Disclaimer: This article is intended to provide a summary and general overview only. It is not intended to be, nor does it constitute, legal advice. You should seek legal advice from a lawyer (whether barrister or solicitor) working in the area of education law and/or human rights law before acting or relying on any of its content.

On 3 February 2017, Universities Australia (the peak body representing Australian universities) observed that Australian education export earnings hit a record $21.8 billion in 2016. Universities Australia also noted that the education of international students is Australia’s third largest export, behind only iron ore and coal.

At the same time, international students have been identified as one of the most exploited groups within Australia. Such has been the level of mistreatment that in September 2017 the Fair Work Ombudsman took out full page advertisements in major Australian newspapers to remind international students of their rights and to encourage them not to be afraid to ask questions about their entitlements in the workplace. These ads were published in ten foreign languages to enhance accessibility for the communities most at risk.

In addition to difficulties within the workplace, international students have expressed dissatisfaction, with treatment by public universities, private universities, private colleges, TAFE as well as migration and education agents and visa companies responsible for enrolling them into tertiary and vocational courses. Unfortunately, having lectured and tutored at a number of Australian universities, in addition to representing a number of students in my capacity as a lawyer, I have witnessed some of these issues first hand.

Once quite a discrete area of law, Education Law has become an all-encompassing field of law. Education matters can range from:

  • Unnecessary suspensions and expulsions from schools and vocational and tertiary institutions.

  • Disenrollment disputes e.g. academic hearings and disciplinary hearings.

  • University appeals, grade reviews, student disputes, NCAT reviews.

  • Insurance, Negligence and Accident Claims.

  • Bullying and Harassment Claims and Policies.

  • Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) complaints.

  • Personal Injury Matters including breach of duty of care by educational institutions.

  • Negligence of schools, universities, colleges and other education bodies.

  • Plagiarism disputes and other alleged academic misconduct.

  • Professional Standards and Misconduct Issues;

  • Sexual Abuse Claims;

  • Discrimination Claims;

  • Inquests and Coronial Matters;

  • Employment Issues;

  • Commercial Disputes;

  • Contract Disputes;

  • Debt Recovery (especially the collection of outstanding school, college and university fees).

  • Property Matters.

  • 457 visa fraud and other visa fraud.

  • Working holiday visa concerns.

  • International student mistreatment and exploitation.

  • Accreditation refusal by bodies such as AHPRA.

  • Failure to recognise foreign qualifications and work experience.

  • Freedom of Information and GIPA requests.

  • Dealing with Subject coordinators with respect to unfair grades or marks.

  • Employee Performance and Conduct Directorate matters – assisting teachers with EPAC complaints.

  • Failure to take into account a disability or mental health condition.

  • Misleading and Deceptive conduct claims by students against private colleges and universities through the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) or relevant legislation.

  • Dealing with University Ombudsman Services.

  • Dealing with Student Services.

  • Referral and the lodging of complaints with the Education Ombudsman of NSW.

  • Complaints to the Overseas Students Ombudsman (Commonwealth).

  • Complaints about the quality of your education with TEQSA.

  • Acting for Universities and Colleges, including assisting university staff in applying for Apprehended Violence Orders against students who have assaulted, stalked, harassed, intimidated or acted in an otherwise inappropriate manner against university and college personnel.

Posted by Sebastian De Brennan, Barrister,

© 2017 Sebastian De Brennan. Barrister at Law