Access and Participation

For: 

The department is working to ensure that all people with the desire and capability to attend university have the opportunity to do so, and succeed in their studies, regardless of their background.

The department administers several programs and initiatives to support student access and participation in higher education in Australia.

More opportunities for regional and remote students

On 19 October 2020 the Australian Parliament passed the legislation for the Job‑ready Graduates Package of reforms to higher education. This included a series of measures to increase opportunities for regional and remote students to attend university and lift investment in regional university campuses. The new measures arise from the National Regional, Rural and Remote Tertiary Education Strategy (2019) and are intended to bridge the gap in attainment rates between regional and remote students and metropolitan students, drive productivity for the regions and bolster the research capacity of regional universities to foster potential and opportunity in regional communities.

The measures will ensure regional and remote students have increased financial support for their higher education study and improved travel support.

For more information, go to the More opportunities for regional Australia page. 

Tertiary Access Payment

Starting in 2021, the Tertiary Access Payment (TAP) will significantly benefit relocating school-leavers who live in outer regional and remote Australia to access tertiary education in any area they choose and ensure their choices are not restricted by their location.

The 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 and above). It will help reduce the financial burden of moving for tertiary study and provide an incentive for students to begin tertiary study immediately after completing secondary school, rather than deferring and taking a gap year.

In the 2021 academic year, up to 8160 students will benefit from this payment.

Regional Education Commissioner

The Regional Education Commissioner will work with all tiers of government and with stakeholders to halve the disparity in tertiary education outcomes between regional and metropolitan students by 2030.

They will oversee the implementation of the National, Regional, Rural and Remote Tertiary Education Strategy (Napthine Review) recommendations and measures and champion the cause of regional education across all education sectors.

This includes early childhood, schools and tertiary education as well as providing a national focus through coordinating the Australian Government’s Regional Education Strategy including overseeing and coordinating a series of projects in response to the recommendations of the Napthine review.

For more information on the Regional Education Commissioner, please see the More opportunities for regional students: Regional Education Commissioner FAQ  

Demand-driven funding for Indigenous students from regional and remote areas

The Australian Government will provide $17.1 million over four years to enable Indigenous students from regional and remote areas to access demand-driven Commonwealth‑supported university places.

In 2021, an additional 160 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students from regional and remote areas will benefit from a guaranteed Commonwealth supported place at a university of their choice, where they are accepted by the university into the course of study. This number will rise to over 1,700 students by 2024.

For more information, please see More opportunities for regional Australia.

Strengthen and expand the Regional University Centres program

Regional University Centres provide infrastructure such as study spaces, video conferencing, computing facilities and internet access, as well as academic support and pastoral care for students studying via distance at partner universities.

There are currently 16 Centres operating around Australia, with nine more to be established in late 2020 and early 2021. Further information on the Centres and their locations is available on the department's website.

As part of the Government’s response to the Napthine Review on 19 June 2020, Minister Tehan announced a further $21 million to strengthen and expand the Regional University Centres program. This includes funding to establish up to eight new Centres, as well as ongoing funding to support the existing Centres. This brings the Government’s total investment in the Regional University Centres program to $74.2 million.

Rural and Regional Enterprise Scholarships program

The Rural and Regional Enterprise Scholarships (RRES) program was announced in 2016 as part of the Australian Government's election commitment to improve educational opportunities, access and attainment outcomes for regional and remote students by supporting undergraduate, postgraduate and higher‑level vocational education and training.

The Government has invested $58.1 million in the program to offer more than 3,000 scholarships since the program opened in 2017. 

Scholarships are available to students studying from six months full-time up to eight years part-time, on campus, or through online and distance education. Scholarships are valued at up to $18,000 each (for a full-time, four-year qualification). Shorter part-time qualifications are funded on a pro rata basis. An additional $500 is also available to support an internship, where relevant.

Round 4 of the RRES program opened on 20 January 2020 on a rolling round basis, with 1100 scholarships available for students commencing study at any time during the 2020 academic calendar year. New applications for Round 4 are currently closed but students should check the Queensland Tertiary Admissions Centre site regularly for updates.

Higher Education Participation and Partnerships Program (HEPPP)

The Higher Education Participation and Partnerships Program (HEPPP) aims to ensure that Australians from low SES backgrounds who have the ability to study at university have the opportunity to do so. It provides funding to assist universities listed in Table A of the Higher Education Support Act 2003 to undertake activities and implement strategies that improve access to undergraduate courses for people from low socio-economic (SES) backgrounds, as well as improving the retention and completion rates of those students.

As part of the Job-ready Graduates package, from 2021 the HEPPP will be refocused to support regional, remote and Indigenous students as well as those from low SES backgrounds.

For more information, please see More opportunities for regional Australia.

More transparent and accountable funding

Indigenous, Regional and Low-SES Attainment Fund (IRLSAF)

The Job-ready Graduates package introduces a new Indigenous, Regional and Low SES Attainment Fund (IRLSAF) from 2021 (subject to legislation). The IRLSAF will fund universities to support Indigenous students and students from low SES, regional and remote backgrounds.

The IRLSAF realigns existing funding by combining the Higher Education Participation and Partnerships Program (HEPPP), regional loading and enabling loading. Funding for these programs will be distributed according to current policy until 2023. During this time, Government will work with the sector to design a more refined model to support equity outcomes for implementation from 2024.

For more information about the IRLSAF, please see More opportunities for regional Australia.

Existing Programs and initiatives

Higher Education Disability Support Program

The Disability Support Program provides funding to universities to undertake activities that assist in removing barriers to access and participation in higher education for students with disability.

The program assists in providing educational support and/or equipment to domestic students with disability with high cost needs. Funding is also provided to encourage providers to implement strategies to attract and support students with disabilities.

The DSP provides funding for the Australian Disability Clearinghouse on Education and Training (ADCET) website. The site provides information and other resources designed to promote inclusive teaching and learning practices for people with disability.

The program was evaluated in 2014-15 by KPMG. The evaluation findings are supportive of the program and make suggestions for its ongoing operation. The Australian Government is currently considering its response to the report. Please find relevant documents for the program’s evaluation by KPMG below: 

Evaluation of the Disability Support Program Executive Summary

Evaluation of the Disability Support Program Final Report

National Disability Coordination Officer Program

The National Disability Coordination Officer (NDCO) Program supports a network of regionally based officers to work strategically to assist people with disability, to access and participate in tertiary education and subsequent employment.

As part of a national network, NDCOs work at a local level to assist working age people (aged 15-64) with a disability who may wish to succeed in post-school education, training and employment. NDCOs do this by working with education professionals, employers, the community and others to: 

  • facilitate smooth transitions from school, to tertiary education and employment;
  • address systemic barriers and gaps in support for people with disabilities in accessing and participating in tertiary education and employment;
  • enhance inclusive practices and increase accessibility in tertiary education and employment for people with disabilities;
  • increase awareness of people with disability about their post-school options and supports so they can participate in education and subsequent employment to the same extent as people without disabilities.

National Centre for Student Equity in Higher Education (NCSEHE)

The National Centre for Student Equity in Higher Education (NCSEHE) is funded through the National Priorities Pool and hosted by Curtin University. NCSEHE's purpose is to improve higher education outcomes (including access, participation, retention, success, and completion rates) for marginalised and disadvantaged people by:

  • strengthening Australia’s student equity in higher education research quality, capability and capacity;
  • supporting the building of a robust evidence base;
  • informing institutional best practice and enhancing on the ground delivery of equity measures; and
  • informing evidence based public policy design and implementation.

For more information, please visit the National Centre for Student Equity in Higher Education website.