Commonwealth scholarships Questions and Answers

This page has the answers to frequently asked questions about scholarships.

For Higher Education Providers

What is the grandfathered group?

Any student who was awarded a Commonwealth Scholarship prior to 31 December 2009, falls into the “grandfathered” group. These students will continue to receive funding for their scholarship, provided they maintain their eligibility, until they have consumed their scholarship entitlements. Part B of the Guidelines provides administrative guidance for this group.

What are the Indigenous Commonwealth Scholarships?

Any student awarded a Commonwealth Scholarship from 1 January 2010 onwards is on an Indigenous Commonwealth Scholarship. Part A of the Guidelines provides administrative guidance for this group.

What are the categories of Commonwealth Scholarships?

The categories of Commonwealth Scholarships are detailed in the table below:

Name HEIMS type Detail
CECS-Indigenous Enabling 5 Indigenous Enabling Commonwealth Education Costs Scholarship.
CAS-Indigenous Enabling 6 Indigenous Enabling Commonwealth Accommodation Scholarship.
CAS-Indigenous Payment 7 Indigenous Access Scholarship (IAS).
Indigenous CECS A Indigenous Commonwealth Education Costs Scholarship.
Indigenous CAS B Indigenous Commonwealth Accommodation Costs Scholarship.

How do I report Commonwealth Scholarship offers?

Offers of Commonwealth Scholarships are to be reported into HEIMS by 22 January for 1st semester and 15 June for 2nd semester each calendar year. Reporting offers of Indigenous Commonwealth Scholarships is for Centrelink purposes. To ensure the appropriate information can be reported to Centrelink within the required timeframes students who are offered a Commonwealth Scholarship prior to cut off times must be reported into HEIMS for each half year.

The reporting of Commonwealth Scholarship offers through HEIMS Administration System follows the same process as the reporting of all other Commonwealth scholarship records. The User Guide to assist in reporting Commonwealth Scholarships offers is available via the HEIMS User Guides page.

Will students offered a Commonwealth Scholarship and reported into HEIMS by 22 January and 15 June receive a Centrelink Scholarship?

It is the students’ responsibility to advise Centrelink if the student has been offered/ is receiving a Commonwealth Scholarship. Centrelink will acquire HEIMS data periodically and will have the ability to check whether a student is in receipt of a Commonwealth Scholarship.

Scholarship officers do not need to check the scholarship status of these students.

What about students offered a Commonwealth Scholarship and reported into HEIMS after the above dates?

Students contained in reports that are submitted every day past the due date are increasingly likely to have been paid a Centrelink scholarship. Scholarship officers will need to check the scholarship status of these students including eligibility. This can be done by a scholarships officer:

  • calling Centrelink on 13 24 90 with the student present to give the attending officer permission to obtain a verbal confirmation that a Centrelink scholarship has not been received; or
  • faxing Centrelink on 1300 074 608. A confirmation phone call/email will be received from Centrelink.

Assuming Centrelink confirms that no scholarship has been paid the university scholarships office can then offer or pay the student a Commonwealth Scholarship. Centrelink will record the action on their customer record (this makes the student ineligible for a Centrelink scholarship and future payment does not occur). If, however, a Centrelink scholarship has been paid, then the scholarships office cannot offer a Commonwealth Scholarship until the student specifically requests that Centrelink recover the Centrelink scholarship payment.

What if HEIMS rejects a commencing student?

Scholarships officers may send a query to the Scholarships Unit via email at scholarships@pmc.gov.au and advise the details of the student. The HEIMS HELP desk is another avenue to assist scholarships officers via email at heims.datacollections@education.gov.au or by phoning the HEIMS helpline on (02)6240 7487.

Can a student be asked to repay any Commonwealth Scholarship if they do not continue on with their studies?

The primary aim of a CSP is to improve higher education access for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, particularly those who need to relocate from regional and remote areas.

In accordance with the Guidelines under section 2.20 (11), if the University determines that a student has legitimate and genuine reason/s as to why the student no longer meets the eligibility criteria for the CPS, the student may not be required to repay the first payment (e.g. family responsibilities, illness or bereavement). The Guidelines are flexible enough for the University to make determinations on similar grounds.

For Students

What is the difference between a Commonwealth Scholarship and scholarships issued by Centrelink?

A Commonwealth Scholarship is a payment made to eligible students and paid through your University. The Relocation and Student Start-up Scholarships are paid through Centrelink. You cannot be in receipt of a Commonwealth Scholarship and a Relocation or Student Start-up scholarship at the same time otherwise Centrelink will ask you to repay the Centrelink Scholarship/s back.

How do I apply for a Commonwealth Scholarship?

The scholarships office at your University can advise you on how to apply for a Commonwealth Scholarship. Some Universities manage this process through the state based tertiary admissions centres (TACs). Please also contact the Indigenous education unit at your University to obtain assistance in completing an application.

Note: Commonwealth Scholarships are only available to eligible Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students. Eligibility requirements are stipulated in the Guidelines.

How do I apply for a Student Start-up Scholarship?

If you are a full-time student undertaking an approved scholarship course and are receiving Youth Allowance, Austudy, or ABSTUDY Living Allowance, you will receive the Student Start-up Scholarship at the beginning of each tertiary semester along with your student support payment.

When you make a claim for student income support, your eligibility for the Student Start-up Scholarship is assessed at the same time.

Further information is available from Centrelink by phoning 13 24 90 or by visiting the Student Start-up Scholarship site.

How do I apply for a Relocation Scholarship?

This is available if you are getting ABSTUDY Living Allowance or Youth Allowance as a full-time student.

You also need to be:

  • studying full-time in an approved scholarship course, and either
  • be a dependent person who has to live away from home to study or
  • meet specific scholarship independence criteria.

You do not need to make a separate claim. When you claim a Centrelink payment, your eligibility for the Relocation Scholarship is assessed at the same time.

Further information is available from Centrelink by phoning 13 24 90 or by visiting the Relocation Scholarships site.

What Commonwealth Scholarships are available in 2015?

Commonwealth Scholarships are available to eligible commencing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students.

The values of the scholarships in 2015 are:

Indigenous Access Scholarship (IAS) $4,823; Indigenous Commonwealth Education Costs Scholarship (ICECS) $2,543; Indigenous Enabling Commonwealth Education Costs Scholarship (IECECS) $2,543; Indigenous Commonwealth Accommodation Scholarship (ICAS) $5,087; Indigenous Enabling Commonwealth Accommodation Scholarship (IECAS) $5,087.

Why are Commonwealth Scholarships only available to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students?

The primary aim of Commonwealth Scholarships is to improve higher education access and completion of University studies for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander’s.  In assessing low socio-economic status eligibility, the disadvantages which affect Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students, such as covering University costs (i.e. relocating costs), will be considered. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students are supported throughout the Commonwealth Scholarships Programme.

Can I have an Indigenous Commonwealth Education Costs Scholarship and a Student Start-up Scholarship?

Both these scholarships are intended to meet the up-front costs of study. Eligible students may only receive either the Indigenous Commonwealth Education Costs Scholarship or the Student Start-up Scholarship.

Can I have an Indigenous Commonwealth Accommodation Scholarship with a Relocation Scholarship?

Both these scholarships are intended to support students who have to move to study. Eligible students may only receive either the Indigenous Commonwealth Accommodation Scholarship or the Relocation Scholarship.

When my Commonwealth Scholarships expires, can I get a Relocation or Student Start-up Scholarship?

Centelink is responsible for deciding if students are eligible for a Relocation and/or Student Start-up scholarship. Students may apply for these through Centrelink only after the expiry of their Commonwealth Scholarship which is equal to eight payments (i.e. 4 years of full time study).

If I am a part time student can I get a Commonwealth Scholarship?

A student must, in general, be studying full time in order to receive a Commonwealth Scholarship, unless there are exceptional circumstances which prevent the student from studying full time. A decision that a student cannot study full time due to exceptional circumstances is made by your University based on documentary evidence. You should contact the scholarships office at your University to find out what assistance is available.

If I am on a Disability Support Pension can I get a Commonwealth Scholarship, a Relocation or a Student Start-up Scholarship?

You may be eligible for a Commonwealth Scholarship if you identify as an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander and should approach the scholarships office at your University if you wish to apply.

You will not be eligible for a Student Start-up or Relocation. Students in receipt of a Disability Support Pension receive other income support, such as the Pensioner Education Supplement, to assist in training or education. Further information is available from Centrelink by phoning 13 24 90.

If I am on a Parenting Payment can I get a Commonwealth Scholarship, a Relocation or a Student Start-up Scholarship?

You may be eligible for a Commonwealth Scholarship if you identify as an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander and should approach the scholarships office at your University if you wish to apply.

You will not be eligible for a Student Start-up or Relocation. Students in receipt of a Parenting Payment receive other income support, such as the Pensioner Education Supplement, to assist in training or education. Further information is available from Centrelink by phoning 13 24 90.

I have an Indigenous Access Scholarship (IAS), why do I not also have an Indigenous Commonwealth Education Costs Scholarship (ICECS) or an Indigenous Commonwealth Accommodation Scholarship (ICAS) too?

Universities are only given a certain number of Commonwealth Scholarships within a capped system. If you have not been awarded one type of Commonwealth scholarship, your University will refer you to Centrelink to discuss your entitlement for the Relocation and/or Student Start-up Scholarship. You may need to take a letter from your University scholarships office to let Centrelink know you are not receiving a Commonwealth Scholarship.

How long can I defer my Commonwealth Scholarship for?

A Commonwealth Scholarship may only be deferred for a period of 12 months. This must also be approved by your University in line with their deferral policy.

Can a student be awarded more than one Commonwealth scholarship type at a time?

  • A student can be awarded an Indigenous-CAS and an Indigenous-CECS at the same time.
  • A student can be awarded an IAS and an Indigenous-CECS and/or an Indigenous CAS at the same time.
  • As student can be awarded an IAS and Indigenous Enabling CECS and/or an Indigenous Enabling CAS at the same time.
  • A student cannot be in receipt of any Commonwealth Scholarships from more than one University at the same time.

Can a student be awarded a Commonwealth Scholarship if in receipt of the Centrelink Residential Cost Option (RCO)?

No. The purpose of a CAS and/or IECAS is to assist with accommodation costs. If Centrelink has awarded you an RCO, then your reasonable accommodation costs have already been paid. Therefore, the student does not require accommodation costs assistance anymore.

It is the students’ responsibility to advise the Scholarships office at the University whether the RCO has been offered/paid.

Centrelink will periodically receive CSP data. If a student has received an RCO and a CAS/IECAS at the same, Centrelink will request that the RCO be repaid.