• File images: Minister for Education Simon Birmingham (AAP)
The Turnbull government will next year roll out changes to the way international students are trained in English language.
AAP - SBS Wires
12 Oct - 12:08 AM  UPDATED 12 Oct - 8:53 PM

International students will be tested on their grasp of the English language under a scheme to be introduced in 2018.

Education Minister Simon Birmingham will tell an education conference in Hobart on Thursday the government will introduce new English language standards for students in 2018.

English Language Intensive Courses for Overseas Students will have to formally assess students where they provide direct entry to a tertiary course.

At the moment, students can pass a course without proof and then start university studies.

Senator Birmingham says the government doesn't know exactly how many of the 150,000 ELICOS students last year weren't up to scratch, although the vast majority achieved high-quality outcomes.

Related reading
Australian citizenship: Could you pass the proposed English test?
If the government's citizenship reforms pass the Parliament, would-be Australians will for the first time need to pass a 2 hour English exam. But what exactly does the IELTS look like? SBS World News explores.
10 benefits of Australian citizenship
SBS World News' Kelsey Munro takes a look at what Australian citizens can do that permanent residents can't.

"But we know there are a number of anecdotal instances, that you hear of students not being able to fully participate in group work or struggling through the class work that is set for them," he told ABC radio on Thursday.

"It is essential for those international students and for the domestic students who they ultimately study alongside in our universities, TAFEs or other education providers that they have the English language skills to succeed."

The standards will be extended for the first time beyond universities to vocational education and training courses.

All ELICOS courses will have a minimum of 20 face-to-face contact hours per week and a maximum teacher-to-student ratio of 1:18.

Of those who studied the English-language courses in Australia last year, more than 60,000 went on to further study, mainly in higher education or vocational courses.

Senator Birmingham says the changes will strengthen Australia's reputation as a high-quality destination for international education, a sector worth $28 billion a year.

The clearer, stronger standards would also make it easier for higher education regulator TEQSA to weed out providers doing the wrong thing.

Related reading
Exploited international students the target of Fair Work advertising blitz
The Fair Work Ombudsman has taken out large, full page ads in major metropolitan newspapers to send a message to international students – don’t be afraid to ask questions about your rights at work.
Citizenship changes: Labor ridicules English test as Xenophon demands concessions
Labor has warned Australia risks returning to the White Australia policy with citizenship changes which appear doomed unless the government makes concessions to the Nick Xenophon Team.
Senate inquiry into citizenship changes recommends watering down English test
A parliamentary senate committee has handed down four recommendations on the government’s planned citizenship changes, including lower English language requirements.
International student numbers reach record levels, expert says 'no sign of slowing down'
The number of full-fee paying international students studying in Australia has risen by more than 10 per cent in the past year, to a record 554,179, and one expert says there are no signs of it slowing down.