The Commonwealth Ombudsman has called for
private education providers to be clearer on fees with international students
who have pre-paid for courses.
The Ombudsman investigates complaints by
international students against private providers and says the most common
complaint is from students wanting pre-paid tuition fees refunded before they
have finished their course.
“Students’ ability to seek this refund should be stated in
their written agreement with the provider,” it says.
The Ombudsman received 1324 complaints in
2018-19, an increase of 32.5 per cent.
That doesn’t sound much against
the figure of 740,000 international students studying in Australia, although since
the Ombudsman only investigates complaints into private education providers
it’s not a direct comparison.
The Ombudsman attributes the
increase in complaints to extra outreach work by its staff.
The second biggest area
of complaint related to student attendance and course progress monitoring, and
transfers between registered providers.
The Ombudsman says that 17 per
cent of students hadn’t complained to their provider first – usually the first
step before any complaints body will investigate.
In January 2019 it started a
trial of assisting students to make their complaint to their provider.
“This process helps to
ensure that the education provider and the student have an opportunity to
resolve the issue. If the education provider informs us that the complaint has
been resolved, but the student advises that they are not satisfied with the
provider’s resolution, our Office may start an investigation,” says the
The VET (vocational
education and training) sector had the greatest number of complaints, at 62 per
cent, but also has the largest number of private education providers.
conducted, 46 per cent were ruled in favour of the provider and 34 per cent in
favour of the student, while 19 per cent didn’t get to a decision (they may
have been settled or withdrawn.)
During the year, the Ombudsman made eight disclosures to the relevant authorities about the behaviour of private education providers.