16. Exchange and study abroad students

16.1 - Domestic students on a formal exchange program

What is a formal exchange program?

A formal exchange program involves a formal agreement between a provider and an overseas higher education institution to have reciprocal exchange students over time. These arrangements allow domestic students to pay for their overseas study under the provisions of HESA. The domestic student must be enrolled in units of study for that overseas study with their Australian provider to be Commonwealth supported and to have access to HECS-HELP or FEE-HELP for the exchange units of study (provided they are otherwise eligible for the loan).

Are exchange students eligible for HELP?

Where a formal exchange occurs, the Australian provider is effectively choosing to offer some of its places offshore through a third party. This means that a provider may inform students they are Commonwealth supported while undertaking overseas study through a formal exchange program as long as all other requirements for advising students are met and the student is enrolled in units of study with the Australian provider for that overseas study. In particular, a provider must ensure the overseas study contributes to the requirements of the course of study students are enrolled in with the home provider.

Students on formal exchange programs may access HECS-HELP or FEE-HELP under the same provisions that apply if they were studying in Australia. Commonwealth supported students must not be charged tuition fees by their home provider or their host institution, unless they choose not to be Commonwealth supported (see part 21.11). Eligible exchange students may also access OS-HELP (see part 32.7).

This arrangement would not apply where a student was enrolled at an overseas campus of the provider, including one operated by a partner organisation, for the entirety of a course.

An Australian citizen will not be eligible for a CSP or HELP loan if the provider reasonably expects the person will not undertake in Australia any units of study contributing to the course of study of which the unit forms a part.

The HECS-HELP, FEE-HELP and SA-HELP CAFs include a question asking the student whether they will undertake any units of study in Australia that contribute to their course of study. If the student declares they will, then a provider can consider that the legislative requirements have been met.

Examples

  • Adele is enrolled in a Bachelor of Science at the Tahiti campus of an Australian provider. She is not eligible for a CSP or able to access HELP for that course of study as all units of study are undertaken in Tahiti.
  • Stella is enrolled in a Bachelor of Commerce at the Sydney campus of an Australian provider. She is Commonwealth supported and currently receiving HECS-HELP. She is going on an exchange program in Shanghai for six months. She will be enrolled at the Sydney campus but will be undertaking her studies through the provider in Shanghai. There is a formal agreement with the Australian provider. She would continue to be a Commonwealth supported student receiving HECS-HELP and may also be eligible for OS‑HELP.
  • Ari is enrolled in a Bachelor of Optometry at the Adelaide campus of an Australian provider. He is spending six months studying at a provider in London. The London provider does not have a formal agreement with the Australian provider, but the units of study undertaken in London will count towards the Bachelor of Optometry that he is enrolled in with the Australian provider. As Ari is not undertaking a formal exchange program, he is not eligible for a CSP or able to access HECS-HELP or FEE-HELP for these units. However, he may be eligible for OS-HELP.

Reporting of student load

Student load for Commonwealth supported students in an exchange program must be reported and is subject to normal provisions relating to student status codes on element 490 of the TCSI system. Student load is calculated based on how much EFTSL of the work undertaken overseas contributes towards the Australian qualification.

To allocate units of study undertaken by the exchange student to the appropriate CGS funding cluster, a provider should obtain details of the units undertaken, assess the subject matter of each unit and allocate the units according to the requirements set out in chapter 9 of the Commonwealth Grant Scheme Guidelines 2012 (CGS Guidelines).

16.2 - Domestic students on a study abroad program

Study abroad programs are not normally covered by an agreement between a provider and an overseas higher education institution. Students who undertake study abroad are not covered under HESA, except for the purposes of OS-HELP, and will be under the fees regime of their host country. Student load for study abroad students is not reported.

What is an ‘enrolled study abroad program’?

An enrolled study abroad program involves a formal agreement between an Australian university, or consortium of Australian universities, and an overseas higher education institution, or consortium of overseas institutions, to send students overseas for the purpose of study towards their degree. The student can continue to be Commonwealth supported and access HECS-HELP for this study if they remain enrolled with their Australian university for the duration of the study, and the study undertaken overseas counts towards the course of study in which the student is enrolled with the Australian university. The Australian university is fully responsible for all compliance and quality arrangements for the study undertaken abroad. All other requirements under Division 36 and 90 of HESA must be met.

A domestic student must be enrolled in the units of study for their overseas study with their Australian university to be Commonwealth supported and have access to HECS-HELP or to have access to FEE-HELP (i.e. there is a formal agreement in place).

In this situation, the domestic student can only be charged once for their overseas study, whether it is by their Australian university, or their overseas provider. If the student is going to be charged as a Commonwealth supported student by their Australian provider and wants to use HECS-HELP to pay these fees, or use FEE-HELP as a fee paying student, the student must be enrolled in the unit with their Australian provider (even though they will be studying overseas for that unit).

Domestic students who engage in enrolled study programs must not be charged a tuition fee for their overseas study by their overseas provider, in addition to the student contribution/tuition fee charged by their Australian university for that study. The payment arrangements between the Australian university and the overseas provider are a matter for the providers to decide.

16.3 - Overseas students on a formal exchange program

Formal exchange programs involve a formal agreement between a provider and an overseas higher education institution to exchange students over time. These arrangements allow overseas students to pay for the study they undertake in Australia under the fee regime that applies to them in their home country.

HELP can only be used offshore for students who are eligible for HELP onshore. Overseas students who are undertaking a formal exchange overseas from their Australian provider, to a third country, are not eligible.

A provider is not required to meet the fee requirements for overseas students (see part 28.1) if the overseas student is participating in a formal exchange program [HEP Guidelines paragraph 6.10.1].

A provider must give confirmation of enrolment to all overseas students in the format required by the Department of Home Affairs.

16.4 - Overseas students on a study abroad program

Study abroad programs are not normally covered by an agreement between a provider and an overseas higher education institution. Overseas students who undertake study abroad in Australia are considered overseas students under HESA and must be charged fees for overseas students in accordance with the HEP Guidelines. Student load for study abroad overseas students is reported as overseas student load.

A provider must give confirmation of enrolment to all overseas students in the format required by the Department of Home Affairs.