Improving higher education for students

The Job-ready Graduates package invests in higher education in areas of national priority so our higher education system can deliver the best results for students, industry and the community.

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The Job-ready Graduates package invests in higher education in areas of national priority so our higher education system can deliver the best results for students, industry and the community.

The package delivers immediate support to students, universities and researchers as we work to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic. Total funding for higher education in 2021 will exceed $20 billion, a record level of investment in the sector and increase of more than $2 billion from 2020.

There will up to 30,000 new places in 2021 to support more students to attend university and gain undergraduate qualifications and there are 50,000 higher education short course places in 2021

The cost of university degrees in areas of national priorities are significantly reduced, in courses in engineering, computing, allied health, education, and nursing, for example.

There is additional funding support for students in rural and regional areas with the implementation of the Tertiary Access Payment and further funding to support Indigenous Australians to attend university.

Better university funding arrangements for students

The Higher Education Support Act 2003 has been amended to benefit students and the future job market. The Job-ready Graduates package delivers:

  • more bachelor‑level Commonwealth Supported Places (CSPs) at universities from 2021 and more short course places.
  • simpler university access for disadvantaged Australians through a National Priorities and Industry Linkage Fund (NPILF) and an Indigenous, Regional and Low SES Attainment Fund (IRLSAF).
  • Updates to the funding the Government provides to universities through the Commonwealth Grant Scheme (CGS), and changes to student payments.

Indigenous Students

Indigenous students from rural and regional Australia admitted to university will have a guaranteed bachelor-level Commonwealth supported place.

Changing student contributions

Changes to university funding for Commonwealth supported places means that the amount students pay toward some courses — usually deferred through a HECS-HELP loan - has also changed. Around 60 per cent of students will see no change or a reduction in their contributions.

Australia’s HECS-HELP loans system continues to ensure that eligible students don’t face any cost barriers to accessing a higher education.

Changes bring the funding closer to the actual cost of delivering university education. Read more in the Job-ready Graduates Package technical note.

This change does not apply to students enrolled prior to 1 January 2021.

Student contribution bands and maximum contribution amounts from 1 January 2021

Each unit of study is classified in a student contribution band, depending on its study area. The maximum amount a student pays for each unit is set in that band.

Student contribution band

2021 maximum Student contribution amount
(per EFTSL)

Band : 4: Law, accounting, administration, economics, commerce, communications, society and culture

$0 - $14,500

Band 3: Dentistry, medicine, veterinary science

$0 - $11,300

Band 2: Architecture, IT, other health, allied health, creative arts, engineering, science, environmental studies, professional pathway psychology, professional pathway social work

$0 - $7,950

Band 1: Agriculture, English, mathematics, teaching, clinical psychology, languages, nursing

$0 – $3,950


Students can estimate the contribution amount they have to pay for each of their units of study based on the student contribution range of the unit, and the equivalent full-time student load (EFTSL) of their unit.

Continuing Commonwealth supported students will need to know whether the unit is in a grandfathered discipline.

The student contribution amount for a unit of study is estimated by calculating:

(Student contribution set by provider) x (EFTSL value of unit) = the amount the student will have to pay.

Temporary exemption in the FEE-HELP loan fee

The loan fee exemption for FEE‑HELP has been extended. First announced under the Higher Education Relief Package, the exemption seeks to encourage students to commence or continue study. The exemption will apply for all units of study with a census date on or between 1 April 2020 and 30 June 2021.

Reduction in the FEE-HELP loan fee

The FEE-HELP loan fee will be reduced on 1 July 2021 to 20 per cent.

This will reduce the total debt incurred by students accessing FEE‑HELP for undergraduate courses at Non-University Higher Education Providers or Table A universities. This will encourage lifelong learning by further reducing the financial barriers those students face in commencing or continuing higher education.  

HECS‑HELP up‑front payment discount

Students eligible for HECS‑HELP assistance will receive a 10 per cent discount if they make up-front payments of $500 or more towards their student contribution.

The discount means students will pay less for their studies if they make an up-front payment and gives students more options to pay their contributions. The discount provides an incentive for students to pay up-front, either fully or partially, which will decrease their student debt.

The HECS‑HELP up-front payment discount will apply for up-front payments of $500 or more for units of study with a census date on or after 1 January 2021.

Student protections

Student protection and provider integrity requirements will now apply to all higher education providers, ensuring that they are more accountable for the outcomes they deliver for students, industry and the wider community.

Every student can be confident that wherever they choose to study, they will be assessed as being academically suited to that study, their academic progress and engagement will be monitored, and they will be prevented from incurring debt for study for which they are not suited.

The measures address cases where Government has identified students being continuously enrolled at multiple providers at the same time, resulting in excessive HELP debts (in excess of $600,000), and very low pass rates (passing on average only 1 in 5 attempted units).

No student will be penalised for circumstances beyond their control if the higher education provider is satisfied it is impracticable for them to complete the requirements of a unit of study. Circumstances for consideration include medical, family/personal, employment or course related challenges where it would be unreasonable to expect a student to continue their studies.

The protection measures will:

  • ensure that only genuine students have access to Commonwealth assistance
  • ensure that students have been assessed as academically suitable for their course
  • require students to maintain a reasonable completion rate to continue to access Commonwealth assistance
  • place a limit on the amount of study that a student can enrol in at one time
  • allow students to cancel their HELP debt if their provider has not appropriately managed their progress in a course
  • protect students from being pursued for study debts if their provider was at fault
  • extend the Government’s ability to audit providers for compliance to all providers
  • support providers in putting in place best practice marketing, enrolment and reporting practices.

These measures mean that every student studying in Australia can be confident that wherever they choose to study, they will be assessed as being academically suited to that study, their academic progress and engagement will be monitored throughout the course, and they will be prevented from incurring debt for study for which they are not suited.

Helping Australians to reskill and upskill

Short online courses including in teaching, health, science, information technology and agriculture provide faster training pathways and alternative study options for workers looking to upskill. To help Australians upskill or retrain there are 50,000 higher education short course places in 2021. In 2020, 55 providers offered nearly 400 short courses.

To apply for a short course in 2021, visit Course Seeker.

Tertiary Access Payment

The Tertiary Access Payment (TAP) is a one-off, non-indexed, means-tested payment of $5000 to school-leavers from outer regional or remote areas who relocate more than 90 minutes from their home to undertake full-time, higher-level tertiary education (Certificate IV or above).

The payment assists students with the additional costs of relocating to undertake tertiary study.

The TAP aims to encourage individuals in outer regional and remote Australia to go on to tertiary study (Certificate IV or above) rather than taking a gap year after completing year 12.

Who is eligible to apply for the TAP?

The TAP will be available for school leavers who are:

  • from an outer-regional, remote or very remote area (as per the ASGS remoteness classifications),
  • enrolled in a Certificate IV or above qualification, with duration of at least one year,
  • relocating to study at an institution at least 90 minutes by public transport from their home (either in another regional location or a metropolitan location),
  • enrolled in at least 75 per cent of a fulltime study load over a 12 month period, and
  • commencing tertiary study in the year immediately following completion of Year 12 or equivalent.

This payment will be means-tested. Students will need to be below a parental income threshold of $250,000 to receive this payment.

Find more information and eligibility criteria at Tertiary Access Payment.

How can I apply for the Tertiary Access Payment?

Students relocating to study at a university will apply through their university. Students relocating to study at a non-university higher education provider or a vocational education and training provider will apply through Services Australia. Further details on how to apply will be released later in 2020.

How do I receive the payment?

The TAP will be made in two instalments – a $3000 payment toward the beginning of the year, to assist with upfront costs, and a $2000 payment toward the end of the first year. Exact timing of payments will depend on institutions’ census dates.

This payment will only be available in the student’s first year of study – no further payments are made in the second year of study or beyond.

What can the money be used for?

There are no restrictions on what the TAP money is used for – students are able to spend the payment as they wish. The TAP can be used to cover costs associated with study including, but not restricted to:

  • bond for accommodation
  • assistance with rent and other household bills
  • groceries
  • textbooks and other study supplies.

I am eligible for Youth Allowance/ABSTUDY. Am I also eligible for the Tertiary Access Payment?

Yes. For those outer regional and remote students also receiving Youth Allowance or ABSTUDY, they can also receive the TAP, as long as they meet all other eligibility criteria. For these students, this payment will provide additional support to recognise the extra challenges faced by students from low-income families.

Students who are eligible for the Relocation Scholarship linked to Youth Allowance/ABSTUDY payments are also able to receive the TAP.

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

Individuals in outer regional and remote areas have substantially less access to tertiary education providers than those living in metropolitan and inner regional areas. Tertiary attainment rates are lower in all regional and remote areas, compared with metropolitan areas, and this disparity increases the further away from metropolitan areas and is most pronounced at university. 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.