2020 July Higher Education updates


Between the recent announcement of the Australian Government's Higher Education Relief package in April and the Job-ready Graduates package in June, the ongoing challenges and impacts of COVID-19, plus business as usual, we have lots of information to share with you.

Job-ready Graduates package

The Minister for Education, the Hon Dan Tehan MP, announced the Job-ready Graduates package (the package) of reforms to higher education on 19 June 2020. The package will better address future economic challenges, deliver job-ready graduates in areas where they are needed most and increase opportunities for regional and remote students. It will create 100,000 new university places by 2030 and position Australia’s universities and higher education institutions to play a key role as we recover and plan for the future following the unprecedented economic impacts of the COVID‑19 pandemic. With the passage of legislation, the package will commence on 1 January 2021, with key measures detailed below.

Redesigning the Commonwealth Grant Scheme (CGS)

New funding clusters and student contribution bands will be introduced:

  • A new and simplified four cluster/four band system to replace the current eight cluster/three band system.
  • Around 60 per cent of students, based on current enrolments, will either benefit from a reduction in student contributions or see no changes.
  • Continuing students under the HECS‑HELP loans scheme will not receive fee increases.
  • Demand-driven CGS funding for bachelor-level Indigenous students from regional and remote areas.

More Commonwealth Supported Places (CSPs) from 2021

Focussing on regional campuses, high-growth metropolitan areas and low-growth metropolitan areas. Funding will increase by:

  • 3.5 per cent a year at regional campuses;
  • 2.5 per cent a year at high-growth metropolitan campuses;
  • 1 per cent a year at low-growth metropolitan areas.

New funding arrangements

A new National Priorities and Industry Linkage Fund (NPILF) worth $900 million will encourage universities to engage with industry and deliver more job-ready graduates.

A new Indigenous, Regional Low SES Attainment Fund (IRLSAF) will allow universities to use their funding more flexibly and assist them with supporting Indigenous students and students from low SES and regional backgrounds. It combines the Higher Education Participation and Partnerships Program (HEPPP), regional loading, enabling loading, and relevant elements of the National Institutes Grant.

A $705 million transition fund will be established to assist universities to adapt to the new funding system.

Introducing the funding envelope

A flexible funding envelope for Table A universities will allow greater flexibility for universities to offer places at bachelor, sub-bachelor, or postgraduate levels. Universities will also be able to trade places with other universities on a cost neutral basis.

Reducing the FEE‑HELP loan fee

From 2021, approximately 50,000 students who receive FEE‑HELP loans each year for undergraduate fee-paying places will have a reduction in their loan fee from 25 to 20 per cent.

Expanding Regional Universities Centres

$21 million over four years to expand and establish eight additional Regional Universities Centres (RUCs) to improve the higher education experience for students in regional and remote areas. This brings total funding in the RUC program to $74.2 million.

Tertiary Access Payment

$159.1 million over four years to establish a new Tertiary Access Payment to encourage and assist outer regional and remote students to access tertiary study immediately after year 12.

See Job-ready Graduates Package for more information on this major reform package, including frequently asked questions and detailed measure descriptions.

Higher Education Relief package

The Job-ready Graduates package builds on the Government’s commitment to improving the long-term sustainability of the higher education system, including the Higher Education Relief Package (Relief Package) announced by Minister Tehan and Senator the Hon Michaelia Cash, Minister for Employment, Skills, Small and Family Business on 12 April 2020.

The Relief Package provides higher education providers with a predictable and reliable cash flow, with incentives to continue teaching students and forms part of the Government’s broader efforts to support Australians, communities and the national economy. Key measures include:

  • A funding guarantee: the Government has guaranteed all Commonwealth Grant Scheme (CGS) payments for all higher education institutions in 2020. While institutions continue to teach students, CGS payments will be paid throughout 2020, regardless of any change in enrolments due to COVID‑19.
  • The deferral of HELP recoveries: the Government will guarantee 2020 HELP advance payments to higher education providers based on the estimates provided in late 2019. With enrolments expected to fall due to COVID‑19, the repayment of any excess advances can be deferred over the period 2022 to 2029.
  • Short online courses: to help Australians upskill or retrain, universities and non-university higher education providers are offering discounted short online courses for new students in field of national priority such as teaching, health, science and IT. These courses can be offered for six months from May 2020.
  • Loan fee exemption: higher education students and vocational education and training students who access FEE‑HELP or VET Student Loans to defer their tuition fees (and are not already exempt from paying loan fees) will receive a six month exemption from loan fees for units of study with census dates from 1 April to 30 September 2020.
  • Regulatory fee relief for providers: the Government has waived the majority of fees charged by sector regulators for 2020, exempting providers from future payments through to 30 June 2021.
  • Changes in cost recovery arrangements: cost recovery changes for some administrative arrangements have been deferred for 12 months.

Higher Education Relief package: reporting students undertaking short online courses in HEIMS

Please report students undertaking short online courses in your HEIMS submissions using the method outlined below.

Reporting through HEIMS

To minimise any additional reporting and reduce impacts on your administration systems, no new elements or codes will be introduced in HEIMS to collect data on the short online courses. Please use the following existing codes and elements in HEPCAT when you report these students.

  1. Report the course type (Element 310 - Course of study type code) using the existing codes:
    • Undergraduate course - Code 22 Other undergraduate award course
    • Postgraduate course - Code 11 Graduate certificate.
  2. Report the course name (Element 308) that matches a course on your list of short courses, as displayed on the Course Seeker website.
  3. Report the value 8999 for the postcode on Element 477 - Postcode or overseas country code location of Higher Education/VET Provider campus/delivery location when you report the unit of study on the Higher Education Load Liability File.
  4. Report code 201 on Element 490 Student Status to indicate that students enrolled in short courses are supported through HECS‑HELP.

Education Legislation Amendment (2020 Measures No. 1) Act 2020

The Education Legislation Amendment (2020 Measures No. 1) Act 2020 achieved royal assent on 19 June 2020 and:

  • Gives effect to the six month FEE‑HELP loan fee exemption from 1 April to 30 September 2020 announced as part of the Higher Education Relief Package.
  • Requires all new tertiary students receiving Commonwealth assistance to have a Unique Student Identifier (USI) from 1 January 2021, and all Commonwealth assisted higher education students to have a USI from 2023 (more information about USI is available in the following article).
  • Validates the loans of students who exceeded their HELP loan limit due to being assigned multiple Commonwealth Higher Education Student Support Numbers (CHESSNs) in error.
  • Clarifies that the point in time that a student’s HELP balance is reduced is the census date for HELP loans, and the census day for VET student loans.
  • Ensures that students undertaking eligible VET aviation courses are able to receive the higher HELP loan limit.

Extending the Unique Student Identifier (USI) to higher education

The Government is extending the USI from VET to higher education, legislated under the Education Legislation Amendment (2020 Measures No. 1) Act 2020. This will further reduce red tape for providers and give students access to a simpler, more streamlined tertiary identifier. It will also provide valuable data on pathways between VET and higher education, which will help inform future policy development and program delivery.

There will be a phased approach to the introduction of the USI in higher education, with changes commencing from next year:

  1. From 2021, new higher education students (domestic and onshore international) will need to apply for or hold a USI before census date.
  2. New students applying for Commonwealth financial assistance will be required to provide their USI on their Commonwealth Assistance Form (CAF or eCAF).
  3. By 2023, all tertiary students (including those who commenced prior to 2021) will need to have a USI to be able to receive their award.

Providers should record student details, including their USI, at the time of enrolment and will be able to assist students with applying for a USI through the USI website if they have express consent from the student.

From 2021, CHESSNs will no longer be allocated to new students, and will be gradually decommissioned.

For new international students studying onshore from 2021, once they arrive in Australia they will need to apply for and obtain a USI using their visa as their identity document.

The department is currently designing communications products and messages to help support providers and students transition to the USI. These materials will be distributed during the second half of 2020.

If you have any questions, please email USItoHigherEd@dese.gov.au
If you would like to learn more about the USI, please visit the USI website. 

myHELPbalance portal

Repayment information is now available on myHELPbalance. All repayments made towards an individual’s HELP debt at the ATO between July 2019 and May 2020 have been received by the Department of Education, Skills and Employment and credited to individuals’ HELP balances.

Students should be able to view their repayment information in myHELPbalance now.

Please contact myHELPbalance@dese.gov.au or follow the instructions on the myHELPbalance portal if you have any issues accessing the portal, or any questions about the information displayed on the portal.

Edy - Study Assist's upcoming pilot virtual assistant

Edy has arrived! Edy will be answering questions and improving her knowledge over the coming months before we let her loose on Study Assist. Thank you to those providers who put their hand up to help us pilot her. If you have expressed interest and have not heard from us, please send us an email. Also, anyone who wants to be involved in the pilot still can – just send an email to HEenquiries@dese.gov.au

Rural and Regional Enterprise Scholarships

The fourth round of the Government’s Rural and Regional Enterprise Scholarships program is open for applications for the 2020 academic calendar year. Many scholarships have already been given to deserving students, and the remainder will be awarded on a rolling basis until all 1100 have been allocated.

Students from a regional or remote area who are commencing, or who have already commenced study this year can apply for a scholarship, valued at up to $18,000 for study Australia wide, and available for courses in any discipline.

This scholarship can support students for up to four years (or the part-time equivalent) with the costs of studying a Certificate IV to a PhD level course. It is also available for flexible study and includes part-time and online students. Scholarship recipients may also be eligible for an additional $500 to undertake an internship during their studies.

Applicants are assessed and selected based on financial need, with additional consideration for specific categories, including Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, women studying in fields with low female representation and people with disability.

Special consideration will be given to rural and regional students who are affected by natural disaster, such as drought and bushfire.

Information about the scholarships, including eligibility requirements and how to apply is available through the support organisation, QTAC.

QTAC Phone: 1800 290 979

QTAC Email: scholarships@qtac.edu.au

News relevant to VET Providers

VSL Provider Newsletter

VET Student Loans (VSL) providers are encouraged to view the VSL Provider Newsletters, which are published every two months and available on the Information for VSL approved providers page. The newsletters provide regular program updates and general guidance relevant to all VSL providers.

Higher HELP loan limit for aviation courses

In response to feedback from aviation providers, the department has updated the FEE‑HELP Guidelines 2017 (Guidelines), a legislative instrument under the Higher Education Support Act 2003. The amendment adds five additional superseded diploma level aviation courses to the list of courses eligible for the higher combined HELP loan limit (HELP limit) of $152,700 in 2020 (indexed to CPI), with effect from 1 January 2020.

A copy of the amendment is available at FEE‑HELP Guidelines Amendment (No. 1) 2020.

Although these courses are superseded, the department is aware they are still being taught to existing and new students in 2020. Therefore, a number of students were disadvantaged by not having access to the higher combined HELP loan limit.

The following ten courses are now eligible for the higher HELP limit from 1 January 2020:

  1. Diploma of Aviation (Commercial Pilot Licence – Aeroplane) (course code AVI50219)
  2. Diploma of Aviation (Commercial Pilot Licence – Helicopter) (course code AVI50319)
  3. Diploma of Aviation (Instrument Rating) (course code AVI50519)
  4. Diploma of Aviation (Flight Instructor) (course code AVI50419)
  5. Advanced Diploma of Aviation (Pilot in Command) (course code AVI60219)
  6. Diploma of Aviation (Commercial Pilot Licence — Aeroplane) (course code AVI50215)
  7. Diploma of Aviation (Commercial Pilot Licence — Helicopter) (course code AVI50315)
  8. Diploma of Aviation (Instrument Rating) (course code AVI50415)
  9. Diploma of Aviation (Flight Instructor) (course code AVI50516)
  10. Advanced Diploma of Aviation (Pilot in Command) (course code AVI60216).

This amendment commenced retrospectively on 1 January 2020 to align with the commencement of the amendments that were made to the Guidelines by the 2019 Instrument, which introduced the higher HELP loan limit for aviation courses.

The department’s IT systems were updated to include these courses in the HELP limit/balance assessment to allow for HEIMS data reporting, effective from 12 June 2020.

A number of providers have reported loan amounts that have been adjusted down by HEIMS as the students had exceeded their lower HELP limit entitlements. To correct these records, after the system update, providers will be required to delete the existing adjusted records (report ‘4’ for variation reason code, element 446), and re-report the data with the full loan amount for HELP balance entitlement re-assessment. Steps are outlined on HEIMSHELP) and are included below for ease of reference:

  1. Create a VET Student Revision submission in HEPCAT
  2. Add the key elements to the VET student revision (VSR) file to identify the record
  3. Report "4" (Deletions due to administrative error) for the variation reason code (E446)
  4. Validate in HEPCAT and submit the VET Student Revision submission
  5. Create a new VET Student submission (VET student enrolment (VEN), VET Load Liability (VLL)) to report the correct record
  6. If the correct record includes a student's debt (E558) provide a matching record in the corresponding VET Commonwealth assisted students - HELP Due (VDU) file.