Ep 4: ELICOS (English Language Intensive Courses)

Hi this is Tenielle from Study in Australia TV.

In our last episode we talked about the School system in Australia, the entry points into Schools for International students, cost of schooling in Australia, Accommodation options, Advantages of studying in Australia, Safety and also how Technological Australian schools are.

In this Episode today, Episode 4, we’re going to concentrate on English Language programs in Australia, also known as ELICOS.

The ELICOS sector is a very important part of the Australian education system, particularly for international students from non-English speaking countries.

It provides international students with a wide variety of options to learn English and also enables students to progress on after improving their English to enter into other education sectors at various levels.

Because there are so many courses available, you need to be confident in selecting the right one for whatever you intend to do afterwards.

This is especially true if you want to continue studying in Australia after completing your ELICOS course.

So you might ask:
What types of ELICOS courses are offered in Australia?
Or what types of ELICOS courses are suitable for a student who wants to continue studying in another sector?
What English language proficiency tests are accepted by institutions in Australia?
What are the usual English language requirements to enter a University or VET course?
How are the quality of ELICOS courses maintained in Australia?

So let me give you an overview of the ELICOS sector..

ELICOS stands for English Language Intensive Courses for Overseas Students and is an important part of the Australian Education system.

This acronym is used only in Australia and refers to the kind of English courses that are accredited by the Australian federal government for study on a Student Visa.

There are many other acronyms used to describe this kind of program.

Some examples are English as a Foreign Language or EFL, English as an Additional Language or EAL and English as a Second Language or ESL.

In 2019, there were over 170,000 international student enrolments in the ELICOS sector.

The Australian English language industry is respected globally as a world leader due to its cohesiveness and professionalism.
Public and private sector institutions work together closely within the national association and Australia’s ELICOS National Standards are the envy of the world, providing consistent standards for all providers.
The English language sector is a major contributor to Australia’s international education profile.
English language training commonly takes place in dedicated colleges or language centres.

These centres are completely focused on the needs of international students, so they have highly developed support services for their students.

English language training is often the first type of course an international student undertakes in Australia.

So, ELICOS colleges have well developed reception, orientation and accommodation placement processes to reflect this and help support students newly arrived in Australia.

ELICOS students typically come on a student visa, a tourist visa or a working holiday visa depending on their intention after the English training.

ELICOS students on a tourist visa are only permitted to study for a maximum of three months and those on working holiday visas for a
maximum of four months.

Individuals wishing to study in Australia for longer than this should apply for a student visa.

Students on a student visa must study at least 20 hours a week, this is usually offered over five days.

Student visa holders must meet the attendance requirements of their visa or risk breaching their visa conditions.

ELICOS providers who teach students on student visas must be registered on the Commonwealth Register of Institutions and Courses for Overseas Students also known as CRICOS, the national database of all courses and providers of courses to international students in Australia.

The ELICOS industry in Australia is highly regulated.

ELICOS students who hold a student visa are covered by the ESOS Act which is the Australian Government legislation protecting international students.

ELICOS providers, along with all providers of education and training to overseas students, must comply with conditions of the Education Services to Overseas Students or ESOS Act.
This Act is administered by the Federal Australian Department responsible for Education and includes a National Code outlining how providers must conduct their operations and the Tuition Protection Service or TPS outlining how overseas students are financially protected in the case of the closure of an education provider or institution.
Areas of operations covered by the National Code include marketing and information, use of agents, care and services to students and dealing with student complaints and appeals.

The National Code also sets out that providers of ELICOS must adhere to the National ELICOS standards which outline the specific requirements of courses, academic and support staff, conditions and provisions.

However students on tourist visas, working holiday or other visas are not covered by the ESOS Act but these students are studying in Colleges that are required to follow the National Code so are indirectly covered by the Act.

ELICOS courses can be taken by students as stand-alone courses, which means they don’t have to package with another course after completion.

This means that the student simply wishes to improve their English proficiency and then return to their home country.

According to English Australia’s statistics, just 39% use the language course as the first in a pathway of courses leading to formal qualifications in the other sectors.

So let’s talk about the different types of ELICOS Centres..

There are over 300 accredited ELICOS centres across Australia.

Australian ELICOS centres are:
• located in all of Australia’s major cities as well as in a range of regional locations,
• can be private or government operated,
• can be independent or attached to a high school, TAFE college or university,
• or may be small boutique colleges or large international providers.

So let’s talk about the types of ELICOS Courses available in Australia..

ELICOS providers and courses need to follow a careful quality assurance process to maintain their registration.

This specifies the minimum qualifications of teachers, class sizes, types of facilities and the number of study hours per week.

ELICOS courses are accredited by either TEQSA or ASQA as non-award courses outside of the AQF or Australian Qualifications Framework.

TEQSA and ASQA are Australian Government regulating bodies.

However, a small number of courses are accredited as VET or Vocational Education & Training courses on the AQF.

Australia offers a wide range of ELICOS courses designed to meet the various needs of students with differing reasons for learning English.

Full-time ELICOS courses tend to have the following features:
• Their duration generally ranges from four to 48 weeks
• They are taught at all levels of proficiency from beginners to advanced
• They comprise at least 20 hours of study each week
• They usually have flexible commencement dates, so students can enrol at any time throughout the year

Often ELICOS courses are taken in sequence with formal courses of study in other sectors.

This means they’re packaged together with one or more other courses that a student will study afterwards they complete their English.

Sometimes these further courses are offered at the same institution.

There are five major categories of English language courses generally offered in Australia to international students, they are:
- General English
- English for Academic Purposes or EAP
- Primary or Secondary School Preparation
- Examination Preparation, often IELTS preparation
- English for Specific Purposes or ESP

In addition, some ELICOS centres have developed and deliver specific courses to suit the needs of particular clients, for example courses that may concentrate on executive English, corporate ELICOS training or Study Tour Programs.

These programs usually combine English language study with other activities like travelling, work experience, volunteering or sporting activities.

So let’s talk about the five major categories of English language courses..

General English courses help to improve English skills in the four skill levels of reading, writing, listening and speaking.

Students can enter at any level, from elementary to advanced, and they progress at their own pace.

Students are generally tested on arrival and placed in an appropriate class level at the start of their studies.

Classes at each level focus on everyday English, and often include a variety of activities for students to practice their English in particular settings.

General English is suitable for individuals or for holiday groups and as preparation for the English for Academic Purpose course.

So, English for Academic Purposes or EAP courses are designed to help students succeed in academic or university studies by improving their English and academic study skills.

They help students achieve the level of English language proficiency needed to undertake tertiary studies at Australian Universities.

This is usually around an IELTS 6.0 to 6.5 or TOEFL Paper 530 to 570 or other equivalent language tests.

A large percentage of students who complete the courses enrol in Australian universities or in VET courses.

EAP programs are generally offered as full-time courses of approximately 10 weeks for each module.

EAP courses generally start and finish at dates which match with the university’s academic semesters.

This allows students to move easily into formal Degree or Diploma courses.

English Centres also offer Primary and Secondary School Preparation courses.

These programs are generally designed to:
• develop speaking, listening, reading and writing skills
• inform students about the education system in Australia
• familiarise students with teaching methodologies they will encounter in their school studies
• and introduce specific subject areas and assist with subject selection.

Another common program for students to study is an IELTS Examination Preparation course.

While not offering a formal qualification, many English courses focus on preparing students for external English proficiency examinations such as:
the Cambridge exam
the IELTS exam
the Pearson Academic test
the TOEFL exam
or the TOEIC test.

In Australia the IELTS and Cambridge exams are the most popular exams with the Pearson Academic Test becoming more popular over the last few years.

These courses are generally provided for students aged 17 and above and involve intensive test practice.

They cater to people who wish to:
• enter educational institutions
• work in English-speaking countries
• obtain an English level that is valued by employers in their home country.

Lastly, English Centres offer English for Specific Purposes courses.

These courses are generally specialised to meet a specific student need for technical English proficiency.

They are often designed specifically for a small student group with similar needs.

Courses that are less than 13 weeks in length are often taken while on a tourist visa.

This category also includes Business English courses that are designed for adults seeking job specific English language training.

Generally, the courses are intensive and focus on improving students use of English in the workplace.

Most programs expect students to arrive with strong general English skills and generally start at intermediate level and move through to advanced levels.

There are also short Courses available for Non-Student Visa holders.

Students can obtain a tourist visa to study English for less than 3 months, or if on a working holiday visa can study a maximum duration of 4 months.

These students will undertake the same programs and attend the same classes as student visa holders.

Note that students studying for less than four months can still apply for a student visa if they wish to.

If the students come as a group, most English Centres will have a specific program tailored for them, this is usually known as a study tour.

Study tours generally have the following features:
• they are designed for students studying in their own country either in High School or in Higher Education and take place during holiday periods in Australia
• they combine tourist or specialised activities alongside the English study component
• and they are often structured around a particular group of students coming from one source overseas school, university or workplace.

Study Tours are not covered by the ESOS Act or the National Code.

So, they do not need to meet any specified requirements in terms of hours of study, teacher qualifications or facilities.

English Colleges that are members of English Australia must however conform to best practice guidelines when offering study tours though.

Study tours can provide all types of Business and English language packages.

Many different types of special interest tours and holiday group travel tours are available.

Some examples include:
• Eco-tourism and Environmental Projects
• Back-packing group tours with an Adventures focus
• Living English with practical experiences
• High School & Junior High School holiday tours
• Specialised technical and information tours
• University, Holiday & Graduation tours

No formal qualifications are awarded at the completion of these Study Tour courses.

So now let’s talk about English language tests..

The IELTS, TOEFL, CAE Cambridge and PTE Academic tests are the major testing systems used worldwide for entry into academic programs, this includes entry into Australian programs.

They are all accepted by the Australian Department of Immigration
with regard to student visa applications requiring evidence of English language proficiency.

Let’s start with the IELTS test; IELTS stands for International English Language Testing System.

IELTS is the most commonly used English Proficiency test in Australia and is accepted by all our academic institutions.

The IELTS test consists of 4 modules that test the complete range of English language skills which students commonly encounter when studying or training in the medium of English.

The IELTS test is available in two formats: Academic and General Training.

All candidates take the same Listening and Speaking Modules.

However, the two formats have different Reading and Writing Modules.

The Academic test is suitable for candidates planning to undertake Vocational or Higher Education study programs.

The General Training test is suitable for candidates planning to undertake non-academic training or work experience or for immigration purposes.

The TOEFL Test, which stands for Test of English as a Foreign Language.

TOEFL tests the ability of candidates to use and understand English at the university level.

Computer based testing is offered throughout most regions of the world.

In addition, Internet-based tests, also known as TOEFL iBT are
also available and popular in many countries.

In areas where computer access is limited, a paper version of the
test is also offered.

Now let’s look at the CAE Cambridge Test, also known as Certificate in Advanced English.

The CAE test is a thorough and demanding test of all areas of language ability of the candidate.

It is available in both a paper-based and computer-based format.

The CAE exam consists of five modules: reading, writing, use of
English, listening and speaking.

Speaking is a face-to-face exam with two candidates and two assessors.

Lastly, the Pearson’s PTE Academic Test also known as Pearson Test of English is becoming more popular.

PTE Academic is a computer-based exam, measuring the individual’s English ability through tasks which reflect real-life settings.

The test runs for 3 hours, during which candidates are given 20 different types of tasks, some of these test integrated skills like reading and speaking together.

Test results are delivered to test takers online via email notification within 5 working days which is very convenient.

Each of these tests I’ve described can be compared through Test Equivalency scores.

The Department of Immigration use an equivalency table to establish the English level of an applicant for a student visa application.
So now let’s talk about Entry points and cost for ELICOS courses..

Students can enter an ELICOS college with any level of English Proficiency.

However, the Department of Immigration assigns certain requirements to student visas for students from certain countries.

So, some students may only be able to study an English course for a limited length of time, depending on their nationality and sector in which they seek to study in after the English course.

The Department of Immigration does this because of the risk associated with students staying on after their course completion.

Australian education institutions accept students with an appropriate level of English proficiency and Institutions are free to set their own English language entry requirements.

There may be different language proficiency levels and different test measures used, for instance IELTS, TOEFL, CAE or PTE Academic or other ways to satisfy the language requirement by different institutions.

Each institution publishes the English requirements on their website.

English language requirements are generally set to ensure students attain a good academic outcome throughout the program.

The cost of English Language courses can vary across different English Centres in Australia.

Generally, the tuition costs range between $300 to $400 per week, but course prices vary depending on:
• the centre
• the centres location
• and the length of the course.

Study tour prices are specific to the study program and subject to negotiation.

So let’s discuss the Quality Assurance of ELICOS courses..

Australia ensures that international students receive high quality English language instruction.

Australia is the only country in the world to have mandatory national standards specific to English language training for international students.

The quality of courses and institutions providing English training are supported by two recognised industry associations the National English Language Training Accreditation Scheme, also known as NEAS and English Australia.

English Australia is the national professional association of ELICOS Colleges and currently has over 115 members.

English Australia also plays an important role in maintaining quality in the ELICOS sector.

Its member colleges are required to:
• follow by-laws which provide a Code of Conduct
• participate in a Tuition Assurance Scheme
• participate in Membership Quality Assurance
• and abide by the minimum requirements of the English Australia refund and transfer policies.

English Australia membership provides additional assurances of high quality and fair dealing in both public and private English language colleges.

NEAS endorses English language centres in Universities, Colleges and High Schools.

Endorsed centres are granted the NEAS quality mark, internationally recognised and valued by students, teachers, agents and governments.

So that’s the end of Study in Australia TV Episode 4 on ELICOS.

I hope you learnt a lot about the ELICOS system and understand more about the consistency of teaching across English Language Centres.

Please let us know if you have any questions on this Episode, or if you have any feedback or just like the content.

Always happy to hear from you!

We can help if you’re looking to study English in Australia.

Bye for now!

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