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Overseas Students Ombudsman

The Office of the Commonwealth Ombudsman investigates complaints from prospective, current and former international students about problems with private education providers.

We have three main functions in our Overseas Students Ombudsman role. They are to:

  • assess and investigate complaints about actions taken by private registered education providers in connection with student visa holders
  • give private registered providers advice and training about best practice complaint-handling for international student complaints
  • report on trends and systemic issues arising from our complaint investigations.

In 2019–20 we received 1,526 complaints and finalised 1,563, which represented a 15.2 per cent increase in complaints received compared to 2018–19. The increase in complaints can largely be attributed to COVID-19 related issues, particularly about written agreements (fees and refunds) which was the most complained about issue. This is because some providers made significant changes to how courses were delivered, including converting to online formats without also amending fees. COVID-19 also led to some financial stress for students and some made the decision to not continue with their study.

During 2019–20, we commenced 352 investigations and finalised 369 investigations which included 408 issues.

During 2019–20 we did not complete any own motion investigations under s 19ZJ(2)(b).

We did not use our s 9 powers under the Act to obtain information or documents in 2019–20.

More information can be found in our quarterly bulletin 1.


  1. https://www.ombudsman.gov.au/publications/industry/overseas-students