Delivering unit only courses for International Students


Hi there,

Hope you are all well. Just thought I would share this gem with you all.

Back on the 3rd June, I sought clarification form ASQA about what I assumed was a very simple question: Can a domestic provider who is not a registered CRICOS provider deliver unit only courses such as first aid, RSA or Construction Safety (White Card) to international students?

Now this happens all the time. International students are able to work under their visa conditions 40 hours per fortnight. If they secure work in say,, a cafe that also serves beer and wine, they will need to hold a competency in RSA. Equally, if they require first aid or cemcert to work for a specific employer, then they need those units of competency. There are many 100s of providers delivering these type of services and many would not even consider it an issue if the student is from overseas or not. They have a USI (which they can create on the USI portal with a Visa number) and they have a need to obtain a competency for work. Makes sense! Well according to ASQA unless the provider is an approved CRICOS provider to deliver that particular course at an approved location, then the provider is breaking the law and the maximum punishment is imprisonment for 2 years!

Here is the response in full from ASQA:


Dear Joe,

Thank you for your email.

An overseas student is defined in Section 5 of the ESOS Act as a person (whether inside or outside Australia) who holds a student visa (as defined in regulation 1.03 of the Migration Regulations 1994), excluding:

  • a Subclass 576 (Foreign Affairs and Defence Sector) visa, or
  • a person who satisfies the secondary criteria, but not the primary criteria, under the Migration Regulations 1994 for the grant of the visa, or
  • a secondary exchange student within the meaning of the Migration Regulations 1994, or
  • an overseas student who has been approved under a scholarship scheme, or an exchange scheme, sponsored by the Commonwealth to undertake a course of study or training in Australia.

As specified in Section 8 of the ESOS Act, a provider must be registered on CRICOS to provide a course at a location or do so in accordance with an arrangement they have with another registered provider.

As such, an overseas student in Australia on a student visa is permitted to undertake additional study (that is, a course of education or training) at the same time as the principal course for which they hold a student visa. However, any course undertaken by a student visa holder must be registered on CRICOS. A Confirmation of Enrolment (CoE) is also required for any additional study in a course undertaken by an overseas student whilst in Australia on a student visa.

As the ESOS Act does not define ‘Course’ individual units of competency, including those to meet a skill set requirement, may be applied for by a CRICOS provider.

I hope this has been of assistance and if you should have any more queries, please do not hesitate to contact ASQA.



Now, I think it is great that ASQA have provided this clarification. As I remind our clients all the time, these are not “ASQA’s” rules or “ASQA’s” requirements, this is the law and ASQA is the regulator and responsible to regulate providers. But,, this does have some fairly serious ramifications. It essentially means that if you are not a registered CRICOS provider to deliver the course you are offering in an approved location, then you cannot deliver any courses to an international student regardless if it is a unit only course or not. It means that providers should be taking steps to confirm if the student presenting for enrolment is here on a student visa. If they are, unless their visa falls into one of the above exemptions, the RTO cannot accept the enrolment. I checked the legislation (Sect 8 of the ESOS Act), my reading is that it is not a defence if you were not aware that the student is an international student. So you cannot plead ignorance. You must identify if the person seeking an enrolment is an international student. There is no specified defence for Section 8, Sub-section 1(c): provides a course at a location to an overseas student. There are certainly greater legal minds than me (in fact I am not a legal mind!) but until told otherwise, I will be giving this advice to our clients.

The thing that gets me about this is that, it is not feasible to register a unit only course on the CRICOS register, so if the unit only course is to be provided, it would need to be provided by an approved CRICOS provider with a qualification approved that has the unit as a specified unit in the qualification. Then they would need to raise a separate CoE for the student for the one day course. Now I am doubtful that you can raise a CoE for a single unit. This situation is dumb! There is no other way to describe it. It is clearly an unintended consequence of how the legislation was drafted and presents an obstacle for international students to comply with local regulations when working in Australia and they are entitled to work in Australia.

Anyway, I hope this has been helpful and I hope that this will create some debate and those with the responsibility of advising the relevant Minister brings this silly situation to their attention. The Australian Government wants a healthy international education sector so it makes sense to get these enabling components of the system right.

Good training,

Joe Newbery


Published: 22nd June 2016

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