20. Commonwealth supported places (CSPs)

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20.1 - What is a Commonwealth supported place?

A CSP is a place subsidised by the Commonwealth. Most domestic students undertaking a bachelor degree course at a Table A provider are enrolled in a CSP.  Students are generally also required to pay a student contribution and may be eligible to defer these contributions to a HECS‑HELP loan from the Government to pay them [part 30 - for further information on HECS-HELP].

In addition to CSPs, there are also full fee paying places which are not subsidised by the Australian Government. 

The amount of subsidy the Commonwealth contributes for each student is based on the units of study the student chooses for their program. Different units of study attract different rates of funding.

The Commonwealth contribution is paid to providers through the Commonwealth Grant Scheme (CGS) and providers must have a funding agreement with the Commonwealth in place, and meet other relevant requirements, to receive funding.  For further information on the CGS, contact the department at CGS@dese.gov.au.

20.2 - Responsibility for enrolling students in CSPs

In enrolling persons as Commonwealth supported students, a provider must ensure that:

  • the benefits of, and opportunities created by, CSPs are made equally available to all eligible students [HESA subsection 19-35(1)]; and
  • it has open, fair and transparent procedures that, in the provider’s reasonable view, are based on merit, for selecting students for the places [HESA subsection 19-35(2)]

In enrolling students based on merit, the provider may take into account educational disadvantages that a particular student has experienced [part 1.5] [HESA subsection 19‑35(3)].

20.3 - When does a student become a Commonwealth supported student?

A person is a Commonwealth supported student in relation to a unit of study if the provider with which the student is enrolled has advised the person in writing that they are a Commonwealth supported student in relation to the unit, or the course of which the unit forms part of, and, at the end of the census date for the unit, the provider is not prohibited from advising the person of this [HESA subdivision 36-B].

When a provider should advise a person they are a Commonwealth supported student

A provider must not advise a person that they are a Commonwealth supported student, unless:

  • the provider has entered into a funding agreement with the Commonwealth for the year in which the person is undertaking the unit [HESA paragraph 36-10(1)(a)]; and
  • the unit of study contributes to the requirements of a course of study in which the person is enrolled with the provider or another provider [HESA paragraph 36-10(1)(b)]; and
  • the person has been assessed by the higher education provider, in accordance with section 19-42, as academically suited to undertake the unit [HESA paragraph 36-10(1)(ba)]; and
  • the person meets the citizenship or residency requirements [HESA paragraph 36-‑10(1)(c)]; and
  • if the course of study is a course of study other than an enabling course – the unit is covered by the person’s Student Learning Entitlement [HESA paragraph 36-10(1)(d)]; and
  • the person enrolled in the unit on or before the census date, and remained enrolled at the end of the census date [HESA paragraph 36-10(1)(e)]; and
  • if:
    • the census date for the unit is on or after 1 January 2021 and before 1 January 2023 and the person commenced the course of study on or after 1 January 2021; or
    • if the census date for the unit is on or after 1 January 2023
    • the person has a student identifier immediately before the census date [HESA paragraph 36-10(1)(f)]

For more information on the Student Learning Entitlement, please see [part 20.10]. 

Additionally, the provider must cancel a person’s enrolment in a unit of study with the provider if the person is enrolled as a Commonwealth supported student in relation to the unit and the person has not submitted a Request for a Commonwealth supported place and HECS-HELP loan form [part 9.1].

There are also other circumstances where a provider must not inform the student that they are Commonwealth supported.

When a provider should not advise a person they are a Commonwealth supported student

A person must not be advised they are a Commonwealth supported student in relation to a unit of study where:

  • that person notifies an *appropriate officer of the provider that he or she does not wish to be a Commonwealth supported student in relation to the unit, with such notification to be provided in writing on or before the census date for the unit [HESA subsection 36-10(3)-(4)]
    • The term ‘appropriate officer’ is defined under HESA Schedule 1 as ‘a person, or a person included in a class of persons, whom the chief executive officer or a delegate of the chief executive officer of the provider, has appointed to be an appropriate officer for the purposes of this Act’
  • the unit of study wholly consists of WEI, unless the requirements in HESA paragraphs 36-10(6)(a)-(b) have been met [HESA subsection 36‑10(6)]
  • the unit is a full fee summer or winter school unit of study for which the provider has determined that Commonwealth support does not apply [part 23.1] [HESA subsection 36‑10(7)]
  • In addition, a person is not a Commonwealth supported student in relation to a unit of study if the Secretary of the department determines that the student is not a genuine student in relation to the unit [HESA subsection 36-5(5)-(6), HEP guidelines chapter 9]
  • the total EFTSL value of all the units the student has studied at any provider during the preceding 12 month period (for which the person was entitled to HECS-HELP assistance or FEE-HELP assistance) plus the new unit is more than two, and the provider has not determined that undertaking the new unit will not impose an unreasonable study load on the person [HESA section 36-12]
  • the person has not satisfied completion rate requirements [HESA section 36-13] (see Appendix M)
  • the provider has completed any part of the person’s request for Commonwealth assistance for the unit (or the course for which the unit forms a part) that the person themselves is required to complete [HESA subsection 36-15(5)]
  • the unit contributes to a course of study that the person is undertaking primarily at an overseas campus [HESA subsection 36-15(1A)]
  • the enrolment is an employer-reserved place [part 16.1] [HESA paragraph 36-15(1)(a)]
  • the unit forms part of a bridging course for overseas-trained professionals [HESA paragraph 36-15(1)(b)]; or
  • the unit forms part of a course the Minister has specified, by way of legislative instrument, to be a course that students cannot be enrolled in as Commonwealth supported students [HESA paragraph 36-15(1)(c)]

In addition, a person is not a Commonwealth supported student in relation to a unit of study if the Secretary of the department determines that the student is not a genuine student in relation to the unit [HESA subsection 36-5(5)]. In determining whether a person is a genuine student for the purposes of HESA subsection 36-5(5), the Secretary of the department must be regard to the matters (if any) specified in the HEP Guidelines [HESA subsection 35-5(6); HEP Guidelines Chapter 9].

Students undertaking a Bachelor of Circus Arts at Swinburne University of Technology and students undertaking a masters or doctoral degree by research must not be advised that they are Commonwealth supported in respect of any units of study that contribute to that course of study [Ministerial determination under HESA subsection 36-15(2)].

A student may undertake units on a non-award basis and make other arrangements for paying tuition fees.

Example 1

Question: Can a higher education provider advise a person that they are a Commonwealth supported student if they undertake units that are additional to the award course requirements?

Answer: No. A higher education provider must not advise a person that they are a Commonwealth supported student in relation to a unit of study unless the unit contributes to the requirements of the course in which the person is enrolled. If a student can complete their award course of study, having satisfied all course requirements, without having to undertake the additional units, then the additional units are not eligible for HELP.

Students may undertake additional units on a non-award basis, but they would need to make other arrangements to pay tuition costs absent Commonwealth support [HESA paragraph 36-10(1)(b))].

Example 2

Question: Can a student be Commonwealth supported for a unit of study they have already completed and for which they received a pass grade or better?

Answer: If a student has already successfully completed the requirements of the course of study in which they are enrolled, the student is not able to re‑take, as a Commonwealth supported student, units of study for which they have received a pass grade or better.

A student can undertake units of study on a Commonwealth supported basis in their current course of study, even if the student undertook those units in a previous course of study but did not complete or failed that unit, provided the units contribute to the requirements of the current course.

Units of study that are not undertaken as part of the course of study are undertaken on a non‑award basis. Fees charged for non‑award units of study are tuition fees and must comply with all the provisions of HESA relating to tuition fees.

Students choosing not to be a Commonwealth Supported Student

A student may choose not to be Commonwealth supported in a unit of study. A person is not a Commonwealth supported student if they give a written notice to an appropriate officer of the provider that they do not wish to be a Commonwealth supported student in relation to the unit on or before the census date [HESA subsection 36-5(3)]. Students may notify their provider electronically in accordance with requirements for electronic communications [part 41.1]. If a person applies for a fee-paying place, this does not mean they are advising the provider that they do not wish to be a Commonwealth supported student. A person who wishes not to be a Commonwealth supported student for a unit of study must express this explicitly in writing.

A student who chooses not to be Commonwealth supported is required to pay tuition fees [part 24.1] and may be eligible for FEE‑HELP [part 31.4] [HESA subsection 169-15(2) and section 104-1]. Student load in fee-paying units does not receive a Commonwealth contribution through the CGS [part 22.1].

20.4 - Notifying students of their CSP

After the census date, a provider must notify persons, in writing, that they are Commonwealth supported in relation to a unit of study, or a course of study of which the unit forms a part [HESA subsection 36-5(1)].

20.5 - Continued support in a CSP

Once a provider has notified a person that they are Commonwealth supported for a unit of study contributing to a course of study, the provider must continue to enrol that person as a Commonwealth supported student for subsequent units of study contributing to that course of study [HESA section 36-25].

The only exception to this is where the provider is prohibited from advising the person that they are a Commonwealth supported student [part 20.4].

20.6 - CSP eligibility

Citizenship and residency requirements

A person is only eligible for a CSP if they meet the citizenship or residency requirements set out in HESA.

As per HESA subsection 36-10(2), to meet the citizenship or residency requirements the person must be:

  • an *Australian citizen [HESA section 36-10(2)(a)]
  • a New Zealand citizen who will be resident in Australia for the duration of their unit of study [HESA section 36-10(2)(b)]; or
  • the holder of a permanent visa who is resident in Australia for the duration of their unit of study [HESA section 36-10(2)(c)]

*A person may automatically be an Australian citizen by birth or adoption, or after applying for Australian citizenship by descent or conferral. If a person is over 16 years at the time they make their application for citizenship by conferral, they will obtain Australian citizenship only after they have made the pledge of commitment and the Department of Home Affairs has issued them with evidence of Australian citizenship. People who become permanent residents of Australia on or after 1 July 2007 need to spend four years in Australia before becoming citizens [Australian Citizenship Act 2007].

Requirement to undertake units of study in Australia

Despite HESA subsections 36-10(2) and (2A), a person does not meet the citizenship or residency requirements under subsection 36-10(2) if the provider reasonably expects that the person will not undertake in Australia any of the units of study contributing to the course of study of which the unit forms a part [HESA subsection 36-10(2B)].

Residency requirements for New Zealand citizens and permanent visa holders

In determining whether New Zealand citizens or holders of a permanent visa will be resident in Australia for the duration of their unit of study, a provider must disregard any periods spent outside of Australia if those periods:

  • cannot reasonably be regarded as indicating an intention to reside outside of Australia for the duration of the unit [HESA paragraph 36-10(2A)(a)]; or
  • are required for the purpose of completing the requirements of that unit [HESA paragraph 36-10(2A)(b)].

Temporary or provisional residents

Students who are temporary or provisional residents (other than New Zealand SCV holders) are not eligible for a CSP, as they are not the holders of a permanent visa. They are overseas students and must be charged overseas student fees [part 28.1].

20.7 - Non-table A providers

Students enrolled with a non-Table A provider may be Commonwealth supported only if the unit is part of a course of study in one of the national priorities specified in the CGS Guidelines (Part 2-10), for which the Commonwealth has allocated CSPs to the provider [HESA subsection 36‑10(5)].

Current national priorities include:

  • increasing the number of persons undertaking Education and Nursing courses of study
  • supporting a number of persons undertaking courses of study in any field of education at the University of Notre Dame Australia
  • in 2021 only, providing retraining and upskilling opportunities in the following courses of study: Education, Nursing, Visual and Performing Arts, Society and Culture, Professional Pathway Psychology, Professional Pathway Social Work, English, Mathematics, Accounting, Administration, Commerce, Communications, Indigenous and Foreign Languages, Agriculture, Allied Health, Other Health, Computing, Built Environment, Science, Engineering and Environmental Studies

20.8 - Enrolment requirements

A provider must not advise a person that they are a Commonwealth supported student in relation to a unit of study unless, among other things, the person enrolled in a unit of study on or before the census date, and remained so enrolled at the end of the census date [HESA paragraph 36-10(1)(e)].

If a person is enrolled as a Commonwealth supported student in relation to a unit of study, a provider must cancel the person’s enrolment if the person has not, prior to the census date, submitted a request for Commonwealth assistance (via the Request for a Commonwealth supported place and a HECS‑HELP loan form [part 9.1] [HESA subsection 36-40(1)]. A Commonwealth supported student must complete this form even if they are not requesting HECS-HELP (for example, if they are paying their fees up front).

Where a provider cancel’s a student’s enrolment in accordance with this requirement, the student will also not be eligible for FEE‑HELP because the census date for the unit of study will have passed [part 31.4].

20.9 - Requirements for the payment of student contribution amounts

A provider is required to cancel a student’s enrolment where a student does not meet the requirements for paying their student contribution amount by the census date (HESA subsection 36-‑40(2)]. The requirements depend on the student’s HECS‑HELP eligibility. Students undertaking an enabling course [part 6.7] must not be charged a student contribution amount and are not subject to these requirements.

Commonwealth supported students and HECS‑HELP

If a Commonwealth supported student is entitled to and seeking HECS-HELP for a unit, they must, on or before the census date for that unit:

  • meet the TFN requirements [part 34]; or
  • pay 90 per cent of their student contribution upfront to their provider. If the student pays 90 per cent of their student contribution upfront, they will be eligible for the HECS-HELP discount (students must be eligible for HECS-HELP assistance for a unit to receive this discount [part 30.8]). This means that the student will not incur a HECS-HELP debt in relation to a unit for which they pay 90 per cent of the student contribution upfront, as the Commonwealth will pay the remaining 10 per cent [HESA section 96-3].

20.10 - Student Learning Entitlement

What is the SLE?

Requirements relating to the Student Learning Entitlement (SLE) took effect on 1 January 2022 and they apply to units of study with census dates on or after 1 January 2022. 

At a minimum, the SLE provides students with seven years of full-time study (EFTSL) in a CSP (Ordinary SLE) [HESA paragraphs 73-1(1)(a), 73-1(2)(a), 73-5]. If a person is an eligible person on 1 January 2022, the person has, on that day Ordinary SLE. 

In addition to Ordinary SLE, a person can also receive ‘Additional SLE’ when undertaking certain courses and ‘Lifelong SLE’ in certain circumstances [HESA sections 73-10, 73-15].

A person will receive Additional SLE when [HESA subsection 73-10(1); SLE Guidelines section 6]: 

  • they are enrolled in an undergraduate course of study with a course load that is greater than six EFTSL
  • they are enrolled in an honours course of study and the course load of that course is less than or equal to one EFTSL
  • they are enrolled in a postgraduate course of study or a graduate entry bachelor degree course of study as a Commonwealth supported student [SLE Guidelines section 6].

The formula for determining the amount of Additional SLE a person has for an undergraduate course of study that exceeds 6 EFTSL in course load is as follows [HESA subsection 73-10(3); SLE Guidelines section 7]:

Course Load + 1 EFTSL – 7 EFTSL (Ordinary SLE) – Additional SLE previously used for any other course of study = Additional SLE

The formula for determining the amount of Additional SLE a person has for an honours course of study, postgraduate course of study or graduate entry bachelor degree course of study is as follows [HESA subsection 73-10(3); SLE Guidelines section 7]:

Course Load – Additional SLE previously used for any other course of study = Additional SLE

A person will receive Lifelong SLE under the following circumstances [HESA section 73-15; SLE Guidelines section 9, 10 and 11]:

  • where a person is or was enrolled in a unit of study as part of a course of study with a higher education provider [SLE Guidelines subsection 9(1)]. The person will receive three EFTSL of Lifelong SLE on the later of
    • 1 January 2032
    • 1 January immediately after the period of 10 years from when they first commenced in a unit of study as part of a course of study with a higher education provider [SLE Guidelines subsections 10(1) and 11(1)]; 
  • when a person is enrolled in a course of study as a Commonwealth supported student and the course is restructured requiring the person to undertake additional units of study to complete the course [SLE Guidelines subsection 9(2)]. On the day the provider restructures the course, the person will receive an amount of Lifelong SLE equal to the total EFTSL value of the additional units of study the person must undertake as a result of the course being restructured [SLE Guidelines subsections 10(2) and 11(2)].   


What is a person’s SLE amount?

A person’s SLE amount is an entitlement that consists of the sum of Ordinary SLE that the person has, any Additional SLE that the person has, and any Lifelong SLE that the person has [HESA subsection 73-1(1)-(2)].

When will the person’s SLE amount be reduced and how much will it be reduced by?

A provider must, on the Secretary of the department’s behalf, reduce a person’s SLE amount at a particular time if [HESA subsection 76-1(1)]:

  1. the person enrolled in a unit of study as part of a course of study with the provider; and
  2. at the end of the census date for the unit, the person remained so enrolled; and
  3. the person is a Commonwealth supported student in relation to the unit and
  4. the unit is not:
    1. an ineligible work experience unit for the person; or
    2. a replacement unit; and
  5. the person has, on or before the census date for the unit, completed, signed, and given to an appropriate officer of the provider a request for Commonwealth assistance in relation to:
    1. the unit; or
    2. where the course of study of which the unit forms a part is undertaken with the provider – the course of study.

The amount of the reduction is an amount equal to the EFTSL value of the unit of study [HESA subsection 76-1(2)]. The reduction takes effect immediately after the census date for the unit of study [HESA subsection 76-1(3)].

If a provider reduces a person’s SLE amount at a particular time under HESA subsection 76-1(1), the provider must, in accordance with the SLE Guidelines and on the Secretary of the department’s behalf, reduce any one or more of the following amounts to take account of the reduction of that subsection [HESA subsection 76-1(4)]:

  1. an amount of Ordinary SLE (if any) that the person has at that time; 
  2. an amount of Additional SLE (if any) that the person has at that time; 
  3. an amount of Lifelong SLE (if any) that the person has at that time.

Example – SLE is not applied retrospectively

Person A commences a three-year bachelor degree on a full time basis in January 2021. Upon completing their course in 2023, assuming that no units were failed, they will finish their course with a remaining SLE amount of five EFTSL to undertake further study. This is because any study undertaken in a CSP prior to 1 January 2022 will not reduce the person’s SLE amount.


Example – how Additional SLE is accrued.

Person B commences a seven-year bachelor course of study on a full-time basis in January 2022. Given that the course load of this course is greater than 6 EFTSL, they will accrue Additional SLE. Using the calculation above (7 EFTSL + 1 EFTSL – 7 EFTSL) it can be determined that they will accrue 1 EFTSL of Additional SLE. 

Can a person’s SLE amount be re-credited?

A person’s SLE amount can be re-credited if they meet the requirements in HESA subsection 79-1(1), including that the provider is satisfied that special circumstances apply to the person [HESA paragraph 79-1(1)(f)]. Ineligible work experience units or replacement units are not eligible for re-crediting under HESA section 79-1 [HESA paragraph 79-1(1)(c)] (see [Appendix J]).

For the purposes of HESA paragraph 79-1(1)(f), special circumstances apply to a person who made an application under paragraph 79-1(1)(g) for the re-crediting of the person’s SLE amount if, and only if, the provider receiving the application is satisfied that circumstances apply to the person that [HESA subsection 79-5(1)]:

  1. are beyond the person’s control; and
  2. do not make their full impact on the person until on or after the census date for the unit of study in question; and
  3. make it impracticable for the person to complete the requirements for the unit in the period during which the person undertook, or was to undertake, the unit.

The SLE Guidelines may specify circumstances in which a provider will be satisfied of a matter referred to in HESA paragraphs 79-5(1)(a), 79-5(1)(b), or 79-5(1)(c). A decision of a provider under HESA subsection 79-5(1) must be in accordance with any such guidelines [HESA subsection 79-5(2)].

Recrediting a person’s SLE amount where their HELP Balance is re-credited

A provider must, on the Secretary of the department’s behalf, re-credit a person’s SLE amount at a particular time with an amount equal to the EFTSL value of a unit of study if the person’s HELP balance is recredited under any of the following HESA provisions with an amount equal to the amount of HECS-HELP assistance that the person received for the unit of study [HESA subsection 79-20(1)]:

  1. subsection 97-25(2) (which deals with the main case of re-crediting a person’s HELP balance [HESA paragraph 79-20(1)(a)] [part 42]; 
  2. subsection 97-27(1) (which deals with the re-crediting of a person’s HELP balance if the person does not have a tax file number) [HESA paragraph 79-20(b)] [part 34]; 
  3. subsection 97-42(1) (which deals with the re-crediting of a person’s HELP balance if a higher education provider defaults) [HESA paragraph 79-20(1)(c)] [part 46];
  4. subsection 97-45(1) (which deals with the re-crediting of a person’s HELP balance if a higher education provider completes a request for Commonwealth assistance) [HESA paragraph 79-20(1)(d)] [part 10]; 
  5. subsection 97-50(1) (which deals with the re-crediting of a person’s HELP balance if the person was not entitled to assistance) [HESA paragraph 79-20(1)(e)] [part 10.1].

When is a unit of study covered by a person’s SLE?

A unit of study will be covered by a person’s SLE amount if the EFTSL value of the unit does not exceed the person’s SLE amount at the time. 

If: (a) a person enrols in a unit of study (the relevant unit), and (b) at the time of enrolment the person is also enrolled in one or more other units of study as a Commonwealth supported student, and (c) the total EFTSL value of all those units exceeds the person’s SLE amount at the time of enrolment, the relevant unit is covered by the person’s SLE amount if the person notifies the provider they do not wish to be a Commonwealth supported student in relation to one or more of their units and the total EFTSL value of the remaining units does not exceed the person’s SLE amount [HESA Division 82].