1. General information

On 19 June 2020 the Australian Government announced the Job-ready Graduates Package (the package). Changes proposed in this package affect student contributions and provide additional support for students in regional and remote Australia. The majority of these changes will commence on 1 January 2021, subject to the passage of legislation.

We encourage both current and new students who will be studying from 1 January 2021 to talk to their current or intended higher education provider to confirm how these changes may affect their individual circumstances. Further information can be found on the Job-ready Graduates Package page.

More information on the additional support for students in regional and remote areas, including the new Tertiary Access Payment and the guaranteed Commonwealth Supported places for Indigenous students can be found on the More opportunities for regional students page.

The Higher Education Administrative Information for Providers (AIP) is designed to help higher education providers (providers) understand their legal obligations under the Higher Education Support Act 2003 (HESA), associated guidelines, and other Australian Government legislation. It explains the rules and procedures associated with administering:

  • bachelor places for Commonwealth supported students
  • the allocation of Commonwealth supported places (CSPs) for postgraduate courses, diplomas, advanced diplomas, associate degrees, enabling courses and courses of study in medicine
  • tuition fees for domestic and overseas fee-paying students
  • the student services and amenities fee
  • the Higher Education Loan Program (HELP).

1.1 - Legislation, guidelines and determinations

The AIP should be read in conjunction with HESA, including its notes, which provides information on application, saving and transitional provisions. The AIP should also be read with other associated legislation and guidelines, which are the primary sources of the requirements with which providers must comply. Providers should seek their own legal advice to understand their obligations under HESA and other Commonwealth legislation. Relevant sections of legislation and guidelines are referenced throughout the AIP.

Examples

  • References to legislation will look like this: [HESA section 19-30].
  • References to HESA guidelines will look like this: [FEE-HELP Guidelines chapter 3].
  • References to other parts within the AIP will look like this: [part 26.3].
  • References to Appendices within the AIP will look like this: [Appendix A].

For links to relevant legislation, guidelines and Ministerial determinations, see Appendix A.

Changes are made to legislation, guidelines and Ministerial determinations from time to time. The department recommends the latest versions of all resources be consulted. If there is any inconsistency between the content of the AIP and the provisions of the legislation, guidelines or Ministerial determinations, the provisions of the legislation, guidelines or Ministerial determinations will prevail to the extent of the inconsistency. For a full list of the terminology used in the AIP, see Appendix B.

1.2 - Open Universities Australia

Open Universities Australia (OUA) is not defined as a provider under HESA, but is subject to specific provisions of HESA. Where the AIP refers to providers and to students undertaking studies with a provider, that information also applies to OUA and to OUA students where relevant, unless indicated otherwise. If there is a specific requirement for OUA, it is set out in the relevant part of the AIP.

1.3 - Fairness requirements

HESA details the requirements for the treatment of students who are enrolled or seeking to enrol with Table A, Table B and Table C providers [HESA sections 16-15, 16-20 and 16-22] and approved higher education providers [HESA Subdivision 19‑D].

A provider must treat all of its current students and any person who is seeking to enrol with the provider fairly [HESA section 19-30].

The application of fair treatment does not require all students to be treated the same. Fairness must be considered in the context of all of the relevant circumstances. There are situations in which the fair treatment of students may result in students being treated differently if they are in different circumstances.

1.4 - Equal access to Commonwealth benefits

Where a provider receives a grant or access to assistance under HESA Chapters 2 and 3 in respect of students or a class of students, the provider must ensure the benefits of, and the opportunities created by, that grant or assistance are made equally accessible to all students and all of the students in that class [HESA subsection 19-35(1)]. The obligations imposed on providers under HESA subsection 19-35(1) only extend to those students or a class of students who meet applicable eligibility criteria.

The Government, through arrangements with the providers, provides grants and assistance to benefit students through:

  • CSPs made available under the Commonwealth Grant Scheme (CGS)
  • student loans offered through the Higher Education Loan Program (HELP)
  • various scholarships for disadvantaged students and research students, including through the Research Training Program (RTP)
  • various equity programs providing additional support for designated equity groups.

1.5 - Application of merit in selection of students

A provider must have open, fair and transparent procedures that, in the provider’s reasonable view, are based on merit, for making decisions about students applying for, or receiving, Government assistance [HESA subsections 19-35(2) and 19-35(4)].

Application of merit

The application of merit in decision-making would generally be expected to involve a provider considering each application on a case-by-case basis and not applying inflexible policies that may preclude eligible applicants from having their application considered.

No income test

A provider may not apply an income test when making decisions about which of their students are to receive a CSP. A provider may not exclude high-income students, or students whose parents have a high income, from having their application for a CSP considered.

Membership of a particular group

Generally, a provider cannot make membership of a particular group, for example social, religious, socio‑economic or cultural, a CSP eligibility requirement, as this would not be considered relevant to merit. This may depend on the stated objectives or mission statement of the provider. This is different from the Government providing a grant, which is to benefit only a particular group.

Educational disadvantage

When selecting students, a provider can take educational disadvantages that a particular student has experienced into account [HESA subsections 19‑35(3) and 19‑35(5)]. This should involve considering the actual disadvantages that a particular student has experienced.

Where there is no clear evidence that a student has suffered educational disadvantage, a provider should not use proxy indicators – for example, the student being from a low socio-economic group or a rural area – to decide whether the student has suffered disadvantage. Not all students who satisfy a proxy indicator will have experienced educational disadvantage. Instead, a provider must consider a particular student’s specific circumstances.