Job-ready Graduates - Frequently Asked Questions

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FAQs for students

HELP

What is FEE‑HELP?

FEE‑HELP is a HELP loan that assists higher education students to pay for their tuition fees for full fee‑paying courses.

What is the FEE‑HELP loan fee?

The FEE‑HELP loan fee applies to most undergraduate FEE‑HELP students. It is a fee added on top of your FEE‑HELP loan for a unit of study and is automatically added to your HELP debt for that unit. It is not paid to your provider and does not count towards your HELP loan limit, or reduce your HELP balance. This change reduces the FEE‑HELP loan fee from 25 per cent to 20 per cent.

Does the FEE‑HELP loan fee apply to me?

The FEE‑HELP loan fee only applies to undergraduate students who are not in Commonwealth supported places (CSPs) at a non‑university higher education provider, or at a Table A university.

You will not have a loan fee applied to your FEE‑HELP loan if:

  • you are a Commonwealth supported student
  • you study at a Table B university (Bond University, the University of Notre Dame Australia, Torrens University or the University of Divinity) and your unit of study has a census date after 1 January 2019
  • your course is postgraduate study (including higher degrees by research) or is an enabling course
  • you are enrolled in units of study through Open Universities Australia
  • you are getting a FEE‑HELP loan to pay for approved bridging studies.

Do I have to do anything to have my loan fee reduced or exempted?

No. The reduction or exemption in your loan fee will be applied automatically.

Will the FEE‑HELP loan fees I have already had applied to my loans be reduced or exempted?

The loan fee exemption will only apply to units of study with a census date on or between 1 April 2020 and 30 June 2021. The loan fee reduction from 25 per cent to 20 per cent, will apply to units of study with a census date on or after 1 July 2021.

Am I eligible for the HECS‑HELP discount?

To receive the HECS‑HELP discount, you must be eligible for HECS‑HELP assistance. Your higher education provider will assess your HECS‑HELP eligibility. The upfront discount applies to upfront payments of $500 or more.

More information about HECS‑HELP eligibility is available on Study Assist.

How does the HECS‑HELP discount work if I pay for my entire student contribution amount with an upfront payment?

The discount means that if you pay 90 per cent of your student contribution amount as an upfront payment your entire student contribution amount will be paid, as the Government will pay the other 10 per cent directly to your provider.

How does the HECS‑HELP discount work if I pay only part of my student contribution upfront?

You can receive the HECS‑HELP discount for upfront student contribution payments of $500 or more if you are eligible for HECS‑HELP assistance. You will receive a discount of 10 per cent on the upfront payment you make. You may choose to pay some of your student contributions upfront and defer the rest with a HECS‑HELP loan. For example, if you make an upfront payment of $500, the Government will pay one‑ninth of $500 to your provider on top of your upfront payment of $500. You can then pay for the remainder of your student contribution amount with a HECS‑HELP loan.

How do I make an upfront payment to benefit from the HECS‑HELP discount?

Upfront payments must be made on or before the census date or your higher education provider’s earlier administrative date for the relevant study period. The upfront payment must be $500 or more. For more information about making upfront payments, the student administration area of your provider will be able to assist you.

Can you provide an example of how the discount is calculated?

Robert is required to pay a student contribution amount for a unit of study of $2,745 by 31 January 2021 and makes an upfront payment in relation to the unit of $900 on 20 January 2021.

Robert is entitled to HECS‑HELP assistance for the unit of $1,845 ($2,745 minus $900), which the Commonwealth must pay to the higher education provider.

The upfront payment in relation to the unit exceeded $500 so there is a HECS‑HELP discount of $100 (one‑ninth of $900). The Commonwealth lends to Robert the remainder of the HECS‑HELP assistance in relation to the unit, an amount of $1,745 ($1,845 minus $100).

How is the eligibility for CSPs and HELP loans changing?

The new Commonwealth assistance eligibility requirements introduced by these measures require students to:

  • be a genuine student
  • be assessed as academically suited to their course by their provider
  • limit their enrolment to 2.0 EFTSL (i.e. two years or less) worth of study per year unless their provider has assessed them as academically suited to undertake more study
  • maintain a reasonable completion rate.

In what new circumstances will a provider have to cancel a HELP debt?

Providers will be required to cancel your HELP debt if you were ineligible for the HELP loan, or if the provider completed your request for Commonwealth assistance on their behalf.

How do I know whether I am a ‘genuine student’?

Providers will be required to assess students as ‘genuine’ as part of their eligibility for continued Commonwealth assistance. This is to prevent students from occupying CSPs that may be better utilised by genuine students and from taking on HELP debts for study that is not appropriate for them.

Factors that providers may use to determine whether you are a genuine student are:

  • your engagement with your course
  • whether you have been provided with information about the requirements for, and the cost and duration of your course
  • whether you satisfy the course requirements and complete your assessments
  • if studying online, how many times you log into your course
  • if you have provided up‑to‑date contact details that the Department can use to confirm your enrolment
  • any enrolments in other courses that may make it impossible or highly improbable for you to complete your course.

What is an EFTSL?

An Equivalent Full Time Study Load (or EFTSL) is a measure of the study load of a student studying on a full‑time basis. An EFTSL value is a measure of an amount of study, e.g. one EFTSL is equivalent to one year of full‑time study in a higher education course. A typical full time study load over a year is usually 8 units of 0.125 EFTSL each.

I would like to study more than one course at the same time. How can I prove to my provider that I am able to study both my courses?

If you would like to study more than 2.0 EFTSL (2 years or more) worth of study in one year and still receive Commonwealth assistance, your provider will need to assess you as academically suitable and able to successfully undertake that study. As requirements for different courses vary, you should talk to your provider in the first instance about what you need to do to prove your suitability. If you are enrolled in more than one higher education provider at once, you will need to be assessed as suitable by each provider you are enrolled with.

What is a low completion rate?

A low completion rate is a fail rate of more than 50 per cent of the units of study you have attempted, after you have attempted eight or more units of study in a bachelor level or higher course (or four or more units in a higher education course lower than a bachelor course.)

These changes will take effect in 2022.

What happens if I have a low completion rate?

If you have a low completion rate in 2022 or thereafter, you will not be eligible for Commonwealth assistance (studying in a CSP or getting HELP loans for your study).

If you have a low completion rate, you can:

  • continue your course by paying upfront. If you pay upfront and increase your completion rate to 50 per cent or higher, you will be eligible for Commonwealth assistance for your course again.
  • transfer to a new course at the same or a different provider. If you change to a new course, your previous completion rate will not carry over and you will able to access Commonwealth assistance for your new course.
  • apply to your provider for consideration for one or more of your failed units. For your provider to not count units you have failed when calculating your completion rate, you will need to prove that ‘special circumstances’ applied to you while you were studying those units.

These changes will take effect in 2022.

If I failed a unit and want to apply to my provider for consideration, what circumstances are considered ‘special circumstances’?

Special circumstances are circumstances that:

  • are beyond your control
  • do not make the full impact on you until on or after the census date of the unit
  • make it impracticable for you to complete the unit.

Circumstances that may be considered special circumstances by your provider in relation to not counting a failed unit towards your completion rate include:

  • illness or a worsening, or changing, medical condition
  • a family member dying
  • a family member having a serious medical condition
  • financial difficulties experienced by you or your family
  • changes to your employment
  • changes your provider makes that disadvantage you
  • a natural disaster or other emergency in Australia
  • any other circumstances that your provider considers relevant.

Providers are responsible for assessing applications for special circumstances. If your application for special circumstances for a unit is successful, any fail grade you received for that unit will not be counted towards your completion rate. As well, your provider may cancel your HELP debt or refund any upfront payments you made for the unit.

These changes will take effect in 2022.

How am I protected if a provider approves me for a HELP loan when I am not eligible?

If a provider approves you for a HELP loan when you are not eligible and the provider was at fault in doing so, your provider will not be able to pursue you for your unpaid tuition costs after your HELP loan is cancelled.

Tertiary Access Payment

Who is eligible to apply for the Tertiary Access Payment (TAP)?

The Tertiary Access Payment will be available for school leavers who are:

  • from an outer-regional, remote or very remote area (use the Student Regional Area Search tool to check eligibility)
  • under 22 at time they commence their course
  • relocating to study at an education provider at least 90 minutes by public transport from their family home
  • undertaking eligible tertiary study in the next available study period immediately following completion of Year 12 or equivalent with no gap year (or the first available semester of their chosen course if the course has a mid-year, or later, start)
  • studying face to face, or in dual delivery method, for at least part of the course
  • enrolled full time in a Certificate IV or above qualification, with a course duration of at least one academic year.

Students will need to be below a parental income threshold of $250,000 per household to receive this payment (or be exempt from meeting this requirement).

This income cut-off is significantly higher than the means test applied to other student support payments such as Youth Allowance and ABSTUDY and will enable many students with two working parents to qualify for the payment.

Students must also be an Australian citizen or Australian resident. It is available to newly arrived migrants after 208 weeks in Australia as an Australian resident (some exemptions may apply).

What is the application process?

Students relocating to study at a university must apply through their participating university. Students relocating to study at a non-university higher education provider or a vocational education and training provider must apply through Services Australia

Applications will be processed on a first-come, first-served basis until allocations are exhausted.

Applications open on 1 January 2020.

How is the payment made?

The TAP is a one-off payment made in a student’s first year of eligible study. The TAP will be made in two instalments –  $3,000 will be paid in semester one, to assist with upfront costs, and $2,000 paid in semester two. Students will only be eligible for the TAP once.

What can the TAP be used for?

There are no restrictions on what the TAP is used for – students can use the payment as they wish to cover costs associated with study. For example, this may include things like rent or bond for accommodation, household bills, groceries, textbooks or other study supplies.

Education providers cannot direct students how to spend the TAP.

Will the TAP affect other student payments, like Youth Allowance/ABSTUDY? 

The TAP generally won’t affect other student payments like Youth Allowance/ABSTUDY as Services Australia do consider it to be an ‘equity or merit-based scholarship’. This means it won’t be counted as ordinary income when Services Australia are determining whether an applicant is eligible for other income support payments, like Youth Allowance. However, Services Australia will consider these scholarships as income if the applicant receives other scholarships with a combined total of more than $8,355 per year. 

Students who are eligible for the Relocation Scholarship linked to Youth Allowance/ABSTUDY payments may also be eligible for the TAP. For more information about student payments, please contact Services Australia.

Why is this payment limited to students from outer regional and remote areas?

The Napthine Review explicitly recommended this payment be targeted at outer regional and remote students who are relocating more than 90 minutes from their home (Recommendation 2, Action 7).

Individuals in outer regional and remote areas have substantially less access to tertiary education providers than those living in metropolitan and inner regional areas. In addition, while tertiary attainment rates are lower in all regional and remote areas, compared with metropolitan areas, the Napthine Review highlighted that this disparity increases the further away from metropolitan areas a person resides and is more pronounced at the university level.

Individuals in outer regional and remote areas have substantially less access to tertiary education providers than those living in metropolitan and inner regional areas. In addition, while tertiary attainment rates are lower in all regional and remote areas, compared with metropolitan areas, the Napthine Review highlighted that this disparity increases the further away from metropolitan areas a person resides and is more pronounced at the university level.

National Priorities and Industry Linkage Fund (NPILF)

What types of work experience in industry (WEI) units of study will be eligible for CGS funding?

Work experience in industry (WEI) units are those which comprise totally of work:

  • that is done as part of, or in connection with, a course of study undertaken with a provider
  • the purpose of which is to obtain work experience relevant to the course of study.

These units do not currently receive CGS funding, reducing the incentive for universities to offer them. By making these units eligible for CGS funding, more universities will look at offering WEI units.

How will encouraging universities to engage with industry benefit me as a student?

The NPILF will encourage universities to engage with industry to design courses that better prepare students to succeed in the workforce. Industry engagement will also provide more WEI opportunities for students, which in turn, will improve graduate employment outcomes.

Course rates

I started studying before 1 Jan 2021 – will my fees change?

If you were enrolled before 1 January 2021 and are continuing units in disciplines with increased student contribution amounts, you will continue paying the same amount as you would have, had these reforms not been implemented. 

Students enrolled in units that will be subject to a lower student contribution amount under the new design will pay the new lower student contribution, regardless of when they commenced their course.

Why should some students pay more?

With more students than ever likely to seek entry to higher education, we need the best funding system we can design.

This package provides more student places at Australian universities, meaning more students can study from 2021.

I have just finished school. The course I want to study has now become more expensive. What should I do?

If you are an eligible domestic university student, you can still defer your upfront costs through a HECS-HELP loan. If you want to study at university, you should continue to consider all relevant aspects of this big decision. Like in high school, students tend to do best when they study the things that they are interested in.

Check out the employment outcomes for different fields of study on the ComparEd website, and the Course Seeker website can help you find the course that’s right for you.

I would have commenced study this year except the shutdown due to COVID-19 meant that I deferred commencement until 2021. Will I have to pay the new rates?

Students commencing courses in 2021 will be subject to the new rates. If you passed the census date of a unit of study in a CSP in 2020 or earlier, and you did not complete the course before 31 December 2020, you will pay the previous rates as a continuing student.

I’m changing courses. Will I pay the new rates?

Students who did not complete the original course before 31 December 2020 and change to a different course in 2021 will pay the new rates for their course.

Will subsidised fees for short online courses continue in 2021?

Short course fees are no longer discounted. Students can still defer their upfront costs through HELP. For information on HELP eligibility, please visit www.studyassist.gov.au.

FAQs for providers

HELP

When will the HECS‑HELP reduction/exemption apply from?

The loan fee exemption will be extended to 30 June 2021. The reduction in the FEE‑HELP loan fee from 25 per cent to 20 per cent will apply to units of study with census dates on or after 1 July 2021.

How will the HECS‑HELP loan fee reduction/exemption be applied?

Both the loan fee exemption and the loan fee reduction from 25 per cent to 20 per cent will be applied automatically to applicable FEE‑HELP loans for units of study with a census date on or after 1 January 2021. No action is required on the part of providers.

Why is the HECS‑HELP loan fee exemption being extended?

The loan fee exemption is being extended to encourage students who have been affected by the COVID‑19 pandemic to continue their study or to engage in new study during this time.

Why was the HECS‑HELP loan fee reduced to 20 per cent, rather than by a larger amount or removed completely?

Loan fees are designed to offset the costs the Government incurs in facilitating HELP loans. Reducing but not completely removing the FEE‑HELP loan fee allows the HELP scheme to remain sustainable, while also reducing the financial burden on students.

Which students are eligible for the HECS‑HELP discount?

To receive the HECS‑HELP discount, a student must be eligible for HECS‑HELP assistance and make an upfront payment of $500 or more. Students can only make upfront payments on or before the census date. You may require students to pay by an earlier date for administrative purposes.

Can you provide an example of how the discount is calculated?

Robert is required to pay a student contribution amount for a unit of study of $2,745 by 31 January 2021 and makes an upfront payment in relation to the unit of $900 on 20 January 2021.

Robert is entitled to HECS‑HELP assistance for the unit of $1,845 ($2,745 minus $900), which the Commonwealth must pay to the higher education provider.

The upfront payment in relation to the unit exceeded $500 so there is a HECS‑HELP discount of $100 (one‑ninth of $900). The Commonwealth lends to Robert the remainder of the HECS‑HELP assistance in relation to the unit, an amount of $1,745 ($1,845 minus $100).

How will the discounted 10 per cent be paid to providers?

The HECS‑HELP discount will apply in the same way it did before the discount ceased to apply on 1 January 2017. When providers report upfront payments that are eligible for the discount to the department, they will receive the 10 per cent owed to providers by the Government as part of the usual HECS‑HELP payment processes.

What happens if a student who is eligible for HECS‑HELP assistance student makes an upfront payment of more than 90 per cent of the student contribution amount?

If the student is eligible for the HECS‑HELP discount, and the student makes an upfront payment of more than 90 per cent of the student contribution amount, then the provider must refund the student any excess upfront payment over 90 per cent of the student contribution amount. 

Can students change their payment option?

The usual administrative arrangements about upfront payments will continue apply. Students are not required to cancel their HECS‑HELP form if they subsequently choose to pay their fees upfront before the census date. If full payment is made on or before the census date (or earlier administrative date) for a unit of study, the student will not incur a HELP debt for that unit.

More information about upfront payments can be found in the Administrative Information for Providers 2020.

Will the student protection measures increase providers’ regulatory burden?

These changes have been introduced after consultation with providers and support the work being done in the higher education sector regarding best practice in enrolment and student progression. Providers will not be affected if their practices and policies are already compliant with the new provisions.

How is the eligibility for CSPs and HELP loans changing?

The new HELP eligibility requirements introduced by these measures require students to:

  • be a genuine student
  • be assessed as academically suited to their course by their provider
  • limit their enrolment to 2.0 EFTSL (i.e. two years or less) worth of study per year unless their provider has assessed them as academically suited to undertake more study
  • maintain a reasonable completion rate.

In what new circumstances will a provider have to cancel a HELP debt?

Providers will be required to cancel a student’s HELP debt if they were ineligible for the HELP loan, or if the provider completed the student’s request for Commonwealth assistance on their behalf.

How do providers assess whether a student is a ‘genuine student’?

Factors that contribute to a provider’s assessment of a student as ‘genuine’ include:

  • a student’s engagement with the course
  • whether the student has been provided with information about the requirements for, and the cost and duration of the course
  • whether the student has satisfied the course requirements and completed their assessments
  • the number of times a student studying online has logged onto the course
  • whether the student has provided up‑to‑date contact details that enable the Department to contact the student to verify the student’s enrolment in the course
  • any concurrent enrolments in other courses that may make it impossible or highly improbable for the student to complete the course in question.

What records do providers have to keep in relation to assessing a student as academically suitable for a unit of study?

Providers must keep records of how they have assessed students as academically suitable for their study. These records must be kept for seven years and be made readily available on request.

How will providers prevent students enrolled at multiple providers from exceeding their study load limit?

Students will not be eligible for Commonwealth assistance for a unit of study if their study load for the preceding 12 month period is greater than 2.0 Estimated Full Time Study Loan (EFTSL).

As providers cannot see a student’s enrolment across other providers, providers will receive near real time notifications through the Tertiary Collection of Student Information (TCSI) system when a student’s enrolment in a unit exceeds 2.0 EFTSL limit in a year. Providers will need to contact their students to assess them as academically suitable and able to successfully undertake 2.0 EFTSL or reduce their study load.

At what point will a student get assessed as having a low completion rate?

A student would be assessed as having a low completion rate if they have failed more than 50 per cent of their course of study from 2022 onwards, after they have attempted eight or more units of study in a bachelor or higher level course. For higher education courses lower than a bachelor level, this rule applies after a student has attempted four or more units of study.

These changes will take effect in 2022.

What options does a student with a low completion rate have to stay at university?

A student with a low completion rate can:

  • continue their course by paying upfront. If the student increases their completion rate to 50 per cent or higher by paying upfront for one or more units, they will once again be eligible for Commonwealth assistance for that course.
  • transfer to a new course. If a student with a low completion rate transfers to a different course their previous completion rate will not carry over, i.e. they will able to access Commonwealth assistance for their new course.
    • Depending on the content of their new course and the policies of their provider, the student may also be able to credit some (or all) the units they passed in their previous course towards their new course.
  • apply to their provider for special consideration for a failed unit or unit to not be counted towards their completion rate. The student will need to demonstrate special circumstances have applied to them for their application to be successful.

These changes will take effect in 2022.

How does the criteria for special circumstances for the low completion rate differ from special circumstances for cancelling HELP debts?

The criteria for special circumstances for the low completion rate are the same as those for cancelling a HELP debt. However, more detail is included concerning what circumstances may make it impractical for a student to complete the unit, to make it clear that students are not to be penalised for circumstances beyond their control as a result of this measure.

Examples of circumstances that may make it impractical for a student to complete their unit for the purposes of the low completion rate are:

  • illness or a worsening or changing medical condition
  • a family member dying
  • a family member having a serious medical condition
  • financial difficulties experienced by the student or their family
  • changes to the student’s employment
  • changes a student’s provider makes that disadvantages them
  • a natural disaster or other emergency in Australia
  • any other circumstances that a provider considers relevant.

These changes will take effect in 2022.

What changes are being made to the financial reporting requirements?

Financial reporting requirements in the Higher Education Provider Guidelines 2012 only apply to non‑university higher education providers who do not have to produce general purpose financial statements. These add small requirements that the financial statements adhere to certain accounting standards. These requirements do not apply to public universities.

What marketing practices will providers be prevented from engaging in?

All higher education providers will be prevented from:

  • misrepresenting that HELP assistance is not a loan or does not need to be repaid
  • offering benefits to induce students to take out a HELP loan
  • cold calling students about the availability of HELP assistance for study
  • mentioning the availability of HELP assistance for their study when using third party contact lists to contact students.

Why is the Government extending the power to audit providers for compliance to public universities?

Enabling the Government to audit universities for compliance under the legislation is reasonable, as higher education providers are recipients of significant Commonwealth funding. This power would only be used when necessary.

What happens if a provider approves a HELP loan for an ineligible student?

If a provider approves a HELP loan for an ineligible student and was at fault, the student’s HELP loan must be cancelled, and the provider cannot pursue the student for unpaid student contribution amounts of tuition fees resulting from the cancelled loan.

Cluster redesign

How will providers manage the grandfathering arrangements?

The department will publish the new rates and will also continue to publish the “old” rates each year for grandfathered students. For units in those disciplines with increased student contributions, universities will need to determine the maximum student contribution amount that applies to that student depending on whether that student is a grandfathered student.

How do we determine which students are grandfathered?

A person is a grandfathered student if:

(a) any of the following apply in relation to the person:

  • the person commenced a course of study (the ongoing course) with a higher education provider before 1 January 2021 but has not completed the ongoing course immediately before that day;
  • the person completed a course of study (the earlier course) with a higher education provider before 1 January 2021 and, on or after that day, the person commences another course of study (the honours course) that relates to the earlier course and that is leading to a higher education award that is an honours degree;
  • the person was undertaking, in 2020, an enabling course and, on or after 1 January 2021, the person commences another course of study (the later course) that is leading to a higher education award;
  • the person was undertaking, in 2020, a course of study (the UC course) leading to a higher education award that is an undergraduate certificate and, on or after 1 January 2021, the person commences another course of study (the higher qualification course) that relates to the UC course and that is leading to a higher education award that is a bachelor degree; and

(b) the person was, at any time before 1 January 2021, a Commonwealth supported student in relation to a unit of study in the ongoing course, earlier course, enabling course or UC course (as the case may be); and

(c) the person undertakes a unit of study as part of the ongoing course, honours course, later course or higher qualification course (as the case may be) that has a census date that is on or after 1 January 2021.

What about students who deferred their studies?

Where a student commenced a course of study as a Commonwealth supported student before 2021, but had not completed the course of study by the end of 2020, and they took a break from their studies by deferring, they are considered a grandfathered student on their return to that course of study.

Students who did not pass a census date before 1 January 2021 will not be grandfathered.

How will estimates of student load be reported through the Program Funding System (PFS)? Under the new clusters or the old ones?

Estimates in the Program Funding System (PFS) will be reported under the new cluster and student contribution bands.  However, for Clusters 1 and 2, and Bands 3 and 4 (those that have both grandfathered and non-grandfathered students), providers will be required to provide separate estimates of grandfathered and non-grandfathered EFTSL.

Will these changes affect private universities and other higher education institutions?

This policy applies to all CSPs, regardless of the institution or level of course.

Is this funding floor also a funding guarantee?

The funding floor is not a guarantee. It specifies a minimum MBGA for a university’s for higher education courses. Universities will still need to enrol students to receive CGS funding, consistent with current arrangements.

The Higher Education Continuity Guarantee is aimed at providing funding certainty for universities from 2021 to 2023 to guarantee their MBGA funding regardless of how many students they enrol.

Which universities does this apply to?

The funding floor will apply to Table A providers.

Where are the funding floor amounts specified?

During the period 2021 to 2024 funding floor amounts will be specified in the CGS Guidelines. From 2025 onwards, a university’s funding floor will be its MBGA for the previous year as specified in their funding agreement.

Will the amounts be recalculated each year after receiving actual enrolment data?

No. The department will calculate funding floor amounts for 2021 to 2024 based on 2019 enrolment information. This does two things: it provides funding certainty to universities and ensures that any effect on enrolment numbers by the COVID-19 pandemic do not adversely influence university funding amounts.

Given the funding levels are based on an average of universities, some institutions will make a loss teaching certain courses. How are institutions meant to manage this?

This is no different to current arrangements.

Given this policy is being implemented as part of a broader package, including additional student places, a new National Priorities and Industry Linkage Fund, and a three year transition fund, universities will have time to adapt their cost structures to meet the new funding levels where required.

What is the definition of a high-growth metropolitan campus?

A metropolitan campus will be categorised as high-growth metropolitan if it is ASGS SA4 area has a projected population growth rate for 15 to 29-year olds above the average for all metropolitan SA4s, averaged over a three year funding agreement period. Further details are provided in the technical note

What will happen if there is insufficient student demand to fulfil the growth funding?

Funding increases will be based on the student load for the previous period. Within a funding agreement period, universities will be able to use growth funding across all campuses and course levels up to their funding envelope cap.

However, if during that period a university does not increase its student load by the amount of the growth funding it received for that period, the funding growth rates for the following funding agreement period will be lower than for universities who did increase their student load. For example, load at regional campuses would increase by 2.5 per cent, load at high-growth campuses would grow by 1 per cent, while load at low-growth campuses would not be increased. Funding for all universities would grow by at least CPI.

Note that the most recent student load data will be used to make these calculations. That is, it may only be possible to use two years of student data to assess a university’s growth over the three year period.

How will the notional bachelor funding operate within the funding envelope?

While universities will be able to use CGS funding within the envelope for sub-bachelor, bachelor, or postgraduate courses, a “notional bachelor funding”, based on current non-designated MBGAs
(subject to the effects of the cluster redesign), will be maintained for the purposes of calculating additional places growth funding.

If a university does not reach its notional bachelor funding, will it still receive the growth funding?

The Government has introduced a Higher Education Continuity Guarantee that will ensure universities receive the full CGS payments in 2021, 2022 and 2023, regardless of the number of students they enrol. This will support universities adversely impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Beyond this guarantee period, the funding calculation will continue to operate in a similar way to current arrangements. That means that if a university is “under-enrolled” compared to its maximum envelope amount, it will receive CGS funding only for the students that are enrolled. The envelope (like the current MBGA) is a cap on funding, not a minimum level or a guarantee.

Will these changes affect private universities and other higher education institutions?

This policy applies only to Table A universities. There is other additional funding in the JRG package that applies to non-university providers and private universities.

Why are the funding increases higher for regional areas which have lower levels of projected population increase compared to the high-growth metropolitan areas?

The funding increases for regional campuses reflects the Government’s ambition that students in regional Australia will increasingly participate in higher education, and attain higher education qualifications at a higher rate than is currently the case.

As noted in the final report of the National Regional, Rural and Remote Tertiary Education Strategy, the bachelor or higher attainment rate in regional Australia is significantly lower than in metropolitan areas. Those who grow up in regional, rural and remote (RRR) areas are less than half as likely to gain a bachelor and above qualification by the time they are 25, compared to those from metropolitan areas. People living in RRR areas account for 27.3 per cent of people aged 15-64 years, but only 21.5 per cent of domestic undergraduate enrolments.

Transfer of CSPs within a university’s envelope: what are universities allowed to do?

Letting universities decide how CSPs should be distributed across levels within their funding envelope is an extension of existing policy. Under this measure, non-medical courses at bachelor, postgraduate coursework and sub-bachelor (diploma, advanced diploma, and associate degree) levels, will not have any allocated places in funding agreements. This means universities can deliver the mix of course levels that is most appropriate for their students and communities, within a fixed maximum level of funding or the Maximum Basic Grant Amount (MBGA) for higher education courses (the envelope). There will not be any minimum or maximum levels of delivery specified for courses at each level. The department will monitor delivery with a view to informing the Government on the success of the initiative.

The exceptions to this arrangement are for enabling courses, which will be limited to a maximum load as set out in funding agreements. Universities may deliver fewer enabling places and more places at other levels. Such “under-delivery” of enabling places would not affect the maximum level as set out in funding agreements for future years, but payments of enabling loading within the Indigenous, Regional and Low SES Attainment Fund (IRLSAF) will be reconciled against actual delivery of enabling courses. Under current arrangements the enabling loading is not reconciled against delivery.

Can universities trade places with another university?

Yes. Universities will continue to be allowed to seek trades with other Table A universities, with oversight by the Minister of any proposed trades.

Any trading of CSPs between universities would need to be cost neutral. As the envelope will be a total amount of funding, rather than a specific number of places, any trade in places between universities would effectively be a transfer of CGS funding, with respective increases and reductions in each university’s maximum envelope amount. In the case of enabling places, any trade would include the CGS cluster funding along with the associated allocation of enabling loading within the IRLSAF.

Universities involved in a transfer would negotiate mutually agreeable terms for the trade (that do not breach any legal or ethical obligations) and then notify the department of the agreement. For example, a university could offer to purchase places at a negotiated price with another university or offer access to infrastructure or services in exchange for ongoing CGS funding.

I’ve heard about a guarantee for university funding. Does that apply to the funding envelope?

The Government has introduced a Higher Education Continuity Guarantee (HECG) that will guarantee CGS payments for public universities in 2021, 2022 and 2023. The HECG provides stability to public universities so they can focus on transitioning their operations to the new arrangements. Further information can be found at the Higher Education Continuity Guarantee FAQ.

Will the CPI growth on bachelor-level funding be in addition to the population growth rate associated with the performance-based funding (PBF) scheme?

The funding envelope ensures that all funding for CSPs is indexed at the same rate, i.e., at CPI, which greatly simplifies funding to universities for teaching and learning. This will mean an increase in indexation of funding for non-medical bachelor places, which is currently indexed by the population growth rate of 18-64-year olds.

From 2021, the PBF scheme will be adjusted to make approximately $80 million amount of growth funding per year contingent on performance requirements. Performance funding will grow each year to a total equivalent to 7.5 per cent of funding for domestic, non‑medical bachelor places to incentivise university performance. This measure is in line with the PBF model implemented in 2020.

How will medical CSPs be regulated under this policy? Can universities use the flexibility under the funding envelope model to increase medical place allocations?

Universities will not be able to transfer their allocated CSPs from their bachelor, sub‑bachelor or postgraduate allocation to medical places. The Australian Government regulates the number of medical CSPs in order to manage the number of clinical placements and the flow-on impact on the health budget. Medical CSPs will continue to be regulated under the funding envelope model.

How will the load estimates and reporting requirements change under the funding envelope policy?

Universities will continue to report load estimates to receive advance payments under this policy. The final details of the load estimates process, including PFS and HEPCAT processes, will be finalised ahead of implementation of the policy (from 1 January 2021), to give sufficient time for universities to prepare.

Why are “pre-COVID” economic parameters used for the HECG?

Pre-COVID economic parameters, specifically CPI, will be used (for 2021 to 2023) when working out HECG amounts in order to provide support and certainty for universities as the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on the sector continue.  

COVID-19 has had a deflationary impact on the economy, meaning that CPI is significantly lower than the long-term average trend. By guaranteeing funding based on pre-COVID means university funding will not be adversely affected.

Which providers will benefit from the HECG?

Table A providers and The University of Notre Dame Australia.

Will my university’s guaranteed MBGA be adjusted when new enrolment data becomes available?

No. MBGAs during the transition period (2021-2023) are calculated based on the most recently available data (2019). The HECG will ensure that universities receiving their full MBGA funding amounts. As a result, actual enrolment numbers for these years will not impact guaranteed MBGAs.

Why is the Government guaranteeing CSP funding when it is the drop in international student numbers that is the real cause of university economic hardship?

In this challenging economic climate, the Government wants to provide certainty to universities. The HECG will alleviate financial pressure universities would otherwise face from having their CGS payments reduced due to under-enrolments.

Will the guarantee extend to transition fund loading payments?

No. Transition fund loading amounts will be reconciled when actual data is available. The Government introduced transition fund loading to help universities transition to the new JRG reforms by maintaining their revenue during this period. The Government introduced the HECG in recognition of the impact that COVID-19 has had on the sector.

What CGS payments are being guaranteed?

Universities will receive their CGS funding (MBGA) as determined by the Government having accounted for the following JRG measures:

  • Cluster redesign (taking into account grandfathering arrangements)
  • CPI indexation
  • Additional places

Why does the HECG cease in 2024?

A 3-year transition period (2021-2023) covers off a reasonable period of time to account for lasting impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. When the JRG reforms are fully implemented in 2024 we expect that universities will have adapted to the new system and will have the capacity to attract strong student enrolment numbers.

Is every higher education provider eligible for TFL?

As outlined in Chapter 7 of Commonwealth Grant Scheme Guidelines 2020, all Table A providers and the University of Notre Dame Australia are eligible for the TFL from 2021 to 2023 under the package. However, whether a provider will receive TFL in all three years or at all depends on whether a provider is expected to see a funding shortfall in those years under the package in comparison to under the current funding system. This is influenced by their student load cluster profile.

Consider the following example university that has student contribution amounts and Commonwealth funding amounts, under both the current system and the package, shown by the stacked columns in the chart below.

In 2021 and 2022 the university’s base funding amounts under the JRG package are less than the university’s base funding amount would have been under the current funding system. Therefore, this university receives Transition Fund Loading amounts (in red below) in these years.

However, in 2023 this university’s base funding amount under the JRG package now exceeds what the university’s base funding amount would have been under the current funding system and no Transition Fund Loading is required for this university in this year.

Figure 1: Schematic diagram of how JRG Transition Fund Loading will work.

Image
An example university has student contribution amounts and Commonwealth funding amounts, under both the current system and the JRG package. In 2021 and 2022 the university’s base funding amounts under the JRG package is less than what the university’s base funding amount would have under the current funding system. Therefore, this university receives Transition Fund Loading amounts in these years. However, in 2023 this university’s base funding amount under the JRG package now exceeds what the university’s
Caption
An example university has student contribution amounts and Commonwealth funding amounts, under both the current system and the JRG package. In 2021 and 2022 the university’s base funding amounts under the JRG package is less than what the university’s base funding amount would have under the current funding system. Therefore, this university receives Transition Fund Loading amounts in these years. However, in 2023 this university’s base funding amount under the JRG package now exceeds what the university’s base funding amount would have been under the current funding system and no Transition Fund Loading is required for this university in this year.

Will the national priority places affect TFL amounts?

No. The TFL calculation does not include the funding allocated for the national priority places at higher education providers.

What is the CPI indexation applied to the TFL estimation?

As announced by the Minister for Education, the Hon Dan Tehan MP, the pre-COVID indexation is guaranteed for the next three years 2021-2023. The TFL amounts are estimated using the pre-COVID CPI indexation as estimated by the Department of Treasury.

When would providers receive the first payment?

The first TFL payment will be made as part of the first routine fortnight payment as per current arrangement.

Does the department reassess the TFL estimates each year using new verified enrolment data for each provider?

No. The TFL estimates for the next funding period 2021-23 are set using the 2019 enrolment data (the most recent verified data). The estimates will not be reassessed but will be reconciled using the verified enrolment data for each year.

If a provider was over-enrolled or under-enrolled in 2019, does it affect the TFL estimates for the provider?

Yes. The estimate was based on the student profile and load in each provider in 2019 and the assumed profile remains the same for the next funding period 2021-23. Over-enrolment or under-enrolment in 2019 could affect the TFL estimation by the department. The TFL estimates are indicative and will be reconciled using the actual student load in each year during the transition period. Further details regarding TFL reconciliation are to be provided.

If a provider over- or under-enrols during the transition period under the JRG reform, will it affect the TFL payable?

Yes. Higher education providers will receive the estimated TFL in the fortnightly advance payments. However, these payments will be reconciled using the actual student enrolment in 2021, 2022 and 2023. If a provider is under-enrolled or over-enrolled, the actual TFL amount payable would deviate the estimated amounts. Further details regarding TFL reconciliation are to be provided.

How does the Higher Education Continuity Guarantee affect the TFL payable to each provider?

Under the Higher Education Continuity Guarantee, the Government is guaranteeing CGS payments for public universities for the 2021, 2022 and 2023 grant years. Public universities will receive the maximum amount of Commonwealth funding to which they are entitled, regardless of any change to their enrolments in CSPs. This means the actual enrolment each year only influences the student contribution component and the funding for additional places of a provider’s base funding and the TFL under the package.

National Priorities and Industry Linkage Fund (NPILF)

How do the enrolment bands work in relation to the allocation of the NPILF?

Providers will receive an NPILF amount which corresponds to the number of CSPs they are allocated with each year, as outlined in the table below:

Band Criteria (2018 CSPs) NPILF funding allocation received
0 – 9,999 $3.25 million
10,000 – 14,999 $4.75 million
15,000 – 21,999 $7 million
22,000 and above $8.75 million

Why has funding been allocated to the NPILF instead of additional student places?

Funding has been allocated to the NPILF instead of additional student places to encourage universities to produce job-ready graduates, including through engaging with industry.

Which higher education providers are eligible to receive allocations from the NPILF and IRLSAF?

For NPILF, only Table A providers are eligible.

For IRLSAF, current eligibility criteria for the Higher Education Participation and Partnerships Program, regional loading, enabling loading, and relevant elements of the National Institutes Grant (NIG) will continue to apply until 2023.

How will this proposal change existing higher education funding arrangements?

In 2018, universities, on average, spent around 89 per cent of base funding (CGS subsidy plus student contribution) on teaching and scholarship. The remaining 11 per cent was used to fund research, industry engagement and community outreach activities.

This proposal will, in conjunction with the ‘Better university funding arrangements: reducing complexity, targeting job ready graduates’ policy, better align base funding with the cost of teaching and scholarship and use the savings to explicitly support universities’ industry engagement and community outreach activities.

If the IRLSAF will be distributed in accordance with current policy (for its constituent programs) until 2023, how can this be called a new fund?

The Government wants to create clear legislative intent that the programs comprising the IRLSAF until 2023 must be used to improve higher education participation and attainment for Indigenous, regional and low-SES students.

During the transition period from 2021 to 2023, DESE will work closely with the university sector to co-design a final model for the IRLSAF which is dynamic, fit-for-purpose and maintains the objects of the programs comprising the IRLSAF.

What is the purpose of the transition fund?

The transition fund will be used to mitigate any adverse impact on a university as result of this package from 2021 to 2023. The transition period and transition fund will give universities the time and resources they need to adapt their cost structures in response to this package.

How will the Australian National University’s National Institutes Grant be treated?

Four universities currently receive funding through the National Institutes Grant. This funding will be rolled into the new funds, with the Government working with the affected universities to determine the most sensible way of doing this.

Short courses

Which fields of education will the 50,000 short course places in 2021 include?

Universities can offer short courses in all fields of education. Non-university higher education providers can offer short courses in fields such as agriculture, teaching, health science engineering, and information technology.

How will the 50,000 short course places for 2021 be allocated to providers?

Further information on the allocation process will be available on the department’s website shortly.

I am a non-university higher education provider and wish to offer short online courses. What is the approval process for these courses?

For non-self-accrediting authorities, courses must be approved by TEQSA. Non-university higher education providers looking to have short courses approved should consult TEQSA’s website as soon as practicable.

Regional Education

Regional Education Commissioner

What will the Commissioner do?

The Commissioner will have an important role in seeking to ensure that regional and remote priorities are well coordinated, given sufficient attention and to monitor that any actions undertaken in response to the recommendations of the Strategy do not duplicate work already taking place. Key elements of this role will include:

  • overseeing and monitoring implementation of the strategy
  • providing advice to Government on regional education policy
  • working closely with stakeholders and across all levels of government to bring together existing and new effort
  • overseeing key project work that was recommended by the Napthine Review to provide a range of tools and information to better respond to the disparity in regional and remote tertiary education
  • consulting and working with the Department of Social Services and Services Australia regarding financial support for regional and remote students
  • developing advice to respond to the educational needs of regional and remote Indigenous communities, and other equity groups
  • reporting annually on progress to the Minister for Education and the Minister for Decentralisation and Regional Education
  • commissioning and supporting a post-implementation evaluation.

How will the Commissioner be selected?

The Commissioner will be appointed in a non-statutory position by the Minister for Education through an application process in the second half of 2020.

When will the Commissioner be appointed?

The Commissioner’s term will commence in the first half of 2021.

How much funding has been provided to establish the Regional Education Commissioner?

The government has allocated $6 million over four years to establish the Regional Education Commissioner and associated administrative support.

Fares allowance

How is the Fares Allowance changing? 

Fares Allowance is a payment through Services Australia to assist students to travel between their permanent home address and their place of tertiary study. More details are available at www.servicesaustralia.gov.au/individuals/services/Centrelink/fares-allowance. 
 
In 2020 students must be receiving Youth Allowance, Austudy or the Pensioner Education Supplement (PES) for six months before they can access a return trip home under Fares Allowance during their first year of study. This change will reduce the waiting period from six months to three months, to allow students to travel home in the mid-year break in their first year. All other aspects of Fares Allowance and the eligibility criteria will remain the same. Changes will commence from 1 January 2021, to benefit students who begin receiving Youth Allowance, Austudy or PES for the 2021 academic year. 

Who is eligible for funding and how can I apply? 

Please refer to the Services Australia website for all details on eligibility for Fares Allowance and how to apply at www.servicesaustralia.gov.au/individuals/services/Centrelink/fares-allowance.

Regional University Centres

How can organisations apply for Regional University Centre funding? 

Applications are closed. Please contact regional@dese.gov.au for more information.