Startup Year FAQs

Answers to frequently asked questions about the Startup Year program, including questions asked at the online Expression of Interest (EOI) Information Session held by the Department of Education on 17 August 2023.

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People eligible for Startup Year include postgraduates and final year undergraduates. Has the Department of Education considered the overall study load for students undertaking Startup Year concurrently with other study?

Undergraduates in their final year and current postgraduate students are eligible for a STARTUP-HELP loan, along with recent graduates. The department is open to providers proposing models that would add value for these cohorts without constituting an unreasonable study load. There is no expectation that students would undertake a full-time undergraduate load with a full-time Startup course load. It is anticipated that there could be models whereby the Startup Year course can be undertaken in parallel with a reduced undergraduate load, or the Startup Year course may be a full-time load and undertaken when the student is not taking any undergraduate units. Students selected for STARTUP-HELP places will also be eligible for income support, where they meet other eligibility requirements.

The Higher Education Support Act 2003 (HESA) provides that a student is not entitled to STARTUP-HELP assistance for an accelerator program course if the student will be undertaking accelerator program courses or units of study in higher education courses that, together, would have an EFTSL value of more than 2 (unless the relevant higher education provider determines that undertaking the new accelerator program course will not impose an unreasonable study load).

How do Startup Year courses differ from other startup courses which some providers already offer free of charge? What can we do that would be different? How can providers justify the cost to students?

The department recognises that there is a range of courses already offered across the sector that develop entrepreneurial skills for students. By providing STARTUP-HELP assistance, the government is creating another model for universities to offer accelerators and deliver entrepreneurial skills for students. Each provider will need to consider the available funding options for delivery of their courses, including whether they want to make STARTUP-HELP assistance available for students in the course.

For example, for providers already offering a course that meets the requirements for the Startup Year program but does not charge a course fee, the Startup Year program could provide an avenue for those current offerings to be supplemented, through the addition of course fees, by a university scheme that would allow students access to capital, provided all of the relevant requirements of the Startup Year program are met.

Could universities invest some or all of the funds they receive from the Startup Year program towards the businesses they are supporting?

While institutions must not offer inducements to students to undertake a Startup Year course, there would be no issues with offering a scholarship or funding to the student during the course or upon completion to support their success or assist with launching their startup business.

The Provider Handbook prescribes that the accelerator program course must result in the award of a qualification and that providers are to use their standard accreditation procedures. How would this apply to e.g. a micro credential that might later contribute to an AQF outcome such as a Master level course?

Non-AQF qualifications, including microcredentials*, could meet the legislative requirement for Startup Year courses to result in the award of a qualification.

The Higher Education Support Act 2003 does require that, as far as practicable, the higher education provider must apply the same procedures it applies when self-accrediting a course of study to accrediting a Startup Year course. The department acknowledges that for providers that choose to offer a non-AQF qualification, the accreditation process will not mirror the exact procedures that are applied for a course of study. We would, however, be looking to see that there has been a degree of rigour and oversight applied within the institution as a quality assurance measure and safeguard for students. The intent is to ensure the student gains a creditable offering from the study that they can use in the future.

*This does not include ‘microcredential courses’ as defined in Schedule 1 of the Higher Education Support Act 2003, due to the difference in EFTSL requirements.

Are universities able to partner with industry partners for funding and other pathway opportunities for students?

Industry partnerships can offer excellent opportunities and resources, so the department would encourage any collaboration which provides students with further opportunities in this space providing the student has the opportunity to pursue their own commercialisation pathway, as the intent is to ensure students develop the key skills to be able to create their own startup.

Yes – students will need to be formally enrolled and reported through TCSI. In the same way that TFN are required for other HELP loan types, students will need to provide their TFN when completing their electronic Commonwealth Assistance Form (eCAF).

Funding will be provided through HELP, but will it need to be put aside for accelerator courses? Will it form part of the funding agreement?

Consistent with other HELP loans, a provider has discretion regarding to the internal allocation of course fees students pay whether paid up front or deferred through a HELP loan.

The maximum fee $11,800/EFTSL – this doesn’t align with any of the funding cluster rates (, so do universities need to decide their own student contribution rates?

The course fee for an accelerator program course must not exceed the maximum student contribution amount (specified in item 4 of the table you have linked to above) for non-grandfathered student in a unit of study in Medicine, Dentistry or Veterinary Science (for a one EFTSL course). In 2023 that amount is $11,800. Because these are not Commonwealth Supported Places, there is no ‘student contribution rate’ as such, but the maximum course fee has been linked to the funding cluster rates.

Is there a grant which will go to the provider and is this in addition to the course fees the student would pay?

The Startup Year program is not a government grant program; it offers an income-contingent loan (STARTUP-HELP) which is similar to other HELP loans which allows students to defer any course fees associated with a Startup Year course. Students selected for STARTUP-HELP places will also be eligible for income support, where they meet other eligibility requirements.