21. Commonwealth supported places (CSPs)

21.1 - What is a Commonwealth supported place?

A CSP is a place subsidised by the Commonwealth. Most domestic students undertaking a bachelor degree course at a Table A provider are enrolled in a CSP.  Students are generally also required to pay a student contribution and may be eligible to defer these contributions to a HECS‑HELP loan from the Government to pay this (see part 30 for further information on HECS-HELP).

In addition to CSPs, there are also full fee paying places which are not subsidised by the Australian Government. 

The amount of subsidy the Government contributes for each student is based on the units of study the student chooses for their program. Different units of study attract different rates of funding.

The Commonwealth contribution is paid through the Commonwealth Grant Scheme and providers must have a funding agreement with the Commonwealth in place to receive funding.  For further information on the CGS, contact the department at CGS@dese.gov.au.

21.2 - Responsibility for enrolling students in CSPs

In enrolling persons as Commonwealth supported students, a provider must ensure that:

  • the benefits of, and opportunities created by, CSPs are made equally available to all eligible students [HESA subsection 19-35(1)]; and
  • it has open, fair and transparent procedures that, in the provider’s reasonable view, are based on merit, for selecting students for the places [HESA subsection 19-35(2)].

In enrolling students based on merit, the provider may take into account educational disadvantages that a particular student has experienced (see part 1.5) [HESA subsection 19‑35(3)].

21.3 - When does a student become a Commonwealth supported student?

A person is a Commonwealth supported student in relation to a unit of study if the provider with which the student is enrolled has advised the person in writing that they are a Commonwealth supported student in relation to the unit, or the course of which the unit forms part, and, at the end of the census date for the unit, the provider is not prohibited from advising the person of this [HESA sections 36-5, 36-10 and 36-15].

When a provider should advise a person they are a Commonwealth supported student

A provider must not advise a person that they are a Commonwealth supported student, unless:

  • the provider has entered into a funding agreement with the Commonwealth for the year in which the person is undertaking the unit [HESA section 36-10(1)(a)]
  • the unit of study contributes to the requirements of a course of study in which the person is enrolled with the provider or another provider [HESA section 36-10(1)(b)]
  • the person meets the residency or citizenship requirements [HESA section 36-10(1)(c)]; and
  • the person enrolled in the unit on or before the census date, and remained enrolled at the end of the census date [HESA section 36-10(1)(e)].

Additionally, the provider must not advise a person that they are a Commonwealth supported student unless that person has submitted a Request for a Commonwealth supported place and HECS-HELP loan form (see part 10.1).

There are also other circumstances where a provider must not inform the student that they are Commonwealth supported.

When a provider should not advise a person they are a Commonwealth supported student

Persons must not be advised they are Commonwealth supported students in relation to a unit of study where:

  • that person notifies an *appropriate officer of the provider that he or she does not wish to be a Commonwealth supported student in relation to the unit, with such notification to be provided in writing on or before the census date for the unit [HESA paragraph 36-10(3)]
    • *The term ‘appropriate officer’ is defined under HESA Schedule 1 as ‘a person, or a person included in a class of persons, whom the chief executive officer or a delegate of the chief executive officer of the provider, has appointed to be an appropriate officer for the purposes of this Act’.
  • the unit of study wholly consists of work experience in industry, unless the requirements in HESA section 36-10(6)(a)-(b) have been met [HESA subsection 36‑10(6)]
  • the unit is a full fee summer or winter school unit of study for which the provider has determined that Commonwealth support does not apply (see part 24.1) [HESA subsection 36‑10(7)]
  • the unit contributes to a course of study that the person is undertaking primarily at an overseas campus [HESA paragraph 36-15(1A)].
  • the enrolment is an employer-reserved place (see part 17.1) [HESA subsection 36-15(1)(a)]
  • the unit forms part of a bridging course for overseas-trained professionals [HESA subsection 36-15(1)(b)]; or
  • the unit forms part of a course the Minister has specified, by way of legislative instrument, to be a course that students cannot be enrolled in as Commonwealth supported students [HESA subsection 36-15(1)(c)].

Students undertaking a Bachelor of Circus Arts at Swinburne University of Technology and students undertaking a masters or doctoral degree by research, must not be advised that they are Commonwealth supported in respect of any units of study that contribute to that course of study [Ministerial determination under HESA subsection 36-15(1A)(b)].

A student may undertake units on a non-award basis and make other arrangements for paying tuition fees.

Example 1

Question: Can a higher education provider advise a person that they are a Commonwealth supported student if they undertake units that are additional to the award course requirements?

Answer: No. A higher education provider must not advise a person that they are a Commonwealth supported student in relation to a unit of study unless the unit contributes to the requirements of the course in which the person is enrolled. If a student can complete their award course of study, having satisfied all course requirements, without having to undertake the additional units, then the additional units are not eligible for HELP.

Students may undertake additional units on a non-award basis, but they would need to make other arrangements to pay tuition costs absent Commonwealth support [HESA reference: section 36-10(1)(b))].

Example 2

Question: Can a student be Commonwealth supported for a unit of study they have already completed and for which they received a pass grade or better?

Answer: If a student has already successfully completed the requirements of the course of study in which they are enrolled, the student is not able to re‑take, as a Commonwealth supported student, units of study for which they have received a pass grade or better.

A student is able to undertake units of study on a Commonwealth supported basis in their current course of study, even if the student undertook those units in a previous course of study but did not complete or failed that unit, provided the units contribute to the requirements of the current course.

Units of study that are not undertaken as part of the course of study are undertaken on a non‑award basis. Fees charged for non‑award units of study are tuition fees and must comply with all the provisions of HESA relating to tuition fees.

21.4 - Notifying students of their CSP

After the census date, a provider must notify persons, in writing, that they are Commonwealth supported in relation to a unit of study, or a course of study of which the unit forms a part [HESA section 36-5(1)].

21.5 - Continued support in a CSP

Once a provider has notified a person that they are Commonwealth supported for a unit of study contributing to a course of study, the provider must continue to enrol that person as a Commonwealth supported student for subsequent units of study contributing to that course of study [HESA section 36-25].

The only exception to this is where the provider is prohibited from advising the person that they are a Commonwealth supported student (see part 21.4).

21.6 - CSP eligibility

Citizenship and residency requirements

A person is only be eligible for a CSP if they meet the citizenship or residency requirements set out in HESA.

As per HESA section 36-10(2), to meet the citizenship or residency requirements the person must be:

  • an *Australian citizen [HESA section 36-10(2)(a)]
  • a New Zealand citizen who will be resident in Australia for the duration of their unit of study [HESA section 36-10(2)(b)]; or
  • the holder of a permanent visa who is resident in Australia for the duration of their unit of study [HESA section 36-10(2)(c)].

*A person may automatically be an Australian citizen by birth or adoption, or after applying for Australian citizenship by descent or conferral. If a person is over 16 years at the time they make their application for citizenship by conferral, they will obtain Australian citizenship only after they have made the pledge of commitment and the Department of Home Affairs has issued them with evidence of Australian citizenship. People who become permanent residents of Australia on or after 1 July 2007 need to spend four years in Australia before becoming citizens [Australian Citizenship Act 2007].

Requirement to undertake units of study in Australia

Despite HESA sections 36-10(2) and (2A), a person does not meet the citizenship or residency requirements under section 36-10(2), if the provider reasonably expects that the person will not undertake in Australia any of the units of study contributing to the course of study of which the unit forms a part [HESA subsection 36-10(2B)].

Residency requirements for New Zealand citizens and permanent visa holders

In determining whether New Zealand citizens or holders of a permanent visa will be resident in Australia for the duration of their unit of study, a provider must disregard any periods spent outside of Australia if those periods:

  • cannot reasonably be regarded as indicating an intention to reside outside of Australia for the duration of the unit [HESA subsection 36-10(2A)(a)]; or
  • are required for the purpose of completing the requirements of that unit [HESA subsection 36-10(2A)(b)].

Temporary or provisional residents

Students who are temporary or provisional residents (other than New Zealand SCV holders) are not eligible for a CSP, as they are not the holders of a permanent visa. They are overseas students and must be charged overseas student fees (see part 28.1).

21.7 - Non-table A providers

Students enrolled with a non-Table A provider may be Commonwealth supported only if the unit is part of a course of study in one of the national priorities specified in the CGS Guidelines, for which the Commonwealth has allocated CSPs to the provider [HESA subsection 36‑10(5)].

Current national priorities include:

  • increasing the number of persons undertaking teaching and nursing courses of study
  • supporting a number of persons undertaking natural and physical sciences, information technology, health, education and society and culture courses of study at the University of Notre Dame Australia
  • supporting a number of Indigenous students undertaking courses of study at the University of Notre Dame Australia.

21.8 - Enrolment requirements

A provider not advise a person that they are a Commonwealth supported student in relation to a unit of study unless, among other things, the person is enrolled in a unit of study on or before the census date, and remained so enrolled at the end of the census date [HESA paragraph 36-10(1)(e)].

If a person is enrolled as a Commonwealth supported student in relation to a unit of study, a provider must cancel the person’s enrolment if the person has not, prior to the census date, submitted a request for Commonwealth assistance (via the Request for a Commonwealth supported place and a HECS‑HELP loan form (see part 10.1). [HESA subsection 36-40(1)]. A Commonwealth supported student must complete this form even if they are not requesting HECS-HELP (for example, if they are paying their fees up front).

Where a provider cancel’s a student’s enrolment in accordance with this requirement, the student will also not be eligible for FEE‑HELP because the census date for the unit of study will have passed (see part 31.4).

21.9 - Requirements for the payment of student contribution amounts

A provider is required to cancel a student’s enrolment where a student does not meet the requirements for paying their student contribution amount by the census date. The requirements depend on the student’s HECS‑HELP eligibility. Students undertaking an enabling course (see part 7.7) must not be charged a student contribution amount and are not subject to these requirements.

Commonwealth supported students and HECS‑HELP

If a Commonwealth supported student is entitled to and seeking HECS-HELP for a unit, they must meet the TFN requirements on or before the census date for that unit (see part 34).

21.10 - Commonwealth supported students not seeking HECS‑HELP

A student may choose not to be Commonwealth supported in a unit of study. A person is not a Commonwealth supported student if they give a written notice to an appropriate officer of the provider on or before the census date [HESA subsection 36-5(3)]. Students may notify their provider electronically in accordance with requirements for electronic communications (see part 41.1). If a person applies for a fee-paying place, this does not mean they are advising the provider that they do not wish to be a Commonwealth supported student. A person who wishes not to be a Commonwealth supported student for a unit of study must express this explicitly in writing.

A student who chooses not to be Commonwealth supported is required to pay tuition fees (see part 25.1) and may be eligible for FEE‑HELP (see part 31.4) [HESA subsection 169-15(2)]. Student load in fee-paying units does not receive a Commonwealth contribution through the CGS (see part 23.1).