International Providers

The Tuition Protection Service (TPS) assists international students on student visas whose education providers are unable to fully deliver their course of study.

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Underpinned by the Education Services for Overseas Students 2000 (the ESOS Act), the TPS framework protects international students on student visas when their provider defaults. That is, their provider closes, fails to start, or stops offering a course.

The TPS framework requires that if a provider defaults, they have a legal obligation to either arrange students to continue their studies at an alternative provider; or provide students with a refund on unspent tuition fees.

The TPS is sector funded. Providers contribute an annual levy calculated based on size and risk of default. The levies fund the placement and refund activities.

Providers who expect they may be at risk of defaulting in the near future are encouraged to contact the TPS as early as possible at operations@tps.gov.au

Providers do not need to register for the TPS. Coverage by the TPS is automatic upon CRICOS registration and payment of the initial TPS levy. As part of the CRICOS registration, you will be required to pay the initial TPS Levy. The registration will not commence until this fee has been paid. Following thereafter, you will be required to pay CRICOS registration fees and the TPS Levy annually.

Ongoing provider requirements

The ESOS Act sets out ongoing requirements providers must meet to maintain their CRICOS registration including obligations relating to record keeping and financial requirements.

Student record keeping requirements

A registered provider must keep records of each accepted student who is enrolled with the provider or who has paid any tuition fees for a course provided by the provider. These records must be kept for two years after the person ceases to be a student. The records must consist of the following details:

  • the student’s current residential address
  • the student’s mobile phone number (if any)
  • the student’s email address (if any)

Every six months the provider must confirm with the student in writing that these details are still correct and update the records accordingly.

Records of assessment

Providers must keep up-to-date records of student’s progression and assessment for the unit of study and must also record the outcome of the student’s assessment for the unit.

Tuition fee requirements

Under the ESOS legislation, a provider must not receive more than 50% of the total tuition fees for a course before the student has begun the course, unless:

  • the student, or person making payment on their behalf, chooses to do so
  • the course has a duration of 25 weeks or less.

Providers should be able to show evidence that students have exercised choice in how much of their tuition fees are paid up front. There are no restrictions on collecting tuition fees after a student has started their course.

Written agreement

When entering into a written agreement, providers should clearly set out what period of time a payment of tuition fees relates to. Refunds paid under section 47E of the ESOS Act are calculated under the Education Services for Overseas Students (Calculation of Refund) Specification 2014, which involves working out how many weeks are in a default period and the associated tuition fee. As per the requirements of the ESOS Act, the written agreement must include the following information about tuition fees:

  • total fees to be paid, including tuition and non-tuition fees
  • amounts that may or may not be repaid to the overseas student (including any tuition and non-tuition fees collected by education agents on behalf of the registered provider)
  • details of any non-tuition fees such as application fees the student may incur, including any fees as a result of having their study outcomes reassessed, deferral of study, fees for late payment of tuition fees, or other circumstances in which additional fees may apply
  • processes for claiming a refund
  • the specified person(s), other than the student, who can receive a refund in respect of the overseas student identified in the written agreement, consistent with the ESOS Act
  • a plain English explanation of what happens in the event of a course not being delivered, including the role of the TPS
  • a statement that "This written agreement, and the right to make complaints and seek appeals of decisions and action under various processes, does not affect the rights of the student to take action under the Australian Consumer Law if the Australian Consumer Law applies".

Protected amount

All providers, except Universities, TAFEs, and government schools, are to place all pre-paid tuition fees paid by students before they have commenced into a designated account. The amount of money in the account is known as ‘the protected amount.’ The designated account should be a separate bank account within the ordinary meaning of 'account'.

This account can only be drawn down when the student commences the course. Providers should establish a mechanism for keeping pre-paid tuition fees separate from day-to-day operating expense accounts, so that if a refund is payable before the student commences, the refund can be made in full and in a timely way without impact on the financial operations of the business or recourse to the tuition protection system.

The intention is that initial pre-paid tuition fees held in this account will not be available for the payment of debts of the provider including if the provider goes into administration. A provider should not mix pre-paid tuition fees held in a designated account with other money.

Strong penalties will be imposed for non-compliance with this requirement.

International TPS Levy and Fund

All CRICOS providers are required to pay the annual international TPS levy. The international TPS levy funds the student placement and refund activities of the TPS in the event of an international provider default, as well as TPS operational costs.

The international TPS levy is paid into the Overseas Students Tuition Fund (OSTF), which is managed by the TPS Director.

The international TPS levy is comprised of four components:

  1. the administrative fee component, set by the Minister for Education
  2. the base fee component, set by the Minister for Education
  3. the risk rated premium component, set by the TPS Director
  4. the special tuition protection component, set by the TPS Director.

Annual international TPS levy settings for each component are determined in legislative instruments made under the Education Services for Overseas Students (TPS Levies) Act 2012.

The Australian Government waived the 2022 international TPS levy as a COVID-19 pandemic relief measure for CRICOS providers.

Administrative fee component

The administrative fee component is intended to contribute to the ongoing administration costs of the international tuition protection arrangements.

The annual administrative fee component settings are determined by the Minister for Education. The settings are indexed if the Minister chooses not to determine new amounts in a given year.

Base fee component

The base fee component contributes to maintaining the balance of the OSTF at a sustainable level by ensuring there are sufficient funds available in the event of a large provider default, or multiple provider defaults.

The annual base fee component settings are determined by the Minister for Education. The settings are indexed if the Minister chooses not to determine new amounts in a given year.

Risk rated premium component

The risk rated premium component is comprised of risk factors and settings developed by the Australian Government Actuary (AGA). The TPS Director determines the annual risk rated premium component settings in collaboration with the AGA, the TPS Advisory Board and feedback from stakeholders.

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

  1. Base risk factor
  2. Length of operation
  3. Volatility in overseas student enrolments
  4. Maximum overseas source country concentration
  5. Non-compliance and registration renewal.

Special tuition protection component

The special tuition protection component is charged when the balance of the OSTF is below its target range to ensure there are sufficient funds available in the event of a large provider default, or multiple provider defaults. The TPS Director determines the annual special tuition protection component settings in collaboration with the AGA, the TPS Advisory Board and feedback from stakeholders.

2024 international TPS levy

The 2024 international TPS levy is made up of the following components at these rates:

Administrative fee componentBase fee componentRisk rated premium componentSpecial tuition protection component
$104.00 per provider +
$0.54 per 2023 international student enrolment
$210.00 per provider +
$1.33 per 2023 international student enrolment 
[0.05% x increase factor for each risk factor] x total 2023 overseas student tuition fees0% x total 2023 overseas student tuition fees

Components of the 2024 international TPS levy

The TPS Advisory Board released its final advice to the TPS Director regarding the settings for the risk rated premium component and special tuition protection component of the 2024 international TPS levy in November 2023. This advice was offered to the TPS Director in accordance with the advice received from the AGA.

The legislated risk rated premium component and special tuition protection component settings for the 2024 international TPS levy are given in the Education Services for Overseas Students (TPS Levies) (Risk Rated Premium and Special Tuition Protection Components) Instrument 2023. The administrative fee component and base fee component settings for the 2024 international TPS levy were indexed.

The 2024 International TPS Levy Fact Sheet contains further information about the international TPS levy, its components, the risk factors and how the levy is calculated. The fact sheet also details key changes to the international TPS levy calculation to be implemented in 2024. 

Annual income declaration

Prior to the annual international TPS levy collection, non-exempt providers will receive a request for information to declare their overseas student tuition fee income for the previous calendar year.

Overseas student tuition fees are the fees a provider receives from an overseas student or intending overseas student on a student visa (subclass 500) for lectures, tutorials, tutoring sessions, training, excursions, fieldwork, laboratories, or practical experience that form part of a course or assist the student to progress in their course.

Non-tuition fees which should be excluded from the income declaration include fees received for:

  • books or equipment sold to a student;
  • health insurance;
  • administration;
  • accommodation; and
  • assisting the student to apply for or hold a student visa.

See the Education Services for Overseas Students Regulations 2019 for further information about what constitutes tuition fees.

Providers should deduct any tuition fee refunds provided to students prior to submitting the income declaration for a year.

Providers can declare their overseas student tuition fee income on an accrual or cash basis making the appropriate adjustments, as long as it is consistent year to year and consistent with their financial reporting practices.

Interaction with education and training sector regulators

The TPS maintains regular contact with the education and training sector regulators to discuss relevant issues, for example education providers at risk of compliance action. The TPS Advisory Board also invites the regulators to its Board meeting on an annual basis to share views on the domestic and international education sectors, which helps inform the risk factor settings of the respective TPS levies each year. As the risk factor calculations for the respective TPS levies are designed to reflect the risk of provider default, they are not equivalent to the risk assessments conducted by the regulators and are calculated using different data.

Defaults

Provider default

A provider default occurs when a provider either closes, fails to start, or stops providing a course to a student or intending student. Under section 46A of the ESOS Act, a registered provider defaults, in relation to an overseas student or intending overseas student and a course at a location, if:

  • the provider fails to start providing the course to the student at the location on the agreed starting day and the student has not withdrawn; or
  • the course ceases to be provided to the student at the location at any time after it starts but before it is completed and the student the student has not withdrawn.

See section 46A of the ESOS Act for a more detailed description of provider defaults. Providers should contact the TPS immediately if at risk of defaulting.

Obligations if a provider defaults

If a provider has defaulted, within 14 days the provider must either arrange a replacement course for its students or provide a refund. This timeframe is known as the provider obligation period.

In fulfilling these obligations, the student must be satisfied with their refund or replacement course option and accept the offer in writing.

Providers should contact the TPS immediately if they are unable to meet these obligations. Failure to comply is an offence of strict liability.

How to calculate a refund

Refunds entitlements for students must be calculated in accordance with the Education Services for Overseas Students (Calculation of Refund) Specification 2014. Providers should see the Specification and its Explanatory Statement for details on the calculation.

The calculations can get complex. The TPS will help providers calculate their refund amounts to make sure they are compliant with the legislation.

Reporting the default

Providers are required to notify students, TPS Director and the ESOS Agency within 3 business days of the default occurring. Providers must do this by recording the default in PRISMS.

See Instructions on how to report a default in PRISMS

Providers are required to notify the outcome of discharge of obligations within 7 days of the provider obligation period end date. Providers can do this at the same time as recording the provider default; or return to the default later to record the outcome.

Log into PRISMS

Please note, there are many notice requirements if providers default. See:

Reporting through PRISMS will ensure providers meet these requirements. Failure to comply may result in strict liability offence.

Student default

A student default occurs when a student:

  • does not start the course on that day; or
  • the student withdraws from the course at the location (either before or after the agreed starting day due to visa refusal); or
  • the student failed to pay an amount they were liable to pay the provider
  • the student breached a condition of their student visa
  • there is misbehaviour by the student.

If a student default occurs the provider and student must follow the refund requirements in the written agreement that apply to student default situations.

Alternative providers

Following a provider default, the TPS aims to provide affected students with options for continuing their studies in a similar course with an alternative Australian provider, if any such courses are available. The TPS may contact providers identified as offering suitable alternative courses with an opportunity to enrol affected students.

The TPS is guided by the following principles when selecting suitable alternative courses:

  • alternative courses are offered by a registered CRICOS provider;
  • alternative courses are of a similar level of education and field of education as the original course;
  • alternative courses are delivered in close geographical proximity to the original course;
  • alternative providers have capacity to enrol additional students; and
  • alternative providers are not facing regulatory action.

The process of placing a student with an alternative provider is as follows:

  1. The TPS identifies alternative providers based on the criteria above. Providers are given the opportunity to opt out from being an alternative provider if they wish.
  2. Alternative course details are made available to students.
  3. Students interested in enrolling with an alternative provider will contact the provider to discuss the course and enrolment process.
  4. The alternative provider makes an offer to the student in TPS Online.
  5. The student accepts the enrolment offer in TPS Online.
  6. The alternative provider creates a new Confirmation of Enrolment (CoE) for the student in PRISMS then links the student’s accepted offer to the new CoE in TPS Online.
  7. If applicable, the alternative provider receives a payment of the student’s unspent tuition fees from the TPS.

Alternative providers are encouraged to refer to the Alternative Providers’ Guide when enrolling international students affected by a provider default.

International students can choose to find their own alternative provider to enrol with rather than enrolling in an alternative course identified by the TPS.