Four members of the ISEAA Board travelled to Canberra on 30 Nov and 1 Dec to meet with senior representatives of the Department of Education Skills and Employment (DESE), The Department of Home Affairs (DHA), Universities Australia (UA), TAFE Directors Australia (TDA), the Independent Tertiary Education Council of Australia (ITECA) and Study Canberra. In all, 12 representatives of these important stakeholder organisations were met with over five meetings across two days. ITECA very generously offered the ISEAA delegation the use their Board Room for the two days.
The purpose of the visit was for the ISEAA delegation to consult more widely on the Education Agent Certification- Registered Student Visa Advisor (RSVA). It is very timely, as for some time concerns have been raised by several government agencies and stakeholders from within the industry that some Education Agents are not adhering to Government legislation and policies by, often inadvertently, providing immigration advice to students which is contrary to the legislation.
ISEAA presented an early version of the RSVA ‘Framework’ to both DESE and DHA in September this year. The feedback from those meetings was that wider consultation with the industry was required and any certification would have to focus on the legal obligations of Education Agents. An expert panel made up of international education industry stakeholders also reviewed the RSVA Framework and provided in depth feedback, mostly focussed on requesting more clarity as to what the RSVA was hoping to achieve. All stakeholders were supportive of the concept of the Education Agent Certification- Registered Student Visa Advisor (RSVA) and most provided in-depth feedback and suggested changes which will be incorporated into further drafts
As the Peak Body for Education Agents nationally ISEAA is taking a two phased approach to addressing this problem.
Phase One. This is an immediate response to concerns about Education Agent practice, by finalising and implementing the RSVA Agent Certification program. Initially, ISEAA members followed by the broader Education Agent industry would be offered the opportunity to become a Certified Education Agent which would be an industry ‘tick of quality’.
Essentially this is about ensuring that Education Agents are informed about their legal obligations and the clear parameters their advice must adhere to. In addition, the course will also include some minimum standards that Agents should meet in terms of the service they provide to their client base. The RSVA could be seen as part of the Continuing Professional Development (CPD) of Education Agents. In-depth consultation has already begun with other Peak Bodies and industry stakeholders to gain their support for such a program.
Phase Two: ISEAA will embark on a long-term strategy to work with government and industry to come up with a solution that may allow Education Agents to broaden their advice and remain within the law. This will be a large body of work that will take extensive research and wide consultation and hopefully result in an industry-based solution that could be adopted by government in the medium to long term.
The meetings in Canberra were very positive, with all stakeholders broadly supportive of the phased approach and keen to be involved in an ongoing review process. Feedback on Phase One was centered around a few key issues such as more clarity in terms of purpose and proposed outcomes, a proposed funding model, more information on quality assurance, projected take-up amongst Education Agents, the impact on off-shore agents and ensuring overt industry support.
This great work by ISEAA Board Member Michal Sestak and Executive Officer Robert Parsonson has really placed ISEAA at the forefront of a great industry-based initiative and reform agenda which ultimately improves the professionalism and reputation of Education Agents.