National Code Part A: Legislative framework

Please note this explanatory guide applies to the National Code 2017 and will not apply after 1 January 2018. Factsheets on the National Code 2018 are available here.

Part A broadly outlines the principles and guidelines that underpin the National Code and explains its place in the ESOS framework.

There is detailed information on its purpose, how it was established, its objectives, structure and application, and students' consumer protection mechanisms.

Its principles are explained including the benefits of engaging internationally through education, how governments and providers share responsibilities and the link to the Student visa programme.



1.  The National Code and its purpose


1.1. The National Code of Practice for Registration Authorities and Providers of Education and Training to Overseas Students (the National Code) provides nationally consistent standards for the conduct of registered providers and the registration of their courses. The standards set out specifications and procedures to ensure that registered providers of education and training courses can clearly understand and comply with their obligations under the National Code.

1.2. The National Code also identifies the roles and responsibilities of the Australian Government and state and territory governments in discharging their regulatory functions.


2. Establishment of the National Code


2.1. The Education Services for Overseas Students Act 2000 (the ESOS Act) required an independent evaluation to be undertaken within three years of it coming into effect. The Minister for Education, Science and Training established this National Code under the ESOS Act as a response to the independent evaluation of the ESOS Act, and following consultation with each state and territory and representatives of industry and student bodies. This National Code replaces the Code established in 2001 and is effective from 1 July 2007. From that date, all registered providers must comply with it. The Australian Government will periodically review the effectiveness of the National Code.


3.  Objectives


3.1. The objectives of the National Code are to:



support the ESOS framework, including supporting the effective administration of the framework by the Australian Government and state and territory governments


establish and safeguard Australia’s international reputation as a provider of high quality education and training by:


ensuring that education and training for overseas students meets nationally consistent standards; and


ensuring the integrity of registered providers


protect the interests of overseas students by:


ensuring that appropriate consumer protection mechanisms exist


ensuring that student welfare and support services for overseas students meet nationally consistent standards; and


providing nationally consistent standards for dealing with student complaints and appeals


support registered providers in monitoring student compliance with student visa conditions and in reporting any student breaches to the Australian Government.


4. Structure of the National Code


4.1          This framework (Part A) broadly outlines the principles and guidelines that underpin the National Code. Part B describes the roles and responsibilities of the Australian Government and state and territory governments in administering the ESOS regulatory framework. Part C outlines the Commonwealth Register of Institutions and Courses for Overseas Students (CRICOS) registration requirements and Part D provides standards that set out obligations on and procedures for registered providers of education and training to overseas students.


5. Application of the National Code


5.1. The National Code applies to all providers registered under the ESOS Act to deliver education and training courses to overseas students who come to Australia to study on a student visa. It is also used by designated state and territory government authorities (designated authorities) for the purpose of recommending courses for registration on CRICOS.


5.2. The National Code complements existing national quality assurance frameworks for sectors of the education and training industry where appropriate.


6. Overseas students and consumer protection


6.1          Overseas students differ from domestic students in that they are subject to migration controls and face different needs for consumer protection. Under Australian law, students from overseas are generally required to hold a student visa to enter Australia for education and training, and must comply with its conditions. Consumer protection must be appropriate for overseas students who usually cannot evaluate the quality of a course before purchase. If there is reason for discontent with the services they have obtained, they may not be able to remain in Australia to pursue the consumer protection remedies provided through Australian courts.


7. Where does the National Code fit within the ESOS framework?


7.1. The ESOS framework comprises principally the ESOS Act, its Regulations (the ESOS Regulations), the Education Services for Overseas Students (Registration Charges) Act 1997 (the ESOS Charges Act) and the National Code. The ESOS framework is complemented by the Migration Act 1958 and its Regulations and various state and territory legislation relevant to the education and training of overseas students.


7.2.The ESOS Act and the ESOS Regulations set out the rules and regulations for the registration of providers, obligations on registered providers, the operation of the ESOS Assurance Fund, enforcement of the ESOS legislative framework and the establishment of the National Code. The ESOS Charges Act specifies the registration charges applying to CRICOS registered providers. The National Code gives these rules and regulations a practical application by providing nationally consistent standards for the registration and conduct of registered providers and the conduct of persons who deliver educational services on behalf of registered providers.


7.3. The National Code is a legislative instrument. It is legally enforceable and breaches of the National Code by registered providers can result in sanctions being imposed on providers’ registration under the ESOS Act.


7.4. The ESOS framework is also supported by state and territory legislation that regulates the approval of education and training providers in accordance with relevant national protocols.


Principles and guidelines


8. Benefits of international engagement


8.1. Australia gains significant benefits from its export of education and training services. The social and economic benefits flow to individuals, institutions and the wider community, both in Australia and in other countries. International engagement in education and training can transform individuals, widening their intellectual horizons, opening them to new ideas and experiences, and extending their friendships. Overseas students also contribute intellectually to Australian education and society, and provide diverse social and cultural perspectives that enrich the educational experience for many Australian students.


8.2. The benefits of international education and training depend on the service provided to overseas students, and on public confidence in the integrity and quality of that service. An industry servicing students who travel to Australia to study requires a consistent national approach to the registration of providers permitted to offer those services. A quality reputation for Australia’s international education services underpins the long-term benefits for trade and foreign relations and is imperative to domestic acceptance of growth in trade in education services. All of this can be jeopardised by education and training providers who do not deliver a quality service, or overseas students who breach the conditions of their student visa. The ongoing realisation of the benefits of international education and training requires maintenance and enhancement of Australia’s reputation as a provider of high quality education and training to overseas students.


9. Collaboration and shared responsibility between governments and providers


9.1. The Australian Government, state and territory governments and providers share responsibility for maintaining and enhancing Australia’s international reputation as a destination for high quality education and training for overseas students. Enhancement of quality, consumer protection and integrity of the student visa programme are achieved through collaboration between all government agencies and the international education and training industry and through inter-sectoral collaboration.


10.   Student visa integrity


10.1. The international education and training industry is closely linked to the Australian Government’s Student visa program. Adherence to migration law is essential to ensure public confidence in the student visa programme and to ensure the provision of high quality education and training opportunities to students. Under the ESOS Act, registered providers are required to notify both students and the Australian Government when students have breached their student visa conditions as a result of having failed to maintain satisfactory course progress or attendance.


10.2. The National Code sets out the course progress and/or course attendance requirements which registered providers must apply to overseas students. It provides nationally consistent standards to enable registered providers to meet their obligations to support student visa integrity.