Migration (and education) Agent Inquiry – regulate now!
Today I attended the federal Standing Migration Committee met in Sydney regarding the Efficacy of Australian Migration Agent Regulation. 4 submissions were heard and included the Migration Institute of Australia and the Migration Alliance – the two member organisations representing migration agents.
Although it was supposedly around migration agent regulation, more than 40% of the conversation was around the role of education agents in giving unlawful immigration advice to prospective students. There was a targeted attack on education agents saying that they were often out to defraud students. More surprisingly was a lack of understanding from the committee and some of the MIA and Migration Alliance on the role of education agents and the changes in DoHA risk ratings of providers, GTE and the working of the ESOS Act in oversight of education agents. There was a strong push from some members of the committee to ‘regulate’ education agents as soon as possible. Interestingly, there was a conflict of interest drawn in education and migration agents accepting commissions and recommending education providers – education agents generally provide a free service to students and rely on the commissions as agents of universities and colleges. Migration agents charge upfront, and on-going fees as agents to clients. There is a need for both education and migration agents in the international education industry as they work in different ways and the immigration piece is only one part of the student journey. The grey area of ‘immigration advice’ is the problem to solve – better education in student visa regulation for all lawyers, and agents, migration and education would be a start. Also assisting education agents to know where immigration advice starts and ends.
There were no education agents present at the public hearing and perhaps that would assist in getting a more balanced view. The comments from the committee and submissions included the usual ‘dodgy’, ‘unhealthy’, ‘non-transparent’ and that there was ‘a perfect storm’ in the culmination of bad practice in the industry – there is no storm, with the highest numbers of students ever in Australia and 70% using an agent. The upshot is the need to protect and grow the international education industry as agents are still an integral part of recruitment in Australia.
These and many other issues will be covered at the Symposium on Leading Education Recruitment SYMPLED2018, the only education agent symposium www.sympled.com.au