Australian Homestay Standards
International Student Accommodation Update October 2013
In the last 5 years there have been significant developments regarding Homestay accommodation for International students.
Properly managed, standards based Homestay is now seen as the ideal way for a new international student to be introduced to living in Australia.
International Students who commence their accommodation experience in Homestay are reported to be better oriented, more settled, safer and happier as international students. A well-managed homestay arrangement is the ideal entry point prior to an international student making a long term accommodation decision or moving into on campus housing.
In a recent International Student report released by AEI regarding ‘Student satisfaction with accommodation in Australia’ (June 2013), Homestay received the highest level of satisfaction against all other types of accommodation. The International Student level of satisfaction was at an amazing 89% against 88% for living with friends and 83% for both on-campus accommodation and other off-campus accommodation.
A critical element in the success of Homestay in Australia has been the introduction of well published Homestay Standards, which were first deemed appropriate by the Senate inquiry into the Welfare of International Students in 2009 (See sections 3.65 through to 3.71).
Since then, The University of Sydney (USYD) through its Centre for English Teaching (CET) has been instrumental in reviewing the Australian Homestay standards and for ensuring that standards for this very important part of the International Education industry were validated.
The new standards were decided upon by USYD after input from DEEWR, ISANA International Education Association Inc. and a selection of experienced Homestay Managers.
The NSW Parliamentary inquiry into international student accommodation (2011) commended the University of Sydney standards for Homestay and recommended them for legislation.
The Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC) also officially advised their contracted ‘Settlement Services’ providers in 2012 (who were assisting with Asylum seeker community placements) that all Homestay services must now meet the University of Sydney Homestay standards.
The Council of International Students Australia (CISA) has recently joined the campaign for adherence to Homestay standards through their ‘Australian Good Practice Program for Education Providers’. CISA has identified numerous issues in an unregulated Homestay Industry in Australia and have called for legislation of Homestay in line with the University of Sydney findings.
Strong Homestay is seen internationally as a good marketing advantage in the quest for International Students. Homestay for International Students should be used as the initial entry point accommodation to give peace of mind to parents and agents about those critical first few weeks for the student in Australia. A partnership approach should be developed to ensure that Education Providers are working with this key service provider to maximise international student opportunities.
Standards are now entrenched and it would be unwise for Education Providers to ignore their obligation to these standards and their duty of care risk exposure. Adoption of the researched and documented standards for Homestay (as ‘Best Practice’) will ensure that Education Providers and their future students are protected and that the Australian Homestay Industry will only consist of participants committed to these standards.