2019 April Higher Education updates


Table of contents

The following is applicable to both higher education and vocational education and training (VET) providers.

Save the date for the 2019 HELP and VSL Workshops

The Department of Education and Training will be hosting the 2019 HELP and VSL Provider Workshops on  25 and 26 July 2019 at the National Convention Centre in Canberra. The event is an opportunity for participants to engage with the department in operational workshops relating to the higher education and vocational education and training (VET) sectors. It is also a great opportunity for HELP and VSL providers to connect with each other.

You will receive event registration information in an upcoming email. Please ensure your institution's details are up to date in HITS to ensure you receive the invitation.

We are seeking your input for workshop topics. Please send your topic idea(s) with a contact phone number to HEenquiries@dese.gov.au by 8 May 2019.

To assist you in planning for the event, below is some information about the event’s format as well as accommodation options, which are within walking distance of the venue. We look forward to seeing you at the 2019 HELP and VSL Provider Workshops.

Date Time Agenda Location
Thursday 25 July 2019 1:30pm – 5pm Official welcome, higher education and VET plenary sessions and/or panel discussion. National Convention Centre, Canberra City, Canberra, ACT.
Friday 26 July 2019 8:30am – 4pm Concurrent workshops on topics relevant to higher education and VET providers as well as some informal drop-in clinics. Sessions will run throughout the day and will be repeated to ensure attendees have the opportunity to participate in all sessions relevant to their organisation. Participants will be given the opportunity to nominate which sessions they would like to attend during the registration process. National Convention Centre, Canberra City, Canberra, ACT.

Accommodation options:


Transforming the Collection of Student Information (TCSI) update

Draft 2020 reporting requirements for higher education and VSL providers were released on HEIMSHELP in early February. These critical documents formalise the changes being made in Transforming the Collection of Student Information (TCSI). The sector’s feedback is informing an update to these requirements, with final versions to be released in April 2020 as part of the Ministerial and Secretary’s Notices.

More detail on the reporting requirements and the TCSI solution were shared in three webinars throughout February. The transition plan to support the move from HEPCAT to the TCSI reporting channels has been finalised and was shared in our April webinar. You can view recordings of the webinars on this website.

If you have any questions about the TCSI project please contact us at HEIMS.DataCollections@dese.gov.au.

Rural and Regional Enterprise Scholarships

Round 3 of the Rural and Regional Enterprise Scholarships is now open and will close on 14 June 2019.

The Australian Government committed $58.1 million for the Rural and Regional Enterprise Scholarships (RRES) Program to assist students from regional and remote Australia to undertake VET, undergraduate and postgraduate studies from Certificate IV to PHD level.

Scholarships are valued at up to $18,000 each and will assist recipients with the cost of study for the duration of their course. $18,000 will be available for a four year full-time course, or eight year part-time course, with pro-rata amounts for shorter courses. Scholarships will be available to students studying on campus, online or through distance education.

Scholarship recipients may also be eligible to receive $500 to undertake an internship and develop professional experience.

Recipients will be selected on the basis of need and merit.

Information about the scholarships and how to apply is located on the Rural and Regional Enterprise Scholarships page.

The following is applicable only to higher education providers

Renewable HELP balance

The HELP Policy team continue to meet regularly with the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) to discuss:

  • the implementation of the renewable HELP balance from 1 January 2020

  • the requirements to receive an individual’s repayment information from the ATO to re-credit their HELP balance.

Useful information

  • A person’s HELP balance is their remaining borrowing capacity, which is managed by the department.

  • A person’s HELP balance goes down with study (debit) and up with repayments (credit).

  • Taking out a loan will reduce your HELP balance.

  • Making a repayment will increase your HELP balance.

  • For ease of understanding, both the department and the ATO will refer to it as a person’s “available HELP balance”.

  • On 1 January 2020, a person’s FEE-HELP balance will become their HELP balance.

  • A person’s maximum available HELP balance can never be higher than the current HELP loan limit.

  • A person’s HELP balance will almost never match their outstanding HELP debt. The two are separate and discrete. The ATO will manage the outstanding HELP debt.

Updating Contact and Key Personnel lists in HITS

Providers are reminded to keep their Contact list and Key Personnel list in HITS up-to-date following any changes in key roles within their organisation.

Contact list

The HITS Contact list provides the department with key contacts for your provider.

Only a person listed on the HITS Contact List can request Commercial-In-Confidence or operational policy information from the department.

The department uses the contact information in HITS to communicate with providers. If this information is not kept up-to-date, providers may not receive important information communicated by the department.

At a minimum, you should include the following roles in the HITS Contact list: chief executive officer/ vice chancellor, senior authorised officer, accountant, auditor and primary contact officer.

When adding new staff to the Contact list, providers should ensure that they also remove entries for staff who are no longer with the organisation or current in a particular role of the organisation.

Information on how to update the HITS Contact list can be found on pages 52-60 of the HITS User Guide.

Key Personnel

Providers must keep their Key Personnel list up-to-date in order to meet the fit and proper persons requirements under the Higher Education Support Act 2003 and/ or the VET Student Loans Act 2016.

The Key Personnel list in HITS should list all people who have significant and direct power and influence over a provider’s management and operation. Examples of roles that may be considered key personnel include directors, office holders, presidents, council members, the chief executive officer, and the chief financial officer.

Information on how to update the HITS Key Personnel list can be found on pages 100-104 of the HITS User Guide.

If you have any further questions, please contact FEE-HELP@dese.gov.au.

Data reporting

Providers are reminded to keep their data reporting up-to-date, as required under the Higher Education Support Act 2003.

Providers directed by the department as a part of 2019 tuition assurance exemptions or as a part of ongoing approval conditions must report their student data to HEIMS within four weeks of the census date for any unit of study.

All other providers must enter their student data for units of study with a census date between 1 January and 31 March 2019 by 31 May 2019.

Information about reporting requirements for providers can be found on pages 117 – 119 of the Higher Education Providers: Administrative Information for Providers (AIP) guide.

If you have any further questions please contact FEE-HELP@dese.gov.au.

Changes to your organisation

Providers are reminded to notify the department in writing via email FEE-HELP@dese.gov.au (and update HITS where appropriate) of any changes that may impact on their operations or students, as soon as practicable. These include, but are not limited to:

  • Changes in business ownerships or structures including:

    • changes in share ownerships, changes in directors/CEO or other key personal

    • actual or potential merger/sale/purchases of a business or business unit

  • Changes to course accreditation by TEQSA

  • Changes in course delivery modes such as changes from on-campus delivery to online delivery

  • Changes to student enrolment models/numbers

  • Changes to campus locations, new campus or other relocations

  • Regulatory and compliance matters including actions by TEQSA or ASQA

  • Any matters notifiable to TEQSA or ASQA

  • Financial viability or cash flow issues

  • Matters related to a provider's conditions of approval.

This information is treated strictly in confidence.

Providers who fail to notify the department of these and other relevant changes may face compliance action, including possible revocation of Approval to Offer FEE-HELP.

As a rule of thumb, when you are advising TEQSA about any material changes, you should also advise the department of these changes.

If you have any further questions please contact FEE-HELP@dese.gov.au.

New Higher Education Provider (HEP) Guidelines

New HEP Guidelines will be available soon. Providers will be advised when they are released.

If you have any further questions please contact FEE-HELP@dese.gov.au.

2019 HELP publications

All 2019 HELP publications have now been distributed to providers that have placed an order.

The department would like to thank all providers that have kept their paper Commonwealth assistance form orders to a minimum in line with our digital first approach.

The 2019 HELP booklets have been published on the Study Assist website and print files are available if required.

The 2019 brochures are available to order for your open days or other events. Please email the department at HEenquiries@dese.gov.au or place your order through the Higher Education IT System (HITS).

Course Seeker

Last year, the department, in association with the Tertiary Admission Centres, launched the Course Seeker website, a national course comparison tool which allows prospective higher education students to search over 7000 courses. Students can explore, select and compare up to four higher education courses nationally. Deciding on a course and where to study can be a daunting experience. With Course Seeker students can narrow down their course options by ATAR, mode of study, study area and location.

Course Seeker is a one-stop-shop which provides prospective higher education students with transparent information about Australian higher education admissions, helping them to make important choices regarding their future study options.

The department is working on future enhancements of the website throughout 2019. These enhancements will continue to address the recommendations included in the Improving the Transparency of Higher Education Admissions report, as well as functional and cosmetic changes that are expected to improve the overall user experience of the site.

Visit the Course Seeker website.

Remission of HELP debts and Waiver of Indexation for Teachers in Very Remote Areas of Australia

Remission of accumulated HELP debt

Teachers must have graduated from a higher education provider with a recognised teaching qualification, have received accreditation and approval from the appropriate authority to teach, and have an outstanding HELP debt for all or part of their recognised teaching qualification.

Teachers must also complete four years full time equivalent teaching over a six year period, or the pro-rated part time/casual equivalent, at a school in a very remote location, commencing their placement on or after the start of the 2019 school year.

The amount of HELP debt to be remitted will be up to the cost of their recognised teaching qualification as at their placement commencement date. This can be a combination of HECS-HELP and/or FEE-HELP debt, up to a maximum of five years (e.g. three years undergraduate and two years postgraduate)

This proposal will not be applied retrospectively to HELP debt already repaid in part or in whole prior to the start of the 2019 school year.

Waiver of Indexation

Subject to passage of legislation, commencing 14 February 2019, teachers will not be charged indexation on their accumulated Higher Education Loan Program (HELP) debt while teaching at a school in a very remote location of Australia.

This proposal will not be applied retrospectively to indexation already adjusted prior to 14 February 2019.

The Department of Education and Training will determine eligibility, and notify the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) of HELP debt remissions and indexation waivers through normal channels.

Financial reporting requirements for non university providers

Providers are reminded that they must submit their annual audited financial statements and related documents to HITS as part of their ongoing financial viability requirements under the Higher Education Support Act 2003.

All providers with a financial year that ended 30 June 2018 should have already submitted their annual financial statements to HITS by 31 December 2018.

All providers with a financial year that ended 31 December 2018 must submit their annual financial statements to HITS by 30 June 2019.

Information on how to upload a document to HITS can be found on pages 78-81 of the HITS User Guide.

Providers must also complete a Financial Performance record in HITS for the most recently completed annual financial reporting period. The information provided in the Financial Performance must be consistent with the information contained in the audited financial statements for that period.

Information on how to complete a Financial Performance record in HITS can be found on pages 84-88 of the HITS User Guide.

Information about the financial information that providers are required to submit to the department can be found on pages 19-23 of the Financial Viability Instructions: Applicants and Providers of FEE-HELP.

If you have any further questions please contact FEE-HELP@dese.gov.au.

Variations for non university providers

If a provider wishes to request a variation which is over or under their approved 2019 FEE-HELP advance amount, they should report student data for all census dates that have occurred prior to the date of the variation request. This data should be reported even if it falls outside any mandatory or specific reporting requirements a provider may be subject to. Providers whose reported data do not support their requested variation will not be approved to receive increased advance levels unless extenuating circumstances can be demonstrated.

Variations to annual FEE-HELP advance amounts will be processed in three batches in 2019: 31 March 2019, 30 June 2019 and 30 September 2019.

If you have any further questions please contact FEE-HELP@dese.gov.au.

The following is applicable only to VET providers

Education and Other Legislation Amendment (VET Student Loan debt separation) Bill 2018

This change provides greater transparency of repayment rates for VET Student Loans and will allow improved reporting on the fiscal sustainability of the program.

NOTE: VET Student Loan amounts will continue to contribute towards a student’s lifetime FEE-HELP loan limit.

What does this mean for training providers and students?

The separation of VET Student Loan debts from other forms of HELP loans will have minimal impact on training providers and students.

The most noticeable change for students will be that their VET Student Loan will be identified as a separate income contingent loan, rather than part of a HELP loan debt.

Examples of how this will be apparent to students include:

  • tax file number declaration forms will have a separate VET Student Loan tick box

  • the Australian Taxation Office will issue a separate VET Student Loan Account Information Statement.

Some further details about the change are set out below:

  • VET Student Loan debt amounts incurred before 1 July 2019 will continue to be administered as HELP debts under HESA.

  • VET Student Loan debt amounts approved on or after 1 July 2019 will be incurred under the VSL Act. These debts are referred to as VETSL debts under the legislation.

  • The repayment thresholds, repayment rates, renewable HELP balance and indexation with respect to VETSL debts will be the same as HELP debts under HESA. These will be reflected in new provisions under the VSL Act.

  • The order of debt repayment will be sequential. VET Student Loan debt will be repaid after any HELP debt amounts, but before any debts relating to other income contingent loans and forms of student financial assistance.

  • Consistent with existing HELP debts, a person residing overseas that has a VET Student Loan debt is required to make repayments in respect of that debt by paying a levy to the Commonwealth (refer to the Student Loans (Overseas Debtors Repayment Levy) Amendment Bill 2018).

New Student Redress Measures

The Higher Education Support Amendment (VET FEE-HELP Student Protection) Act 2018 commenced on 1 January 2019. This legislation gives the Secretary of the Department of Education and Training a new discretionary power to remove a student's VET FEE-HELP debt if it was incurred because of inappropriate conduct by a VET FEE-HELP provider or their agent.

The Government established the VET Student Loans Ombudsman (VSLO) to handle complaints about the VET Student Loans program and VET FEE-HELP scheme. The VSLO assesses complaints about VET FEE-HELP debts incurred due to the inappropriate conduct of VET FEE-HELP providers or their agents.

Your students may have been contacted in the past by a VET FEE-HELP provider or their agent and may want to confirm whether or not they have a VET FEE-HELP debt, or they may have contacted you because they have become aware of a VET FEE-HELP debt they believe they should not have.

In these circumstances, the student should be referred to the dedicated VSLO website. This site provides information about how to make a complaint, how the VSLO can help and FAQs.

The fact sheet available on the How can we help page of the Commonwealth Ombudsman website provides additional information about the new VET FEE-HELP Student Redress Measures.