The CRICOS website: a missed opportunity. And the future of international education in Australia.

By Raphael Arias on 06 May 2019

CRICOS is the worse, but still the crème de la crème, compared to almost any other major country with large international education exports. While the CRICOS website is fairly good to search for courses, it's vastly outdated, with no reliable data and a missed opportunity.

Why is that? Why such a great opportunity to have reliable data, a source of unbiased information and a great marketing tool is so bad? In this article we discuss a little bit about it, and look what does it tell about international education in Australia.

What is CRICOS?

"The Commonwealth Register of Institutions and Courses for Overseas Students (CRICOS) is a register of Australian education institutions that recruit, enrol and teach overseas students." the government states in their website.

The government continues "[..] CRICOS lists all Australian education providers approved to offer courses to these overseas students, and details the courses offered by these providers.". Sounds great, but it constantly fall short of what could be a great tool for agents, colleges and students.

What's wrong with it?

CRICOS is supposed to have a list of all courses, colleges and locations for international students and agencies to find them. But it has stopped in time for a while now. No substantial updates happened in years.

The database is not up-to-date, and as a matter of fact, rumours in the industry says that it's difficult for even the colleges to update their data. You can't trust it, besides having a glimpse of what colleges and courses are available in a certain location.

Don't trust the price, a seasoned education agency will tell you. They don't reflect reality, are not up-to-date and doesn't include all the nuances of the real price for pretty much every course, specially ELICOS.

What about other countries?

CRICOS sucks, but what if I told you other countries are far behind it? Canada only has the vastly inferior Designated learning institutions list and Ireland has an Excel spreadsheet (!) file for their Interim List of Eligible Programmes (ILEP).

Well, I guess I owe an apology, CRICOS is actually one of the best, when compared to other countries.

I forgot to mention: New Zealand

There's one government-owned website that shows us what the CRICOS website could be: Study in New Zealand's website. While not perfect, the start dates are fairly up-to-date, you can search them (even though the search is not that smart), the layout matches what people expect in 2019 and shows that they at least care in provide relevant information.

Can the government do better?

That depends, there's an argument to say that's not the job of the government, I tend to believe even HotCourses, ApplyBoard or any other startup or company with deep pockets (EducationLink?) or high motivation would be better positioned to create a better customer (student) experience than the government.

But the matter of fact is that the government created an website, maintain it only, tries to emulate New Zealand's efforts and most importantly the Australian government plans to have a similar website for agents.

Displaying the agents performance metrics, like CRICOS?

Imagine you as an agent with outdated information, or even if up-to-date, being displayed so abysmally bad that doesn't accomplish the goals of being more transparent, confuses students, and broadcast to the world your private metrics.

We've discussed it before in this blog about new legislation and the plans of the government to display the agents information. But if previous attempts of the Australian government gives us a hint of how the future will be, the prognostic is not good.

Besides analyzing the past, we have to take a look at the present: australians are not sure they want more students, the government is not happy with the agents, no major moves of the government regarding migration or the international education has been taken (quite the contrary).

Does the government really have the stamina to do it right? The investment and political capital? Does it really matter in the grand scheme of things?

I believe competition between countries is gong to increase more and more. Not just UK is investing it, the US is starting to use more and more agents. And as other countries develop their own international education market, we really have the risk of Australia falling behind.

Australia has all the signs of closing itself to international education, while major players have all the signs of opening themselves to it. Australia still well positioned to take advantage of a growing demand, and its mature processes and legislation can help, but so far the signs are not great.


As a test of a new upcoming feature of EducationLink and because the government shows no sign of updating CRICOS, we've create a new version of the CRICOS website.

It's linked directly to our always being updated database of courses, it's in English and Portuguese, and while it's not everything it could be, at least it shows the way. We have a alpha version (very early stage) available in case you're curious and want to provide feedback, feel invited to do so:

in the future we will add more college information, connect to the CRICOS database and more, so much more. In the meantime, leave your comment on what you think the CRICOS website could be and have, what do you think about the international education industry direction in Australia and any other comment you may have.

Topics: international education legislation

Raphael Arias

Written by Raphael Arias

Founder and CEO of EducationLink. After 4 years in banking, Raphael founded EducationLink to help the international education industry move forward. He specialises in innovation, strategy and business development.

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