not they have a written agreement with an education agent.

     

    Q

    Is an agent without an agreement deemed to be representing the student’s parents?  Should a provider issue a letter of offer that states there is no agreement in place?

    A

    It is not that an agent without an agreement is deemed to be ‘representing the student’. It is that you, as the provider, have not formally engaged the agent to represent you and recruit students for your institution. The National Code 2007 does not oblige a provider to inform an intending student whether or not they have a written agreement with an education agent. However a provider may choose to include it in the Letter of Offer to make it clear that the agent is not acting on the provider’s behalf.

     

    Q

    In their agreements with agents, should providers stop agents giving their commission to students as a way of reducing the students’ tuition?  Can an agent give a student their entire commission?

    A

    An agent can give a student their commission to reduce the student’s tuition fees.  If a provider wanted to prevent this practice they could incorporate the condition into the written agreement with the agent.

    Except for the requirements prescribed by Standard 4, the content of the business arrangement between the provider and the agent is a matter for the provider and agent to determine and agree.

     

    Q

    Is an agreement that states that the agent must be ‘independent’ and ‘not the agent of the provider, but the agent of the student’ compliant with the National Code 2007?

    A

    A definitive answer to this question cannot be provided without seeing and understanding the entire agreement, however some guidelines follow.

    The test for assessing this is to initially ask: Is the agent formally representing you?  If the agent is not formally representing you, and they are representing the student, why do you have an agreement with them?

    If the agreement you have has terms and conditions relating to the scope of the agent’s promotional activities, commissions and the like, then the agent is formally representing you regardless of additional provisions it may contain.  In these circumstances, the agreement would need to meet all of the requirements of Standard 4.

     

    Q

    Are providers who engage education agents to recruit only a small number of students required to have a written agreement?

    A

    Yes, whenever a provider engages education agents to recruit students on its behalf, a written agreement is required.

     

    A small provider has an agreement with an education agent and will terminate the agreement if the agent uses unethical practices.

    The College of Religion is a small provider who recruits international students using education agents in three countries. The college has agreements with each of its education agents. In the agreements the college has stipulated that the agent must submit a report every three months, detailing the number of students interviewed in the agent’s office and at other venues such as education fairs. The provider conducts surveys of all students recruited through the education agents, asking questions relating to the information about the provider the agent supplied and the level of assistance given to help the student to travel to Australia. 

    Recently several students complained to the provider through the survey that one of the education agents had held out the promise of scholarships with the college once they had arrived in Australia. The college investigated, found false claims had been made and terminated the agreement with the agent.

     

    Note:

    • Even though the provider recruits only a small number of international students, it is required to enter into an agreement with the education agents because the provider is using the education agents to formally represent it.
    • The provider has several strategies to monitor the activities of the education agents without imposing a great cost on the provider.
    • One of the strategies to monitor the activities of education agents has revealed that one of the agents engaged in dishonest practices. Under Standard 4.1 b., an agreement will contain provisions that allow the provider to terminate an arrangement with its agents.

    Q

    What are the responsibilities of the provider if the provider accepts students from an education agent who approached the provider and with whom there is no written agreement?

    A

    If a provider accepts a student it is required to fulfil all of its responsibilities under the National Code 2007. This includes providing accurate information about courses and all of the other pre-enrolment engagement requirements under Standards 1, 2 and 3.

    Under Standard 4, the requirement is that a provider must not accept students if it knows or reasonably suspects an education agent to be involved in the activities outlined in Standard 4.3.

     

    The agent is acting on behalf of parents

    An agent in India was approached by parents to find a provider in Australia who could offer a reputable course in graphic arts for their three children. The agent scans the websites of Australian providers and finds a provider who offers a course that seems suitable. Further scanning of the website provides additional information about the provider and subsequent email correspondence leads to a letter of offer and enrolment form. In the letter of offer, the provider informs the students that the provider does not have an agreement with the agent and therefore the provider is not required under Education Services for Overseas Students (ESOS) to take responsibility for the activities of the agent. The provider may wish to explain this situation further to the student.

     

    Note:

    • The education agent was acting on behalf of parents and not a provider; hence no written agreement with the agent was required. The provider can choose not to accept students from this education agent.
    • Following good practice, the provider informed the student in the letter of offer that there was no written agreement with the education agent.
    • Agents asking for general information flyers about a provider are not required to enter into a formal agreement with the provider. An agreement is only required when the provider engages the agent to represent it. Once such an agreement is in place, the provider must ensure its education agents have access to up-to-date and accurate marketing information.

    Q

    Does the National Code 2007 permit an agent to collect money from a student on behalf of a provider?

    A

    The National Code 2007 does not have any requirements with regard to an agent who collects money from a student on behalf of a provider. Good practice would dictate that the arrangements for collecting money from a student would be set out in the provider’s written agreement with the agents it engages. Provider good practice would also address the use of trust accounts.

     

     Monitoring

     

    Q

    How does a provider monitor the activities of its education agents?

    A

    A provider may choose a variety of methods to monitor the activities of its education agents. See Standard 4.1 ‘What this standard involves’.  The provider must include the processes for monitoring the activities of the education agent in the agreement between the education agent and the provider.

     

    A large provider monitors the activities of its education agents

    The University of the South, on average, recruits 2000 international students each year. It receives the bulk of students from four education agents with whom the university has formal agreements. The university brings its offshore agents to Australia for seminars and information sessions each year. The university’s agreement includes attendance at this yearly event as a mandatory requirement and sets out benchmarks for recruitment. The university also requires its agents to undertake the Education Agents Training Course online. The university receives small numbers of students on an ad hoc basis from other education agents who approach the university on behalf of international students or their parents. There is no formal agreement with these agents.

     

    Note:

    • The university has formal agreements with the education agents it engages to recruit students on its behalf. By having an agreement, the provider is able to monitor the activities of the agents.
    • The university does not have a formal agreement (nor is it required) with the education agents who act on behalf of international students or their parents.
    • The university takes preventative action by ensuring that the education agents it uses are fully trained to represent the university.  The University of the South has chosen only to use agents who have undertaken the Education Agent Training Course, which can be found at the Pier online website. This is the university’s choice, and is not a requirement under the National Code 2007. Providers may wish (but are not required) to run their own training programmes for the agents they engage.
    • In addition to ensuring that its education agents are fully trained, the university also monitors the activities of education agents by surveying the students recruited and contacting some of the parents.

     

    Dishonest practices

     

    Q

    Does the Department of Education advise providers of an agents ‘black list’ ?  If not, how would a provider know of any unethical behaviour if they have not directly experienced any problems with an agent or received complaints from students?

     

    A

    If the Department of Education is made aware of information in the course of business that indicates that an education agent has been engaged in unethical behaviour, and that providers are doing business with the agent, the Department of Education would alert those providers to the information.

    The department  would not, however, issue a ‘black list’ of agents suspected of unethical behaviour for reasons relating to privacy. It is the responsibility of the provider to undertake monitoring activities to ensure their agents are acting in accordance with the responsibilities and expectations outlined in the agreement.

     

    Q

    What action can really be taken against unethical agent behaviour?

    A

    It is the responsibility of a provider to undertake monitoring activities to ensure their agents are acting in accordance with the responsibilities and expectations outlined in the agreement and the National Code 2007. The provider must also outline the consequences of that action in terms of corrective action and termination conditions. 

     

    Q

    How can a provider deal with an education agent that it does not have an agreement with, but suspects is acting unethically?

    A

    A provider must not accept students from an agent it suspects is not acting ethically.

     

    A provider must not accept students from an agent it suspects of acting unethically

    The Angels’ Nursing College is a Commonwealth Register for Institutions and Courses for Overseas Students (CRICOS) registered institution, offering qualifications in nursing.The college does not engage agents but relies on word of mouth recommendations and agents seeking it out on behalf of interested students. The college suspects that one agent who has brought it students is interfering with students’ certificates of previous education submitted with their applications. While investigation into the suspected fraud is required, in the meantime the college must not accept students from this agent.

     

    Note:

    • The provider does not have an agreement with any education agents because it has relied on education agents contacting the provider.
    • The provider must not accept students from any education agent it suspects is acting unethically.
    • The provider should report its concerns about fraudulent certificates to its local DIBP office. The provider may also wish to inform the Department of Education of its concerns about the agent’s behaviour through the ESOS Helpline or ESOS online enquiry form.

    Q

    Does a provider terminate an agreement with an agent if it knows or suspects an employee of the agent is engaged in the activities mentioned in Standard 4.3?

    A

    The provider should report the employee to the education agent (agency) with whom the provider has an agreement. The education agent may investigate the complaint and possibly terminate the employee’s contract. The provider may terminate its agreement with the education agent, depending on the terms of the agreement.

     

    A provider complains to an education agent about the actions of one of its employees.

    Speakwell College provides CRICOS registered courses in the ELICOS, higher education and VET sectors. The college has an agreement with JBJ World, an education agent that has employees in twenty countries. The agreement clearly stipulates that JBJ World and its employees may not charge students any fees, as the college pays JBJ World a commission for each student it brings the college. 

    One of JBJ World Pty Ltd’s employees who has been active in recruiting students for Speakwell College has been reported by a parent for charging students a fee for ‘education services’. Speakwell College lodges a complaint with the JBJ World who investigates the complaint and subsequently terminates its relationship with the employee in question. JBJ World then notifies Speakwell College of the action taken.

    Note:

    • The provider has an agreement with an education agent, not with individual employees of the agent.
    • The provider reports the employee to the agent because the provider suspects that the employee of the agent has been acting unethically.
    • The agreement with the agent has not been terminated. The provider is satisfied with the action of the agent.
    • Providers need to make themselves aware of any state and territory laws which apply to making allegations of unethical behaviour.

     

    Recruit

     

    Q

    Our current practice is to require an agent to successfully recruit two students prior to signing an agreement. Is this policy compliant with the new requirements?

    A

    No. If you are engaging this agent to formally represent your institution, you must enter into a written agreement with them. You could, however, consider seeking advice on the inclusion of a requirement - such as your current one - as a provisional condition of the arrangement.

     

    Education Agent Training Course

     

    Q

    When will the Education Agent Training Course testing be available in China?

    A

    The outcome of negotiations now underway with the Chinese Ministry of Education will be advised in the AEI online newsletter.

     

    Q

    What will the arrangements be for those agents that have already completed the course and are on the register? Will they have to re-sit the test?

    A

    Education agents, which have already completed the test, will not need to re-do the qualification. The agents test website has information on the changes. Agents should read this site to stay abreast of changes. The site has links to both the AEI and ESOS websites. Another education resource is the ISANA Standard 4 online tutorial.

     

    Q

    How do agents find out what is required to ensure they are compliant with the National Code 2007?

    A

    The provider must ensure the written agreement it has with an agent specifies the responsibilities of each party and the need to comply with the National Code 2007. Further guidance for both providers and agents is in the National Code 2007, the Explanatory Guide and the online Education Agents Training Course .

     

    Connections

     

    Standard

    National Code

    ESOS Act

    Other

    4

    Standard 1

    Standard 2

    Standard 3

    Standard 7

    The Migration Act 1958

     

    Information

    For further information, please visit the AEI and DIBP websites.