Overseas students in Australia who have problems with private education and training can now take their complaints to the newly created Overseas Students Ombudsman (OSO), if they cannot resolve problems with their education providers directly.

The Overseas Students Ombudsman is now a role for the Commonwealth Ombudsman, Allan Asher. 'This is an important service for an often vulnerable group,' he said at the launch of the service at the first Council for International Students Australia (CISA) conference in Melbourne.

'Together with State Ombudsmen who provide a complaints service for overseas students in public education, we are providing a much needed safety net for those in private education,' he said.

'It means that students who are the victim of unfair or unreasonable action by private education providers now have a free, independent and impartial complaints service,' explained Asher.

The OSO provides the service to overseas students already in Australia, and those planning to come soon. Student grievances would include refusal of entry to a course, a dispute over fees, an unsuccessful attempt to transfer between colleges and the dreaded visa killing cancellation of enrolment.

The aim is to encourage colleges to communicate more clearly with students and encourage them to approach administration promptly with any concerns.

'It is appropriate to launch the Overseas Students Ombudsman service at CISA's first conference as both organizations are the result of recommendations of the Baird Review of education services for overseas students in 2010,' he told the audience.

'Students may want to complain about issues surrounding fees and refunds, course progress or attendance, cancellation of enrolments or accommodation or work arranged by providers. They may also want to complain about education agents working for their provider,' he explained.

'We will resolve complaints and provide information to education providers on best practice complaint handling, drawing on the Commonwealth Ombudsman's more than 30 years' experience in complaint investigation. Importantly, we will also publish reports on problems and broader issues in international education identified through investigations,' he added.