Access and Participation


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.

Expanding opportunities for regional and remote students

On 19 June 2020 the Minister for Education the Hon Dan Tehan MP announced a wide-ranging higher education reform package. A number of these measures were in response to the National Regional, Rural and Remote Tertiary Education Strategy (the Napthine Review). The Napthine Review was publicly released on 28 August 2019, and made seven recommendations and proposed 33 individual key actions aimed at improving regional and remote tertiary education outcomes.

Based on priority actions identified by stakeholders for the implementation of the Strategy, the Government is investing more than $400 million over four years from 2020-21 to implement a range of reforms aimed at improving participation and attainment rates of regional and remote individuals, while also supporting regional universities and communities.

Tertiary Access Payment

Starting in 2021, the Tertiary Access Payment will significantly benefit school-leavers who live in outer regional and remote Australia to access tertiary education. An estimated 8160 tertiary students will be eligible for this payment in the 2021 academic year. This measure will encourage and assist regional and remote students to access tertiary study immediately following school (year 12), rather than taking a gap year by providing a one-off, non-indexed payment of $5,000 to school-leavers from outer regional or remote areas who relocate to undertake full-time, higher-level tertiary education. These payments will be demand-driven to have the flexibility to respond to increased tertiary participation.

This payment will be available for school-leavers who are from an outer-regional, remote or very remote area enrolled in a Certificate IV or above qualification who relocate more than 90 minutes from their home.

Regional Education Commissioner

The Napthine Review recommended that the implementation of the Strategy will require coordinated effort across education sectors, as well as with the states and territories. The Commissioner will have an important role to play in bringing these efforts together, and ensuring the Strategy is implemented in a cohesive manner. It will benefit all education stakeholders from early childhood through to higher education, both nationally and across jurisdictions, to improve tertiary education outcomes in regional and remote areas.

More information on the Commissioner.

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.

For more information, please see the Frequently Asked Questions.

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. The IRLSAF will fund universities to support Indigenous students and students from low SES and regional backgrounds.

The IRLSAF realigns existing funding by combining the Higher Education Participation and Partnerships Program (HEPPP), regional loading, enabling loading and relevant elements of the National Institutes Grant. 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.

Regional University Centres

Regional University Centres (formerly known as Regional Study Hubs) 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.

On 12 November 2018, the Australian Government committed $24.2 million over four years to establish 16 community-owned, Regional University Centres in rural, regional and remote Australia. A further $14 million was committed for additional Commonwealth supported places to support the Centres.

On 29 April 2019, the Hon Dan Tehan MP, Minister for Education, announced further funding of $15 million to establish additional Centres as part of the Australian Government’s Plan for Regional Australia. On 1 June 2020, Minister Tehan and the Minister for Decentralisation and Regional Education, the Hon Andrew Gee MP announced the locations of nine new Regional University Centres under this funding commitment.

As part of the announcement 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.

More Information on the Regional University Centres can be found here.

Rural and Regional Enterprise Scholarships (RRES) program

On 12 November 2018, the Government announced it would expand the Rural and Regional Enterprise Scholarships (RRES) program, investing an additional $34.1 million to support a further 1,955 Scholarships. The total $58.1 million investment would mean that the RRES program will be able to increase the total number of scholarships from 1,200 to 3,155.

The scholarships provide up to $18,000 to support regional, rural and remote students to study any course at Certificate IV to PhD level, including full-time, part-time and online study from six months full-time to the maximum of four years full-time study (or the part-time equivalent). Scholarship recipients may also receive $500 to support an internship during their studies.

Round four (4) opened on 20 January 2020 with 1100 scholarships available for students commencing study any time in 2020. Applications are currently open on a rolling basis for the 2020 academic calendar year, or until the scholarships have been fully allocated.

The Australian Government implemented the Rural and Regional Enterprise Scholarships to improve educational opportunities and attainment for regional and remote students by supporting undergraduate, postgraduate and vocational education and training.

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 SES backgrounds, as well as improving the retention and completion rates of those students.

As part of the Expanding opportunities for regional and remote students package, from 2021 the HEPPP will be refocused to also support regional, remote and Indigenous students.

For more information, please see the Frequently Asked Questions.

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 disabilities.

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.

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.

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 access and participate in tertiary education and subsequent employment.

As part of a national network, NDCOs work at the local level to assist working age people aged between 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.

The National Centre for Student Equity in Higher Education The National Centre for Student Equity in Higher Education (NCSEHE) is funded by the department and hosted by Curtin University. NCSEHE's purpose is to inform public policy design and implementation, and institutional practice, in order to improve higher education participation and success for marginalised and disadvantaged people.

For more information go to the National Centre for Student Equity in Higher Education website.