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Overseas Students Ombudsman provides reprieve for private college students

Elizabeth Yick

Wed Aug 03 2011

international students

INTERNATIONAL students in private colleges can now air their unresolved grievances with the Overseas Students Ombudsman.

The Overseas Students Ombudsman is part of the office of the Commonwealth Ombudsman of Australia, and was introduced to help safeguard the welfare of international students against private education and training providers in Australia.

The Overseas Student Ombudsman will play an important part in supporting the long-term sustainability of the private education sector through the provision of information and support for internal complaints management.

The Overseas Students Ombudsman will investigate complaints brought forward by current and prospective international students who are unable to resolve their grievances directly with their private institutions.

Until now, the welfare of international students in private colleges had been largely neglected.

Mr Allan Asher, who is both the Overseas Students Ombudsman and the Commonwealth Ombudsman, acknowledged that this was a critical time for such a service.

“There have been a lot of issues and problems associated with private education providers in Australia in the recent years,” Mr Allan said.

“This is about the protection of an often vulnerable group of young people, it is about the delivering of education services – the promotion of schemes, the behaviour of agents, the appropriate systems of complaints handling.”

Mr Asher said it was fundamental for Australia’s 900 private institutions to develop proper complaint-handling systems, and just as importantly, for the availability of such systems to be made known to the students.

He said the ombudsman’s office had received some 150 complaints since it was established on April 9.

“It is our capacity to review situations if people are unhappy with the way the college dealt with their complains,” Mr Asher said.

“We can deal with complaints even from people who are not in Australia. For example, if a student has applied and paid for a visa and then paid for a course, but then they don’t get the visa, we will happily ensure that people get their refunds.”

Under the regulatory code that binds all private education and training providers in Australia, institutions are obliged to refund a student following recommendations made by the  Overseas Students Ombudsman.

International students in public education providers who have unresolved grievances should approach the States Ombudsman for Victoria for help.