The Overseas Students Ombudsman (OSO) investigates complaints about problems that intending, current or former overseas students may have with private schools, colleges or universities (education providers) in Australia.

The Overseas Students Ombudsman also provides information about best practice complaints handling to help private education providers manage internal complaints effectively and publishes reports on problems and broader issues in international education identified through investigations.

The Ombudsman Act 1976 was amended in 2011 to give the role of Overseas Students Ombudsman to the Commonwealth Ombudsman. The function commenced on 9 April 2011.

The Ombudsman:

  • provides a free service
  • is independent and impartial, and does not represent either overseas students or private education providers
  • can make recommendations arising out of investigations

Who is an overseas student?

An overseas student is someone who is studying in Australia on a student visa. An overseas student is also called an international student.

If you are in Australia on a student visa, or planning to come soon, you can contact the Overseas Students Ombudsman if you have a problem with your school, college or other private registered education provider.

Can I complain to the Commonwealth Ombudsman?

Overseas students already in Australia, and students planning to come soon, can contact the Ombudsman about an action or decision taken by their private registered education provider in Australia.

Family or friends of overseas students, who are concerned about a problem an overseas student is having with a private provider, can also contact the Ombudsman. See: Permission for someone else to act on my behalf form

If a group of overseas students all have the same problem, they can make one complaint to the Ombudsman together.

Also see our Frequently asked questions for overseas students and other complainants.

What can I complain about?

You can complain about your provider if you believe they may not have followed the rules correctly or treated you fairly. Complaints might be about:

  • refusing admission to a course
  • course fees and refunds
  • course or provider transfers
  • course progress or attendance
  • cancellation of enrolment
  • accommodation or work arranged by your provider
  • incorrect advice given by an education agent.

The Overseas Students Ombudsman can investigate complaints about education agents who have an agreement with a provider to represent them in Australia or overseas.

You can also complain if a provider has failed to take action or is taking too long to take some action. This might include, failing to provide student results in the normal timeframe, or failing to provide services included in the student’s written agreement with the provider, for example.

Make a complaint.

Can the Commonwealth Ombudsman investigate my complaint?

  • it relates to a private education provider registered with the Australian Government on the Commonwealth Register of Institutions and Courses for Overseas students (CRICOS)
  • the problem relates to an overseas student who is already studying in Australia on a student visa or is intending to come to Australia soon.
  • the problem relates to an overseas student who is studying in Australia on a student visa, or
  • the problem occurred when the overseas student was studying in Australia on a student visa (former overseas student), or
  • the problem relates to an intending overseas student who has taken 'any steps towards becoming an overseas student'.

When can't the Commonwealth Ombudsman investigate my complaint?

  • it relates to a public or government education provider. These complaints can be directed to the Ombudsman for your state or territory. See State and Territory Ombudsmen.

How is my complaint investigated?

  • If we decide to investigate your complaint, we will contact the education provider and ask them what happened.
  • When we receive all the information we need, we will decide if your provider followed the rules and their policies and procedures correctly and treated you fairly.
  • We will explain what we have decided and why.
  • If we find that your education provider has made a mistake or acted unfairly, we can ask them to:
    • apologise to you
    • change or reconsider a decision
    • change their policies or procedures
    • take some other action.
  • We will treat your information with privacy and respect, and collect, store, use and disclose your personal information only in accordance with Australian privacy laws.