Officials gave updates on the $17.3 million investment in Australia’s student information management system at the AIEC conference in Adelaide, revealing data on agents and use of concurrent study.
Speaking at the event, first assistant secretary within the Australian Government Department of Education, Skills and Employment, Karen Sandercock, said the system is “undergoing quite some reform”.
“It’s a huge area of investment,” she said. “Governments are not known for their investment in IT systems, given other priorities on spending, but it is high on our list to see how we can make that work better for the sector, make sure your information flows more automatically and that way we’ve got better quality and more timely data.”
Andrew Munro, from the Department of Education, noted that the PRISMs modernisation project is designed to allow institutions to focus on “the more important activities rather than wrangling with PRISMS all day”.
The department removed concurrent study within the system in line with government announcements, with Munro given data on why authorities chose to do so, noting that students switching almost doubled in the last year.
“Students moving more than doubled in higher education, and for those higher education students, over 90% went to private as their concurrent enrolment,” Munro said.
For students originally studying VET, it increased some 50%, with nine in 10 of those also switching to private providers, he continued.
“Our analysis showed that when we looked at these enrolments over the longer term, they weren’t concurrent. What was happening was over close to 95% of students were not completing their primary courses and instead they were stopping, getting CoE cancelled for non-attendance, and then they were only studying the concurrent enrolment.
“That clearly shows that concurrent was being used to circumvent standard seven transfer restrictions [in the National Code] and so therefore the Minister was prompted to act.”
When the PRISMs system was taken down briefly to remove the CoE option, there were 50-60 concurrent enrolments that got stopped, he added.
“We’ve removed the easiest way to move around standard seven,” Munro said, and the department will continue to look at other methods unscrupulous providers may find other ways to bypass the restrictions.
Departmental data also revealed agent involvement in Confirmation of Enrolment needed for Australian student visa applications.
Overall involvement has increase from under 75% to close to 80% this year. “Agents are very involved in our students and increasingly so,” Munro said.
Among the top 10 source countries, none are below 73% agent reliance in 2023.
Chinese students “are generally below average in their use of agents and it hasn’t returned to the 2019 level yet”, he said, while Nepal, Colombia, Brazil and Thailand have quite high reliance on agents.
“Covid had a variable impact between the countries. It’s quite interesting that for China, India and Vietnam, it really had a little bit of a softening effect on use of agents, whereas it held strong from Nepal, Colombia and Brazil.”
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