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Australia introduces additional reporting on agent performance

Short on time? Here are the highlights:

  • The Australian government is moving forward with plans for a new system of agent performance reporting
  • The system will provide Australian institutions with expanded data on agent performance in relation to student outcomes
  • This is the first time that standardised reporting on agent performance will be introduced on a national scale
  • The initiative is part of a broader effort to strengthen agent quality assurance in Australia, and reflects the significant role that education agents play in international recruitment in the country

Australia’s Department of Education and Training (DET) has recently announced plans to produce new reports on the performance of international education agents referring students to Australian providers.

The new reporting mechanism relies on data that is already collected within the PRISMS data system (Provider Registration and International Student Management System). Education providers in Australia are required to report student enrolment data in PRISMS as part of the country’s regulatory framework under the Education Services for Overseas Students (ESOS) legislation.

As of 2012, providers have been able to includes details of any agent attached to the student file when created a new Confirmation of Enrolment (COE) record in PRISMS. To this point, the system has amassed roughly 1.2 million records that include agency details, representing about three quarter of all COEs entered in PRISMS since 2012.

The DET has been analysing the data already available in the system and believes that it contains valuable information on agent performance for providers and agents alike, particularly to the extent that it assists educators in meeting their obligations under ESOS.

The intent, in short, is to now create a reporting mechanism that allows providers to more actively monitor the relative performance of agents with respect to student outcomes. These reports will initially be provided only to Australian institutions but DET anticipates some public reporting in the long term as well.

“Education agents are an important part of the Australian international education industry,” says DET. “They are valued and respected by Australian education institutions and the students they assist to enroll and study in Australia. This Government initiative aims to provide data to institutions on the outcomes achieved by their agents, and to see the majority of agents recognised for their high standards and levels of service.”

What is being measured?

The reports will focus on student outcomes, as indicated by the Confirmation of Enrolment status data. Student outcomes are categorised within PRISMS as “complete” or “incomplete”, where the latter indicates that the student was unable to follow through on their planned programme of study.

“Incomplete” COEs are further classified under one of the following categories in PRISMS:

  • “Student transferred”, which reflects cases where a student transfers out to another provider, or otherwise notifies the institutions that they are ending their studies
  • “Cancelled – Provider Decision”, which indicates that the provider has obliged the student to stop studying due to non-payment of fees, disciplinary action, or visa issues
  • “Non Compliance”, which means that the student has somehow failed to meet programme requirements (e.g., not attending classes or otherwise)
  • “Deferment/Suspension”, which may arise on compassionate grounds or special circumstances of the student, or which may also indicate disciplinary issues or student misconduct

DET has produced a number of sample reports that can be readily generated by the system. As we see in the example below, these provide a high-level summary of the relative performance of agencies engaged by an individual provider.

A sample agent performance report generated from PRISMS data on student outcomes. Source: DET

A related comment from English Australia points out, “It is notable that DET have revealed that the data so far supports the view that vast majority of the agents recruiting students to Australia play a valuable role ensuring excellent student and provider outcomes. This new capability will empower providers to more actively manage the minority who do not.”

Next steps

Australian providers are now being asked to contact their agents with information about Australian privacy legislation, and to secure privacy waivers from agents that will allow their data to be included in the new reports.

In the longer term, providers have also been directed to amend their current agreements with agents to include a privacy waiver provision for purposes of the PRISM reporting.

More immediately, providers are required to make a declaration within PRISMS to indicate that they have notified their agents of all related privacy principles. As part of the declaration process, providers are also required to “opt out” any agents who have explicitly indicated that they do not want to participate. As this step suggests, the process relies on such opt-outs to exclude a given agency from the reporting system – in other words, agents will be understood to have agreed to participate unless they explicitly indicate that they do not want to have their data shared.

Only when such declarations have been filed can a provider access the new reports within the system. DET has also provided sample language for opt outs and for the provider decorations in a detailed set of FAQs for both providers and agents.

Promoting good practices

The new PRISMS reporting is the first of its kind in the world in the sense that it will standardise agent performance reporting on a national scale, and promote greater transparency and accountability in educator-agent relationships in the process.

This is an important innovation in its own right, but even more noteworthy in the context of a broader effort in support of agent quality assurance that has been unfolding in Australia over the past couple of years.

In addition to the new performance reports, Australia has also recently introduced an expanded Code of Ethics for education agents. The Australian International Education And Training Agent Code of Ethics (ACE) builds on existing regulatory frameworks in Australia, including ESOS and the National Code, as well as underlying principles for good conduct as express in the London Statement.

ACE extends the core elements of those frameworks into an expanded set of codified principles and standards for education agents. It reflects some important operating elements, including transparency and integrity, that are present in other major study destinations, such as the NACAC Statement of Principles and Good Practice. But ACE is in itself an important contribution to strengthening quality assurance and standards of practice in the field.

For additional background, please see:

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