Higher education providers

The Tuition Protection Service (TPS) assists higher education students whose education providers are unable to fully deliver their course or unit of study.

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The TPS protects higher education students at private education providers when their provider defaults, whether the students pay their tuition fees up-front or use a HELP loan. A provider defaults when they close, stop offering a course or unit of study, or fail to start a course or unit of study with enrolled students.

The TPS helps higher education students to:

  • continue their studies with a replacement provider in an equivalent or similar course; or
  • receive a refund of their tuition fees paid up-front and/or receive a loan re-credit for parts of the course that the student commenced but could not complete due to a provider default.

The TPS is sector funded and supported by the Department of Education. Providers contribute annual TPS levies according to their size and risk of defaulting.

While most universities, TAFEs and Government funded providers are exempt from the tuition protection requirements, this does not prevent those providers from enrolling affected students as replacement providers.

Registered higher education providers are covered by the TPS. There is no need to register for the TPS.

The TPS Director is also the Higher Education Tuition Protection Director under the relevant legislation. 

Ongoing provider requirements

The Higher Education Support Act 2003 and the Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency Act 2011 set out the ongoing requirements for higher education providers.

It is important that providers fulfill their provider reporting requirements, which include maintaining and updating:

  • student contact details
  • records of unit and course completions
  • students’ unique student identifiers (USI)
  • data reported in the Tertiary Collection of Student Information (TCSI)
  • responding to information requests from the TPS Director.

It is also important to maintain the above information in the event of a default.

Higher education levies and fund

To build and sustain the fund, all non-exempt higher education providers are required to pay the annual HELP Tuition Protection Levy and/or the Up-front Payments Tuition Protection Levy.

While the HELP levy was waived in 2020 and 2021, and the Up-front levy waived in 2021 as part of the Government’s COVID-19 relief measures, both higher education tuition protection levies will be charged for the first time in 2022.

The 2022 levies are made up of the following components at these rates:

Levy Admin fee per provider Admin fee per student Base risk rate % Risk rate Special tuition protection component
HELP $111 $9.33 $6.00 0.06% 0.10%
Up-front $111 $9.33 $2.00 0.04% 0.10%

Risk factors

The risk factors comprising the risk rated premium component are intended to reflect the risk of default. They are:

  1. Financial strength
  2. Completion rate
  3. Non-compliance history and registration renewal.

A risk factor framework developed by the Australian Government Actuary (AGA) determines the risk rated premium component of the levies. This is determined annually by the TPS Director in collaboration with the TPS Advisory Board, AGA and feedback from stakeholders. The administration fee component is determined by the Minister.

This formula below demonstrates how individual higher education provider levies are calculated for HELP loans and/or up-front payments.

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Higher Education Levy calculations

Further information is available in the Higher Education HELP Levy ActHigher Education Up-Front Levy Act and 2022 determinations for HELP and Up-front.

Defaults

A default occurs when a provider closes, fails to start, or stops offering a course or unit of study.

If you are at risk of defaulting please contact the TPS immediately at operations@tps.gov.au. The TPS will help guide you through your obligations and next steps.

Reporting the default

Providers are required to notify their students and the TPS Director in writing within 24 hours of the default occurring. There are also other reporting and notice requirements providers must fulfill upon default.

Please refer to Higher Education Provider Default Obligations when completing these steps.

Obligations if a provider defaults

If a provider has defaulted, within 14 days the provider must either:

  • arrange for the student to be offered a place in a suitable replacement unit or course and the student accepts the offer in writing; or
  • pay the student a refund of any up-front payments for the affected unit(s) or re-credit the student’s HELP balance for any HECS-HELP or FEE-HELP assistance used to pay for the affected unit(s) to the Commonwealth.

Please note, students can choose between continuing their studies at the replacement course you identify or receiving a refund and/or HELP loan re‑credit.

If there are no suitable replacement units or courses, providers are required to refund up-front fee paying students or re-credit students’ HELP balances with an amount equal to the amount of HECS‑HELP or FEE-HELP assistance the student received for the affected unit(s) of study.

In fulfilling these obligations, students must be satisfied with their refund, HELP loan re-credit or replacement unit or course option and accept the offer in writing.

Providers should contact the TPS immediately at operations@tps.gov.au if they are unable to meet these obligations.

Replacement providers

The TPS may contact providers with an opportunity to enrol additional students. This will happen when there has been a default and there are students who wish to continue their studies.

Becoming a replacement provider

Higher Education providers are encouraged to act as replacement providers. Providers identified as delivering possible suitable replacement courses will be contacted by the TPS to discuss:

  • the willingness and capacity of the provider to act as a replacement provider
  • the date affected students would be able to commence in a replacement unit or course
  • the incentive payment (if any) that may be available to assist with administrative costs of taking on affected students.

The process of placing students with replacement providers is as follows:

  1. The TPS formally advises students of suitable replacement units or courses.
  2. Students contact their potential replacement provider(s) and discuss whether the replacement course will meet their personal needs.
  3. Students inform the TPS of their preferred replacement unit or course.
  4. The TPS contacts the replacement providers to advise them of students’ preferences.
  5. The replacement providers contact the students to facilitate offers and enrolment. If there are any problems at this stage, please contact the TPS.
  6. Replacement providers will then enter into a signed student placement agreement with the student.

Incentives for becoming a replacement provider

Incentive payments may be made to replacement providers. The purpose of these payments is to contribute towards the unavoidable costs associated with accepting additional students.

The TPS may offer incentive payments to facilitate positive outcomes for students who are affected by defaults. There is no minimum or maximum incentive payment amount.

The incentive payment becomes payable to the replacement provider after a student's first reported census date, if the following have occurred:

  • the student is enrolled
  • an agreement is signed by the provider and the student, or their guardian, and provided to the TPS; and
  • the student submits an Electronic Commonwealth Assistance Form (eCAF) (HELP students only).

Replacement provider obligations

The tuition protection arrangements impose obligations on replacement providers. These include:

  • notifying the TPS Director in writing of a student’s acceptance of an offer of a place in a replacement unit or course within 14 days of the acceptance
  • granting course credits for units of study of the original course successfully completed by the student
  • not charging students tuition fees or student contribution amounts for replacement components of the affected part of the original course for which tuition fees were already paid
  • enrolling a student in the replacement unit or course as soon as practicable.