Skip to content. | Skip to navigation

Personal tools
Log in
You are here: Home News ABC's Four Corners Highlights Need for Effective Controls

ABC's Four Corners Highlights Need for Effective Controls

ABC TV’s Four Corners program Degrees of Deception, April 20,, although presenting a negative view based on very limited evidence, was a reminder that the higher education sector must focus on quality outcomes for students and must ensure effective controls are in place.

The program focused on an alleged decline in academic standards and some corrupt practices with foreign students at universities. COPHE CEO Adrian McComb said there had been valid criticisms of the way the journalists handled the issue, highlighting evidence of a few shocking cases which gave the misleading impression that the problems were widespread. He said this is a very successful sector with 250,000 tertiary foreign students enrolled. It was concerning  that Four Corners also declined input from universities, peak bodies and the regulators.. (See The Aust – Opinion - Four Corners and ICAC one-sided on overseas education agents by Phil Honeywood, executive director of the International Education Association of Australia. He says – “Australia already has the mechanisms in place to ensure overall quality assurance in a highly regulated industry. Most importantly, international education stakeholders are proactively engaged in improving on a number of these measures.”

However, the program did effectively highlight university reliance on international student funding, because they have no fee flexibility for Australian undergraduates. In The Conversation - Enough muddling through: higher education needs a shake-up, Andrew Norton, Program Director, Higher Education at Grattan Institute

commented:  “Universities should have options other than their own spending cuts to deal with a downturn in government funding … We have long been in a situation in which few people support the status quo on university funding, but it survives because none of the alternatives have enough support.” Andrew Norton’s summation is spot on – he continues: “Australia’s higher education system is reasonably good. But it is struggling to meet the diverse demands of students at a cost government can afford. We might be headed for one of the major turning points in higher education policy history when more muddling through is not enough. Major reform is needed.”

 Mr McComb said although the focus was on universities, it was also a timely reminder that poor and corrupt practices can creep into even a well-regulated system. He said the policies and procedures recommended in the ICAC Report, as mentioned in the ABC program, were useful for anyone in the sector. He also urged all higher education providers to heed the advice given by University of Melbourne Professor Glyn Davis to his institution: “While the University is confident in the processes and policies in place around the recruitment and support of international students, it will be important to test each component of the international student process for rigour and integrity.”

Mr McComb said: “While the activity of agents has already been put under particularly heavy scrutiny in the SVP environment and improved processes have been developed, what Professor Davis says makes eminent sense. It is of course all in the Standards.” The final proposed HE Standards Framework, currently with the Minister’s office for approval, covers some of these issues: See 2.4 1 page 16 and the Representation at Section 7 – note the reference points – the 2012 statement of Principles for the Ethical Recruitment of International Students by Education Agents and Consultants.

“Non-government higher education providers are closely regulated by TEQSA and have the flexibility to charge reasonable fees and to be more teaching focused.  However we cannot be complacent. We hope our members use this as a reminder to have a systems health check,” Mr McComb said.          

For more information contact Adrian McComb, CEO; Email -


News image