Higher Education Policy changes - Provider FAQs

For: 

Information about how these changes to higher education policy settings affect universities and private higher education providers.

The answers to the below Provider FAQs are subject to the passage of legislation.

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Improving the sustainability of higher education

In 2018 and 2019, the amount of Commonwealth Grant Scheme (CGS) funding payable for bachelor degree courses (non-designated places) will be capped at the 2017 funding level for each university. From 2020 onwards, universities will be able to grow their CGS funding in line with national 18 to 64 year old population growth if they meet certain performance requirements.

When will universities be advised about their funding caps?

The caps will be detailed in draft funding agreements, which will be sent to universities in December 2017.

Will the capping apply to student places or funding?

The caps will apply to funding. The number of Commonwealth supported places (CSPs) will not be capped. Universities will receive the normal CGS payment for each CSP up to the amount of the cap, on the same basis as is currently used for funding CSPs in designated courses such as sub-bachelor and postgraduate courses. Universities will retain the full value of all student contributions payable by all students in a CSP.

Will the funding caps be based on the current 2017 estimates or reconciled actuals?

The caps are based on the current 2017 estimates. If final reconciled payments for 2017 are higher, the cap will be increased to the higher reconciled amount.

What will be the performance indicators to access funding growth from 2020?

Access to funding growth will be based on each university’s achievement of performance objectives such as attrition, low SES participation and workforce preparedness of graduates. The indicators will be subject to consultation with the sector in 2018.

What will be the timing around setting and measurement of performance?

The performance indicators and performance targets will be agreed in 2018. Data gathered in 2019 on 2018 performance will be used to determine the funding available in 2020.

What has happened to the proposal to apply an efficiency dividend to CGS?

The Government will not proceed with the proposal to apply an efficiency dividend to CGS.

What has happened to the proposal to increase student contributions by 7.5 per cent?

The Government will not proceed with the proposal to increase student contributions.

What are the arrangements for NZ citizens and Australian permanent residents from 2018?

The Government will not proceed with previously proposed changes to extend access to the Higher Education Loan Program (HELP) to all Australian permanent residents and all New Zealand citizens. Eligibility for access to a CSP will remain as per the established legislation.

Permanent humanitarian visa holders and New Zealand Special Category Visa holders who meet the long-term residency requirements will continue to be eligible for both a CSP and HELP loans.

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From 1 January 2019, the Government will introduce a cap on the amount of tertiary education assistance a student can access for tuition fees. The new HELP tuition limit will apply to HECS-HELP loans, FEE-HELP loans, VET FEE-HELP loans and VET Student Loans.


The loan limit is not renewable. Once a borrower reaches the lifetime limit they cannot borrow further funds.
 

The proposed lifetime HELP tuition limits for the combined HECS-HELP, FEE-HELP, VET FEE-HELP and VET Student Loans are:

  • $150,000 for students undertaking medicine, dentistry and veterinary science courses, and
  • $104,440 for other students.

Who does this affect?

The measure will affect all tertiary students intending to access HECS-HELP, FEE-HELP, VET FEE-HELP or VET Student Loans from 1 January 2019 onwards.

What about students who had previously accessed the FEE-HELP limit?

Previous FEE-HELP, VET FEE-HELP or VET student loans debt would be transferred onto the new combined limit.
 

From 1 January 2019, any new HECS-HELP borrowing would be counted towards students’ loan limits. Previous HECS-HELP debt would not be taken into account.


Medical, dental and veterinary science students who had previously reached their FEE-HELP limit will have access to additional funds up to the new $150,000 limit. The limit for students in other courses would not be changed.

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The Promotion of Excellence in Learning and Teaching in Higher Education (PELTHE) program will cease and the administration of the Australian Awards for University Teaching (AAUT) and responsibility for the Office for Learning and Teaching digital repository will be transferred to Universities Australia.

When is the Australian Government ceasing the PELTHE program?

The Australian Government will cease the PELTHE program from 1 January 2018. All financial obligations to ongoing grants made under PELTHE will be met, with the last payments to be made by the end of 2017.

Why is the Government ceasing of the PELTHE program?

The last decade of government support for the PELTHE program has set a high standard for the support of teaching and learning initiatives. Higher education institutions themselves will now take responsibility for the recognition and promotion of learning and teaching excellence, best practice and innovation.

How will the Australian Government ensure the continuation of high quality learning and teaching in higher education institutions?

The government is ensuring greater university transparency and accountability through the Quality Indicators in Learning and Teaching (QILT) surveys, published on the QILT website. These surveys allow students to compare institutional performance in overall student experience, including teaching quality and support, and graduate outcomes. Linking future growth in CGS funding for bachelor places to performance requirements will also drive improvements in learning and teaching.

How will we know if Universities Australia will be as fair and transparent as the Australian Government has been over the last decade if they are administering their own awards?

The awards have always been underpinned by rigorous peer assessment working closely with Universities Australia's Deputy Vice-Chancellor Academic committee. Peer assessors are all senior academics with extensive experience in learning and teaching best practice and innovation. There is no reason for UA to abandon this approach.

Why are you outsourcing management of the digital resource library?

Universities Australia, as the peak body representing Australian universities both nationally and internationally, is the appropriate organisation to take leadership in recognising and promoting excellence on behalf of the higher education sector. This includes leading the Australian Awards for University Teaching and curating the related digital resource library

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Student support that delivers outcomes

The Government will commit $15 million over four years to assist in the establishment and maintenance of up to eight community-owned, regional study hubs across mainland Australia.

How will the proposed $15 million in funding be used?

The proposed $15 million of funding over four years will assist in the establishment and maintenance of up to eight community-owned, regional study hubs across mainland Australia.
 
The specific balance and level of funding for individual study hubs may vary depending on each individual business model. Other stakeholders, including state governments and local councils are expected to contribute financially to the establishment and running of Regional study hub (RSHs).

What will the criteria entail for assessing which RSH applications are successful?

The criteria for assessing RSH applications is still to be finalised.

Will an application for a RSH need to have partner universities?

RSHs require a partner university to deliver courses in regional areas in order for them to be established.

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The previously proposed establishment of a ‘student-centred’ model for the distribution of postgraduate coursework places will not proceed.

What will happen with the allocation of CSPs for postgraduate study?

Each university will receive an allocation of postgraduate CSPs in 2018, which will be documented in their funding agreement. From 2019, the Government will reallocate CSPs for postgraduate courses based on criteria informed by public and private benefits and how well institutions meet student needs. The Government will consult with the sector during 2018 on new arrangements for allocation in 2019.

How will the Government decide which higher education providers will lose some of their allocated postgraduate places as part of the decision to reduce the sector wide allocation by 3000 places from 2018?

As announced in May 2017, postgraduate allocations will be reduced in line with institutions’ history of underutilisation. Revised allocations will be reflected in 2018 funding agreements and universities will be notified when they receive their funding agreements in December 2017.

Doesn't cutting the allocation of postgraduate CSPs by 3,000 places from 2018 mean that there will be fewer opportunities to access a subsidised place?

Not in practice, no. In 2015, the Government allocated 38,456 non-medical postgraduate CSPs across the sector but 4,885 were left unfilled. Similarly, in 2016, the Government allocated 39,534 places with 5,320 ultimately unfilled. Effectively, the total number of places that will be available in 2018 will still be higher than the number that were actually used in 2015 and 2016.

During 2018, the Government will consult on new arrangements for the allocation of places from 2019.

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The previously proposed expansion of the demand driven funding to Commonwealth Supported Places (CSPs) in approved sub-bachelor level diploma, advanced diploma and associate degree courses will not proceed.

What will happen with the allocation of CSPs for sub-bachelor study?

Each university will receive an allocation of sub-bachelor CSPs in 2018, which will be documented in their funding agreement. From 2019, the Government will reallocate CSPs for sub-bachelor courses that focus on industry needs and fully articulate into a bachelor degree.

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A new distribution mechanism for enabling courses will be implemented from 1 January 2019 to better match places to student need.

What criteria will be used to allocate CSPs to providers?

The Government will consult stakeholders in 2018 on the selection criteria and the method to be used to allocate CSPs for enabling courses.

Does this mean that a university can lose all its CSP allocations for enabling?

The current allocation of CSPs in enabling courses will end in 2018. CSPs will be allocated if providers can demonstrate high standards of academic preparation and deliver high quality student outcomes. There is no guarantee of an allocation to all providers.

Why is the Government changing enabling course arrangements?

The Government wants to improve the quality and outcomes of enabling courses. Students benefit from improved enabling courses that should better equip them for further study. From 2019, providers will be awarded Commonwealth supported enabling places if they can demonstrate high standards of academic preparation and deliver high quality student outcomes.

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The previously proposed expansion of Commonwealth contributions to Work Experience in Industry (WEI) units will not proceed.

Will any work experience in industry units of study be funded?

No CGS funding will be provided for WEI units but higher education providers can continue charge student contributions for eligible units as per the established legislative arrangements.

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Increased transparency and accountability

The previously proposed performance-based element to the CGS, worth 7.5 per cent of total CGS cluster funding will not proceed. From 2020, access to growth in CGS funding for bachelor degree courses will be performance based.

How will the performance arrangements be implemented?

The performance arrangements will be incorporated into funding agreements with implementation details to be developed in consultation with the sector.

Which providers will be affected by the performance element?

All providers that receive demand driven CGS funding for non-designated courses (‘Table A providers’) will have to satisfy performance requirements to access growth in their CGS funding for non-designated courses. All other higher education funding, including CGS funding for designated courses and Higher Education Loan Program (HELP) payments, are unaffected.

What exactly does the performance funding apply to?

Performance outcomes will only affect non-designated CGS funding, that is, CGS funding for bachelor degree courses at public universities that previously had access to demand-driven funding. Performance outcomes will not affect funding for designated place or loadings such as those provided for enabling courses, medical units or regional.

What will be the performance indicators to access growth from 2020?

Access to growth will be based on each university’s achievement of performance objectives such as attrition, low SES participation and workforce preparedness of graduates. The indicators will be subject to consultation with the sector.

What will be the timing around setting and measurement of performance?

The performance indicators and performance targets will be agreed in 2018. Data gathered in 2019 on 2018 performance will be used to determine the funding available in 2020.

When will my institution know the impact of the performance element on its CGS funding?

The Government will advise institutions of their CGS funding for a given year prior to that year. This ensures institutions are aware of their level of funding for the coming year and allows them to plan appropriately.

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The Government will work with the higher education sector to establish a more transparent framework for the collection of financial data from higher education providers in order to regularly report on the cost of teaching and research by field of education.

Will all approved higher education institutions need to participate?

All higher education institutions receiving funding under the Commonwealth Grant Scheme (CGS) will be required to provide expenditure data under this measure.
 
Providing this data is one of the criteria that must be met in order for an institution to receive their performance contingent funding component of the CGS.

What information will institutions need to provide and how?

The precise information that institutions will be required to provide will be determined through consultation with a stakeholder reference group. It is likely to be similar to the information requested through the process undertaken in the second half of 2016. Further consultation will also determine the most effective and efficient mechanism of data collection.

When will the information be collected?

It is anticipated that the first data collection will be conducted in the middle of 2018 and will be collected annually.

Will the data be made public?

The Department of Education and Training will work with the reference group to agree on arrangements for publication of the data.
 
This will ensure students have access to information on how their fees are being spent by institutions, while also providing institutions with benchmarks against which to compare their performance.

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The Government will undertake a review of the Australian Qualifications Framework (AQF) commencing in the second half of 2017, to be completed by 30 June 2019.

Will stakeholders be consulted in the review of the AQF?

Yes, stakeholders will be consulted throughout the review process. This is an integral part to the review – the Government needs to know and understand the issues facing the sector in relation to the AQF so that they can be addressed accordingly. Further details on how stakeholders can get involved will be available online in the coming months and education providers will be sent details of how to provide feedback to the review process. In the meantime, any queries can be sent to the AQF email inbox, AQFReview@education.gov.au

Will there be substantial changes to the AQF in the review?

This will not be clear until further into the review process when feedback is received from the sector on the types of issues of concern and how they can be best addressed. Adequate lead-time will be provided for implementation of any changes so that students and education providers are not disadvantaged.

The department contracted PhillipsKPA to provide contextual research for the review, related to international qualifications frameworks and domestic use of the AQF.

Will current qualifications become invalid if a revised AQF comes into place?

No. Current qualifications will still be valid, even if there are changes to the current AQF.
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