The pivot to online studies: What about written agreements?

Ms Klara Major1

1Commonwealth Ombudsman, Adelaide, Australia

At the beginning of 2020, no one could have foreseen that by April, nearly all education providers would stop holding face-to-face classes. Providers put in a massive effort to shift learning online in efforts to comply with social distancing requirements, including for international students in the country. Regulators put out information advising that they wouldn’t take action against providers for delivering more than the permitted quota of online studies, in recognition that providers didn’t have much choice.

Many international students accepted this situation and focused on making progress in their studies, adjusting to their online classes. Some students felt that their tuition fees should be reduced, and others were simply unable or unwilling to study online. Complaints from some of these students made their way to the Commonwealth Ombudsman, who has jurisdiction to consider complaints from international students about private education providers.

In this presentation, Klara Major from the Commonwealth Ombudsman will outline some of the issues highlighted in these complaints, and the Office’s approach to considering them, including the effect of online delivery on written agreements.

Klara Major is the Stakeholder Engagement Officer of the Commonwealth Ombudsman’s Students team, which is responsible for the Overseas Students Ombudsman function.
The Commonwealth Ombudsman:
• can investigate complaints about problems that intending, current or former overseas students have with private schools, colleges and universities (education providers) in Australia
• provides information about best practice complaints handling to help private education providers manage internal complaints effectively
• publishes reports on problems and broader issues in international education that we identify through investigations.
The Ombudsman’s Office has investigated more than 2,000 complaints from international students, giving them a unique insight into the problems that international students can face, and what can be done about them.

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