More choices for students

The higher education sector will be more responsive to the aspirations of students and the needs of the future workforce. Incentives to deliver unnecessary qualifications or to maintain outmoded curriculum and course delivery methods will be replaced with mechanisms which ensure Commonwealth supported places provide better value to students and to the economy. Funding mechanisms to support universities enrolling students from low socio-economic backgrounds will also be reformed.

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The Australian Government's proposed higher education reform package remains in the Senate. The Government is currently considering options as reforming the higher education system remains a priority, both to maintain and enhance Australia's world-class higher education sector, and to ensure future funding arrangements remain sustainable, in line with the reforms announced in the 2017-18 Budget. For current information, visit the Government's reform package webpage.

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.

Reform of the Higher Education Participation and Partnerships Program

The Higher Education Participation and Partnerships Program (HEPPP) will be reformed to deliver three funding streams to universities – a loading for each eligible low socio-economic status (SES) student, funding based on performance reflected in success rates of low SES and Indigenous students, and a National Priorities Pool.

This measure will support broader higher education reform and responds to the 2016 HEPPP program evaluation. These changes will take effect from 1 January 2018.

The proposed reforms include:

Providing a legislated loading of $985 (indexed) per low SES student, providing funding certainty to universities so they can roll out a consistent level of support over time and facilitate longer term planning and projects;

  • Introducing performance funding for universities that improve their average success rates for low SES or Indigenous students;
  • Increasing accountability through better development of a HEPPP evaluation framework; and
  • Streamlining administrative and reporting requirements.

These reforms will benefit people from low SES backgrounds, including Indigenous people and people from regional and remote Australia who are also from a low SES background, by facilitating their entry to and success in higher education.

Scholarship system for postgraduate coursework places

In 2019 the Australian Government will implement a 'student-centred' model for the distribution of postgraduate coursework places, ensuring the places are used at the institutions where students want to study.

The piecemeal allocation of Commonwealth supported places (CSPs) for postgraduate study, at different times and according to different criteria, has resulted in an incoherent distribution of places. A particular course may be Commonwealth supported at one university while being fee-paying at another. A large proportion of places is allocated to a small number of universities and the take-up rates of these places can be haphazard. For example, some universities were over-enrolled in 2015 while others were under‑enrolled.

From 1 January 2018, the Government will reduce the current allocation of postgraduate CSPs by around 3000 places in line with current utilisation. From 1 January 2019, a system of postgraduate scholarships will be established.

Students will be provided with a 'scholarship' to the value of a CSP that they may use at an institution of their choice, rather than the current 'university-focused' model. Such scholarships may only be used at those universities and non-university higher education providers that are approved to offer CSPs. Requirements will be placed on institutions to ensure scholarship holders are not turned away by institutions in favour of full-fee paying students.

Students who commenced in, or accepted an offer of, a postgraduate CSP before 2 May 2017 will continue to have access to a CSP while they finish their course. Students who commence in a postgraduate CSP from 2 May 2017 will be able to continue in their CSP until the end of 2018. After this, they would need to be in receipt of a scholarship to continue to study in a Commonwealth subsidised place.

The Government will also negotiate appropriate transition arrangements with the University of Melbourne and the University of Western Australia, given their current funding agreements support the broad bachelor and professional masters models adopted by these universities.

New arrangements for sub-bachelor courses

The demand driven funding system will be expanded to include Commonwealth supported places (CSPs) in approved sub-bachelor level diploma, advanced diploma and associate degree courses at public universities from 1 January 2018.

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, Commonwealth support will be available to students at public universities in approved sub-bachelor courses. To be eligible for a CSP, the student must not have completed another higher education qualification and the course must have been developed with a focus on industry needs and fully articulate into related bachelor programs. Current arrangements will continue to apply for existing students who are enrolled before 1 January 2018.

Under this reform, universities will be able to enrol students in a CSP in a sub-bachelor course and then a bachelor level course. This provides better support for underprepared students and will see improved retention and completion rates. This reform also recognises the importance of standalone paraprofessional or technical qualifications, and the flexibility that shorter sub-bachelor courses allow in meeting workforce demand. In addition it allows industry more input to curriculum design to improve the job-readiness of graduates.

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 Commonwealth will also abolish the loading on enabling places from 1 January 2018 and replace the loading with an equivalent maximum student contribution rate.

Universities offer enabling courses to underprepared learners to assist them in undertaking future higher education qualifications. Enabling courses provide students with numerous benefits including general study skills and discipline-specific knowledge.

The Government currently pays a loading to higher education institutions for each enabling place allocated to a university (in 2017, $3223 per equivalent full-time student load) in lieu of allowing institutions to charge a student contribution amount. In addition, the Commonwealth provides the subsidy appropriate to the CGS funding cluster.

From 1 January 2018, students may be charged up to the same rate as the enabling loading ($3271 in 2018), which will be abolished.

From 1 January 2019, the arrangements for enabling courses will be overhauled with a fixed number of enabling places to be allocated on a cyclical basis through a three year competitive tender process.

Expansion of support for Work Experience in Industry (WEI) units

From 1 January 2018, Commonwealth contributions will be provided for WEI units that are credited towards a Commonwealth supported qualification.

WEI units are those which comprise totally of work:

  • that is undertaken as a part of, or in connection with, a course of study undertaken with a provider
  • the purpose of which is to obtain work experience relevant to the course of study, and
  • in respect of which student learning and performance is not directed by the provider.

WEI units are currently ineligible for CGS funding although they are a feature in many higher education courses. Providing work-integrated learning opportunities for students has significant benefits for the job readiness of graduates, but there is currently little incentive for institutions to offer these opportunities. This reform will remove the disincentive that currently exists for institutions to offer degrees that include such work experience components. Providing funding to support WEI units will ensure that students are better supported to access high quality educational opportunities that have strong links with industry.

From 1 January 2018, Commonwealth contributions will be provided for WEI units that are credited towards a Commonwealth supported qualification up to one-sixth of a student's total load. For example, if a student's total load comprises 24 units, a maximum of four units could be counted as WEI units. The amount of the contribution will be consistent with that provided for other Commonwealth supported units.

Provider FAQs

For further information about how these reforms affect universities and private higher education providers, visit Provider FAQs.

Student FAQs

For further information about how these reforms affect students, visit Study Assist.


Factsheets on the Higher Education Reform measures.