Improving higher education for students

The Job-ready Graduates package invests in higher education in areas of national priority so our higher education system can deliver the best results for students, industry and the community.

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The Job-ready Graduates package invests in higher education in areas of national priority so our higher education system can deliver the best results for students, industry and the community.

The package delivers immediate support to students, universities and researchers as we work to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic. Total funding for higher education in 2021 will exceed $20 billion, a record level of investment in the sector and increase of more than $2 billion from 2020.

There will up to 30,000 new places in 2021 to support more students to attend university and gain undergraduate qualifications and there are 50,000 higher education short course places in 2021

The cost of university degrees in areas of national priorities are significantly reduced, in courses in engineering, computing, allied health, education, and nursing, for example.

There is additional funding support for students in rural and regional areas with the implementation of the Tertiary Access Payment and further funding to support Indigenous Australians to attend university.

Better university funding arrangements for students

The Higher Education Support Act 2003 has been amended to benefit students and the future job market. The Job-ready Graduates package delivers:

  • more bachelor‑level Commonwealth Supported Places (CSPs) at universities from 2021 and more short course places.
  • simpler university access for disadvantaged Australians through a National Priorities and Industry Linkage Fund (NPILF) and an Indigenous, Regional and Low SES Attainment Fund (IRLSAF).
  • Updates to the funding the Government provides to universities through the Commonwealth Grant Scheme (CGS), and changes to student payments.

Indigenous Students

Indigenous students from rural and regional Australia admitted to university will have a guaranteed bachelor-level Commonwealth supported place.

Changing student contributions

Changes to university funding for Commonwealth supported places means that the amount students pay toward some courses – usually deferred through a HECS-HELP loan – has also changed. Around 60 per cent of students will see no change or a reduction in their contributions.

Australia’s HECS-HELP loans system continues to ensure that eligible students don’t face any cost barriers to accessing a higher education.

Changes bring the funding closer to the actual cost of delivering university education. Read more in the Job-ready Graduates Package technical note.

This change does not apply to students enrolled prior to 1 January 2021.

Student contribution bands and maximum contribution amounts from 1 January 2021

Each unit of study is classified in a student contribution band, depending on its study area. The maximum amount a student pays for each unit is set in that band.

Student contribution band 2021 maximum Student contribution amount
(per EFTSL)

Band 4: Law, accounting, administration, economics, commerce, communications, society and culture

$0 – $14,500

Band 3: Dentistry, medicine, veterinary science

$0 – $11,300

Band 2: Architecture, IT, other health, allied health, creative arts, engineering, science, environmental studies, professional pathway psychology, professional pathway social work

$0 – $7,950

Band 1: Agriculture, English, mathematics, teaching, clinical psychology, languages, nursing

$0 – $3,950

Students can estimate the contribution amount they have to pay for each of their units of study based on the student contribution range of the unit, and the equivalent full-time student load (EFTSL) of their unit.

Continuing Commonwealth supported students will need to know whether the unit is in a grandfathered discipline.

The student contribution amount for a unit of study is estimated by calculating:

(Student contribution set by provider) x (EFTSL value of unit) = the amount the student will have to pay.

Temporary exemption in the FEE-HELP loan fee

The loan fee exemption for FEE‑HELP has been extended. First announced under the Higher Education Relief Package, the exemption seeks to encourage students to commence or continue study. The exemption will apply for all units of study with a census date on or between 1 April 2020 and 30 June 2021.

Reduction in the FEE-HELP loan fee

The FEE-HELP loan fee will be reduced on 1 July 2021 to 20 per cent.

This will reduce the total debt incurred by students accessing FEE‑HELP for undergraduate courses at Non-University Higher Education Providers or Table A universities. This will encourage lifelong learning by further reducing the financial barriers those students face in commencing or continuing higher education.

HECS‑HELP up‑front payment discount

Students eligible for HECS‑HELP assistance will receive a 10 per cent discount if they make up-front payments of $500 or more towards their student contribution.

The discount means students will pay less for their studies if they make an up-front payment and gives students more options to pay their contributions. The discount provides an incentive for students to pay up-front, either fully or partially, which will decrease their student debt.

The HECS‑HELP up-front payment discount will apply for up-front payments of $500 or more for units of study with a census date on or after 1 January 2021.

Student protections

Student protection and provider integrity requirements will now apply to all higher education providers, ensuring that they are more accountable for the outcomes they deliver for students, industry and the wider community.

Every student can be confident that wherever they choose to study, they will be assessed as being academically suited to that study, their academic progress and engagement will be monitored, and they will be prevented from incurring debt for study for which they are not suited.

The measures address cases where Government has identified students being continuously enrolled at multiple providers at the same time, resulting in excessive HELP debts (in excess of $600,000), and very low pass rates (passing on average only 1 in 5 attempted units).

No student will be penalised for circumstances beyond their control if the higher education provider is satisfied it is impracticable for them to complete the requirements of a unit of study. Circumstances for consideration include medical, family/personal, employment or course related challenges where it would be unreasonable to expect a student to continue their studies.

The protection measures will:

  • ensure that only genuine students have access to Commonwealth assistance
  • ensure that students have been assessed as academically suitable for their course
  • require students to maintain a reasonable completion rate to continue to access Commonwealth assistance
  • place a limit on the amount of study that a student can enrol in at one time
  • allow students to cancel their HELP debt if their provider has not appropriately managed their progress in a course
  • protect students from being pursued for study debts if their provider was at fault
  • extend the Government’s ability to audit providers for compliance to all providers
  • support providers in putting in place best practice marketing, enrolment and reporting practices.

These measures mean that every student studying in Australia can be confident that wherever they choose to study, they will be assessed as being academically suited to that study, their academic progress and engagement will be monitored throughout the course, and they will be prevented from incurring debt for study for which they are not suited.

Helping Australians to reskill and upskill

Short online courses including in teaching, health, science, information technology and agriculture provide faster training pathways and alternative study options for workers looking to upskill. To help Australians upskill or retrain there are 50,000 higher education short course places in 2021. In 2020, 55 providers offered nearly 400 short courses.

To apply for a short course in 2021, visit the Course Seeker website.

Tertiary Access Payment

The Tertiary Access Payment (TAP) is a non-indexed, means-tested payment to school-leavers from regional or remote areas who need to relocate for full-time, higher-level tertiary education (Certificate IV and above) at an education provider located at least 90 minutes by public transport from their family home.

The payment assists students with the additional costs of relocating to undertake tertiary study.

The TAP aims to encourage individuals in inner regional, outer regional and remote Australia to go on to tertiary study (Certificate IV or above) rather than taking a gap year after completing year 12 (or equivalent).

Who is eligible to apply for the TAP?

The TAP will be available for school leavers who:

  • meet Australian citizenship or residency requirements
  • are from an inner regional, outer-regional, remote or very remote area (defined using the Australian Statistical Geography Standard – Remoteness Area classification)
  • are undertaking a Certificate IV or above, at least 75 per cent of fulltime study load with a minimum duration of a year, in the year following completion of Year 12 or equivalent
  • are studying face to face, or in dual delivery method, for at least part of the course
  • are 22 years of age or under at the time they commence their course
  • relocate to study at an education provider or Regional University Centre at least 90 minutes by public transport from their family home
  • parent(s) or guardian(s) have a combined income of $250,000 or below (or be exempt from meeting this requirement).

Find more information at Tertiary Access Payment or Services Australia.

How can I apply for the Tertiary Access Payment?

Students relocating to study at a university, non-university higher education provider or a vocational education and training provider will apply through Services Australia from 1 January 2022.

How do I receive the payment?

The TAP is a payment made in a student’s first year of eligible study. Students will only be eligible for the TAP once.

Successful applicants from outer regional and remote areas will be paid up to $5,000 in their first year of study, with two payments, $3,000 after confirmation of enrolment i.e. following the first census date, to assist with upfront costs, and $2,000 after confirmation of ongoing enrolment i.e. following the second census date.

Successful applicants from inner regional areas will be paid a single payment of $3,000 after confirmation of enrolment in your first year of study.

What can the money be used for?

There are no restrictions on what you how you spend the payment. The TAP can be used to cover costs associated with study including, but not restricted to:

  • bond for accommodation
  • assistance with rent and other household bills
  • groceries
  • textbooks and other study supplies.

I am eligible for Youth Allowance/ABSTUDY. Am I also eligible for the Tertiary Access Payment?

Yes. For inner regional, outer regional and remote students also receiving Youth Allowance or ABSTUDY, the TAP can also be received, if all eligibility criteria are met.

Students who are eligible for the Relocation Scholarship linked to Youth Allowance/ABSTUDY payments are also able to receive the TAP. The TAP provides additional support to recognise the extra challenges faced by students from regional families.