17. Incidental fees

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17.1 - Fees for goods and services incidental to studies

Commonwealth supported students and domestic fee-paying students generally must be able to complete the requirements of their course of study without having to pay fees that are additional to student contribution amounts [part 22.1] or tuition fees [part 24.1].

Certain incidental fees are allowed to be charged. The criteria for deciding whether a fee is incidental are set out in chapter 7 of the HEP Guidelines and HESA [HESA paragraph 19-102(3)(f)]. Bonds and deposits related to the payment of tuition fees, whether refundable or not, are not allowed under these guidelines.

17.2 - Circumstances in which a provider may levy incidental fees

In accordance with chapter 7 of the HEP Guidelines, a provider may charge a student for a good or service related to the provision of their course if one of the following criteria applies:

Incidental fees and charges Examples

Goods or services not essential to the course.

These can include:

  • access to internet and computer facilities, except where these are required as part of a course
  • printing of notes from the internet or disc
  • graduation ceremonies where students are not required to attend the ceremony to obtain their award.

Alternative forms of access to goods or services essential to the course, but are otherwise readily available at no additional cost by the provider.

These can include:

  • lecture notes or recordings, provided that lectures are made readily available to students free of charge
  • electronic provision of essential information if the information is also made readily available free of charge in another form
  • reading material, such as anthologies
    of required readings, provided that these texts are also made readily available free
    of charge.

Essential goods or services where students have the choice of acquiring from a supplier other than the provider.  The equipment or items then become the students physical property and not consumed by the course.

These can include:

  • artwork supplies
  • fabric for sewing class
  • musical instruments
  • protective clothing or footwear
  • tool kits
  • stethoscopes
  • dance shoes
  • reference texts
  • badged clothing required for placements.

Food, transport and accommodation costs associated with the provision of field trips that form part of the course.

These can include:

  • meals, snacks, beverages
  • bus tickets, airfares
  • hotels, camping.

Fines or penalties imposed principally as a disincentive and not to raise revenue or cover administrative costs.

These can include:

  • fines or penalties for late enrolments, late variations to enrolments, and late payments of charges, student contribution amounts and tuition fees
  • review of grade if a student has already passed the subject, but is seeking to improve their grade
  • a bond for equipment that may be forfeited if the equipment is not returned or damaged
  • a charge for an assessment of prior learning in circumstances where a person has not applied for entry to the provider.

Examples provided above are for guidance only and are not intended to be exhaustive. For more examples and explanations, see [Appendix L].

Incentives to enrol

A provider must not offer or provide a benefit that would likely induce a person to make a request for Commonwealth assistance in relation to enrolling in a unit of study with the provider. There is a list of benefits that are allowed to be offered by a provider, set out in section 8.4 of the HEP Guidelines [HESA subsection 19-36A(2)] which include, but are not limited to: the availability of FEE-HELP assistance or HECS-HELP assistance, marketing merchandise up to the value of $30, and offering money in the form of scholarships or bursaries.

A provider may offer incentives for enrolment in a course, as allowed under section 8.4 of the HEP Guidelines, provided that the basis for the offer meets the fairness provisions, and that all eligible students enrolling or seeking to enrol in a course of study are treated fairly. In the case of incentives, this would generally mean the incentive must be available to all students and does not impose unfair conditions on students who take up its offer.

However, the tuition fee determined for a unit must not include fees or charges that are incidental to studies. As an example, a tablet PC offered to enrolling students would generally not be considered essential to a student’s course. Any charge for the tablet PC would be incidental to studies and could not be included in costs deferred into a FEE-HELP loan. A tablet PC would also be considered a benefit that may induce a person to request Commonwealth assistance when enrolling with the provider and is, therefore, not allowed.

17.3 - Circumstances in which a provider must not levy fees


The following examples are the kinds of goods and services for which the provider should not charge separate fees:

  • course materials, such as subject outlines, reading lists, tutorial or seminar topics and problems, assignment and essay questions and requirements or guidelines for the presentation of work access to library books, periodicals and guides
  • clinic, laboratory or workshop materials, such as anaesthetics, chemicals, filters, fuel, fertilisers, animal feed or crops used in practical sessions or research
  • access to computers or other online resources
  • admissions services including application fees or enrolment fees, except for special admissions tests
  • course notes provided as part of distance education
  • equipment and manuals that a professional in the field would not be required to own, such as:
    • fixtures in a clinic, laboratory or workshop; and
    • large items of equipment and relevant workshop guides required for their use
  • examinations or assessments, including practical assessment, for example, which requires the services of musical accompanists
  • reassessment of results where a student has failed an assessment and thereby failed a subject; and
  • mailing charges associated with distance education

Providers can choose to deliver units of study as part of a field trip or study tour. While students can pay the provider directly for the associated food, transport and accommodation costs, which the student may acquire from a supplier other than the provider, they are clearly defined as incidental fees in the HEP Guidelines and, therefore, cannot be included in tuition fees. Examples provided above are for guidance only and are not exhaustive. For more examples and explanations [Appendix L].

17.4 - Special admissions tests

A provider that conducts a special admissions test for judging the suitability of a person seeking admission into a specialist course may charge a fee for this test. A special admissions test would be over and above normal admissions services, such as enrolling on the basis of an ATAR, for which a provider must not charge a fee.


Specialist auditions and interviews such as those conducted by performing arts institutions/faculties.

Tests where special expertise is required to conduct interviews and make recommendations on the suitability of applicants for admission.