19. Student services and amenities fee

19.1 - What is the student services and amenities fee?

It is a fee that providers can charge their students for student services and amenities of a non-academic nature, such as sporting and recreational activities, employment and career advice, child care, financial advice and food services. Providers may charge students a fee of up to $308 in 2020. This amount will be indexed annually [HESA subsection 19‑37(5)(e)].

19.2 - Who can be charged a student services and amenities fee

Any person who is enrolled or seeking to enrol with a provider may be charged a student services and amenities fee, regardless of whether the student chooses to use any of those services and amenities [HESA subsection 19‑37(5)]. However, only those students who meet the eligibility criteria can defer the fee through SA‑HELP.

19.3 - Who will the fee apply to?

A provider may charge different amounts for particular categories of students, including a zero amount. Categories of students can be determined on any basis including mode of attendance, type of course or equity status. For example, a provider may choose not to charge external students a fee, as they may not attend classes at a campus and may not access any of the services or amenities.

19.4 - Arrangements for part-time students

The student services and amenities fee amount payable for students enrolled with a provider part-time, must not be more than 75 per cent of the maximum amount payable by students enrolled with that provider full-time [Administration Guidelines paragraph 2.10.1]. For the purposes of paragraph 2.10.1 of the Administration Guidelines, the term ‘part-time basis’ means a study load of less than 75 per cent of the normal full-time student load for the period to which the fee relates.

19.5 - Charging international students the student services and amenities fee

The Education Services for Overseas Students Act 2000 (ESOS Act) does not prohibit providers from charging international students enrolled, or seeking to enrol with the provider, a student services and amenities fee under HESA [HESA subsection 19‑37(5)].

Under the ESOS legislative framework, providers may charge international students enrolling with them a student services and amenities fee, as long as the written agreement between the provider and the student contains a clause specifying the fee and/or allowing the provider to vary the student’s fee during their enrolment.

If the written agreement between the provider and the international student does not include this clause, the provider may not charge student services and amenities fees for the duration of the agreement [ESOS Act section 47; National Code of Practice for Providers of Education and Training to Overseas Students 2018 Standard 3].

Providers must ensure compliance with any other applicable aspects of the ESOS legislative framework, including the ESOS Act and the National Code, when advising students in their written agreement about tuition fees and any other fees the provider charges.

19.6 - Determining the date that the debt is incurred

Providers will determine a date payable, or a date that the debt is incurred, for the student services and amenities fee. This date cannot be earlier than the last day on which a student is able to enrol with the provider in a course of study. Eligible students who wish to access SA-HELP assistance must submit the completed Request for SA-HELP assistance form on or before the date payable.

Under certain circumstances, providers may set an earlier administrative date for payment of the fee and submission of Request for SA‑HELP assistance forms.

19.7 - Payment of the student services and amenities fee

Students may pay their student services and amenities fee upfront. Eligible students who are unable to pay upfront may request SA-HELP (see part 33.1) to cover the student services and amenities fee.

Eligible students may choose to pay some of the fee upfront and access SA-HELP for the remainder or may access SA-HELP for the full amount of the fee. The amount of SA-HELP accessed by the student will be added to the student’s accumulated HELP debt. Eligible students will be able to use SA-HELP even if they do not wish to access any other HELP scheme.

19.8 - Refund of the fee

Providers are expected to develop their own policies in relation to the refund of student services and amenities fees. There is no capacity under HESA for a provider to remit a SA‑HELP debt incurred by a student.

Providers are expected to advise students that even if they receive a refund due to special circumstances after the date the debt is incurred for SA-HELP, the student will still have recorded a debt with the Australian Taxation Office (ATO).

19.9 - Variations to the fee or the day on which the fee is payable

Variations are considered necessary only to correct administrative errors, or when new circumstances arise that did not apply when the fee, or the day the fee was payable, was determined.

A provider must advise the department in writing via the SSAF@dese.gov.au mailbox of the intention to vary the fee, or the day the fee is payable, at least five business days before making the variation.

19.10 - Goods and services tax requirements

The ATO provides advice on whether goods and services tax (GST) is payable on student services and amenities fees. If a provider is unsure whether GST should be included in the fee, the provider should obtain advice directly from the ATO. For further information on how to apply for a private ruling, see the ATO website.

The fee is usually GST-free if the provider imposes the fee to make facilities available to the general student population. However, if a provider imposes the fee in order to provide a student with a taxable supply, the fee is taxable. Where the GST is payable, the fee must be GST-inclusive [Administration Guidelines paragraph 2.5.20].

19.11 - Publishing requirements

If a provider charges a student services and amenities fee, the provider must publish:

  • the amount of the fee
  • the date that the debt is incurred
  • the period to which the fee relates; and
  • a description of the category of persons required to pay the fee to allow a person to determine whether the fee applies to them.

A provider must publish this information by:

  • 1 April for units with a census date between 1 July and 31 December of the same year
  • 1 October for units with a census date between 1 January and 30 June of the subsequent year.

19.12 - Allowable expenditures for fee revenue

A provider who charges a student services and amenities fee may only spend the fee to provide or subsidise the following services [HESA section 19-38]:

  • providing food or drink to students on a campus of the provider
  • supporting students’ sporting or other recreational activities
  • supporting the administration of a club most of whose members are students
  • caring for students’ children
  • providing legal services to students
  • promoting students’ health or welfare
  • helping students to secure accommodation
  • helping students to obtain employment or advice on careers
  • helping students with their financial affairs
  • helping students to obtain insurance against personal accidents
  • supporting debating by students
  • providing libraries and reading rooms, other than those provided for academic purposes for students
  • supporting an artistic activity by students
  • supporting the production and dissemination to students of media whose content is provided by students
  • helping students develop skills for study, by means other than undertaking courses of study in which they are enrolled
  • advising on matters arising under the provider’s rules, however described
  • advocating students’ interests in matters arising under the provider’s rules, however described
  • giving students information to help them in their orientation; and
  • helping meet the specific needs of overseas students relating to their welfare, accommodation and employment.

19.13 - National Access to Services Benchmarks

Providers that receive funding through the CGS must meet the National Access to Services Benchmarks (the Benchmarks) as a condition of their funding [Student Services, Amenities, Representation and Advocacy Guidelines chapter 2].

Access to orientation and information

Under these benchmarks, an orientation program and information should be accessible to all enrolled students, providing for those enrolling at different entry points. Relevant information may be provided to students in oral or written form, or by electronic means such as via the provider’s website, email, SMS broadcasts or podcasts.

Students must be provided with information on how to access health, welfare, advocacy and career services.

Access to advocacy officers

Students must be given access to advocacy officers who can provide services in relation to matters arising under the provider’s academic and procedural rules. Advocacy officers should act in the best interests of students and be independent from the provider’s decision-makers and other staff who administer the provider’s academic and procedural rules and regulations. Advocacy officers must avoid potential or actual conflicts of interest in carrying out their duties.

Access to trained and qualified staff

Providers must ensure that trained and qualified staff are engaged to meet the needs of enrolled students, whether they provide health, welfare, advocacy or career services and whether this is done directly or via the engagement of a third party.

These requirements are imposed regardless of whether a provider chooses to charge a student services and amenities fee.

19.14 - National Student Representation Protocols

Providers that receive funding through the CGS will need to meet the National Student Representation Protocols [Student Services, Amenities, Representation and Advocacy Guidelines chapter 3] as a condition of their funding. The protocols ensure that students have access to democratic and independent student representation and their views are taken into account in institutional decision-making processes.

Providers must give students the opportunity to participate in a process to democratically elect student representatives. Elected student representatives must be provided with adequate and reasonable support resources and infrastructure by the provider to allow them to carry out their functions.

Providers must consult formally with democratically elected student representatives and representatives from major student organisations at the provider about how, specifically, the proceeds from any compulsory student services and amenities fee are used. Consultation should include:

  • publishing identified priorities for proposed fee expenditure and allowing students and student associations and organisations opportunities to comment on those; and
  • meeting with democratically elected student representatives and representatives from key student organisations to consider the priorities for the use of fee revenue.

These requirements are imposed regardless of whether a provider chooses to charge a student services and amenities fee.