A strict code of ethics for international student advisers has been drafted amid concern that United Kingdom universities are exploiting fee-paying overseas students.
Ukcosa, the UK Council for Overseas Student Affairs, and the Association of International Student Advisors, Aisa, are consulting on whether student advisers employed by universities and students' unions should be subject to the code.
A joint consultation paper warns that some advisers, often junior and inexperienced, lack any point of ethical reference, despite the diverse ethical dilemmas they face daily.
Clive Saville, chief executive of Ukcosa, said there were concerns that vulnerable and isolated overseas students may be getting a raw deal as a growing number of junior advisers may feel obliged to work in the interests of their universities.
He said that advisers face pressure to block students' access to complaints procedures or to misinform them of their legal rights in disputes with their institutions.
A clear professional framework would enable them to resist encouragement from their superiors to "fob off" students.
The code spells out the general responsibility of advisers to "resist pressure" to use their power and influence inappropriately. Advisers should "ensure that students are fully advised of the procedures for them to follow to pursue complaints or to seek redress, or to defend themselves".
The code also outlines rules on personal relationships with students and sets limits for the receipt of gifts, which may be seen as bribes.
The consultation paper suggests that if the code is accepted, Aisa could have a role in policing any violations.
It is proposed that Aisa establish a committee to consider complaints of alleged infractions of the code by its members. Aisa could impose sanctions for breaches of the code, including suspension of Aisa membership.