The Overseas Students Ombudsman: when things go wrong – what we can learn from current issues in student complaints

Mr Ron Colley1

1Overseas Students Ombudsman, Canberra, Australia

The National Strategy for International Education 2025 notes that ‘positive student experience is crucial to the success of Australia’s International Education sector’. With a record number of international students choosing to study in Australia this year, the challenge for us all is to maintain the positive experience and if things go wrong, to restore it.  This is where the Overseas Students Ombudsman (OSO) comes in, to assist students and private education providers to resolve deadlocked disputes, including a dispute involving the actions or decisions of an education agent associated with the provider.  Last year the Government introduced the Agent Code of Ethics to provide a guide to the expected professional behaviour of individual agents and agencies working with Australian international students, parents, providers and fellow agents across the sector. Using a recent example, we’ll explore the implications for students, providers and agents when things go wrong with the agent relationship.  From 1 July 2017 the Ombudsman also took on the role of the Vocational Education and Training (VET) Student Loans Ombudsman (VSLO). We’ll provide insights into the VET FEE HELP program and the VET Student Loans based on complaints received.


Ron Colley works for the Commonwealth Ombudsman and is the director of the Ombudsman’s Overseas Student Ombudsman and Postal Industry Ombudsman schemes. With over 40 years in the workforce, Ron draws on his vast experience in marketing, sales and stakeholder engagement in Government, private industry and community organisations, to work with industry to improve the quality of complaints management. Ron is married, lives and works in Melbourne and has family in both Melbourne and Perth.


The Australian and New Zealand Student Services Association Inc. (ANZSSA) is a professional association for people with an interest in the role of support services in post secondary education.

For more information, please visit ANZSSA website by


ISANA International Education Association is the representative body for professionals in Australia and New Zealand who work in international student services, advocacy, teaching and policy development in international education.

For more information, please visit the ISANA website at

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