Education is Australia’s third largest export industry and higher education is a key element of this. In 2016 the sector was valued at $21.8 billion. But this success has come at a cost and funding since 2009 has increased by 71 per cent, twice the rate of economic growth. While average funding for universities per student increased by 15 per cent between 2010 and 2015, over the same period the cost for universities to deliver courses increased by only 9.5 per cent according to independent analysis from Deloitte. The Government’s new higher education policy will make Commonwealth support better targeted, make sure taxpayers receive value for money and help students make informed choices when it comes to study.
Media release Sustainability and excellence in higher education
Improving the sustainability of higher education
New schedule of repayment thresholds for the Higher Education Loan Program
A new set of repayment thresholds will be introduced from 1 July 2018, affecting all current and future HELP debtors by changing the timing and amounts of their repayments.
The Australian Government is improving the sustainability of the HELP scheme by introducing a new set of HELP repayment thresholds and rates from 1 July 2018. This will help ensure that the HELP scheme is affordable and can continue to help people to participate in tertiary education.
Under this measure, the compulsory HELP repayment threshold will be set at $45,000 with a one per cent repayment rate, while the second threshold will be $51,957 with a two per cent repayment rate. The new maximum threshold will be $131,989 with a repayment rate of 10 per cent.
New indexation arrangements for repayment thresholds for the Higher Education Loan Program
From 1 July 2019, the indexation of Higher Education Loan Program (HELP) repayment thresholds, currently linked to Average Weekly Earnings (AWE), will be changed to align to the Consumer Price Index (CPI).
In addition to the proposed changes of the compulsory repayment threshold, indexing the repayment thresholds at CPI (instead of AWE) will maintain the value of the thresholds in real terms, as the thresholds will increase in line with consumer prices rather than average wages.
New limit for Higher Education Loan Program (HELP) loans
From 1 January 2019, the Government will introduce a combined cap on the amount of tertiary 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 and VET Student Loans. This limit will be $150,000 for students undertaking medicine, dentistry and veterinary science courses and $104,440 for other students.
New cap on Commonwealth Grants Scheme (CGS) funding
In 2018 and 2019, the amount of funding provided through the Commonwealth Grant Scheme (CGS) for bachelor degree courses will be capped at the amount provided for 2017. From 2020 onwards, higher education providers will be able to grow their CGS funding in line with national working age population growth if they meet certain performance requirements.
Quality in higher education learning and teaching
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 the Office for Learning and Teaching digital repository will be transferred to Universities Australia.
Under this measure, the PELTHE program will cease 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.
Transfer of the Australian Awards for University Teaching to Universities Australia
From 1 January 2018, responsibility for the AAUT will be transferred to Universities Australia. This recognises that the best approach to the long-term sustainability of the awards lies with the higher education sector taking ownership and ensuring that the AAUT target exceptional performance in areas that are relevant, and important, to the sector.
Student support that delivers outcomes
Improved support for regional higher education
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.
This reform recognises a key gap in university provision exists for remote students who wish or need to remain their local regional area for study, but enrolments are not sufficient to justify a university establishing a campus.
These study hubs provide infrastructure such as study spaces, video conferencing, computing facilities and internet access as well as pastoral and academic support for students studying via distance at partner universities.
New arrangements for Postgraduate Commonwealth Supported Places (CSPs)
Each university will receive an allocation of postgraduate CSPs in 2018, which will be documented in their funding agreement to be finalised by the end of 2017. 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
New arrangements for sub-bachelor courses
Under current arrangements, the Government decides how many students can receive a subsidy to study a sub-bachelor course at each university.
From 1 January 2018, each university will receive an allocation of sub-bachelor CSPs, which will be documented in their funding agreement by the end of 2017. From 2019, the Government will reallocate CSPs for sub-bachelor courses that focus on industry needs and fully articulate into a bachelor degree.
New arrangements for enabling courses
A new distribution mechanism for enabling courses will be implemented from 1 January 2019 to better match places to student need.
The Government will consult stakeholders in 2018 on the selection criteria and the method to be used to allocate CSPs for enabling courses.
The Higher Education Participation and Partnerships Program
The Higher Education Participation and Partnerships Program (HEPPP) will continue at levels of funding that prevailed prior to those proposed in the Higher Education Reform Package.
In 2018, $133.8m is available for allocation to universities from the Participation and Partnerships components of the HEPPP. These funds will be allocated to universities in proportion to each university’s share of the total number of low SES (based on 2016 data).
Increased transparency and accountability
The higher education sector will be more accountable—and more open to scrutiny—for the manner in which it expends taxpayer funding. There needs to be greater transparency to show that the institutions are making the right decisions about who to enrol and what they are enrolling
Improving the transparency of higher education admissions
The Government has accepted all recommendations of the Higher Education Standards Panel (HESP) report, Improving the Transparency of Higher Education Admissions. The Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency (TEQSA) will be provided $3.3 million over four years to work with key stakeholders in Australia's higher education sector to develop a joint plan to implement the Panel's key recommendations.
TEQSA will conduct a baseline audit of sector compliance with the agreed sector-led response in the first year. It will then actively monitor and report on sector progress as providers improve to meet the Standards.
When implemented, this reform will enhance the accountability of higher education providers for the information they publish about their admissions policies:
adopt common language about admissions processes and publish consistent information
widen the accessibility of information to prospective students, and
improve the comparability of admissions and entry information across providers through a national admissions platform.
Transparency for teaching and research expenditure by universities
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.
Institutions are not currently required to provide data to the Government about their expenditure on teaching and scholarship, making it difficult to assess the efficiency of the current funding architecture.
The Department of Education and Training will work in consultation with a stakeholder reference group to establish an annual cost of delivery data collection for a further three years commencing in 2018.
Once the data collection is established, the Department will work with the higher education sector to agree on arrangements for publication of the data.
For further information about how these reforms affect universities and private higher education providers, visit Provider FAQs.
For further information about how these reforms affect students, visit Study Assist.