Higher Education Reform - Student FAQs

Page updated 21 December 2017

Improving the sustainability of higher education

A previous proposal to extend HELP loans to NZ citizens and Australian permanent residents (and remove access to CSPs) will not proceed.

Current and Future Students

What are the arrangements for NZ citizens and Australian permanent residents from 2018?

The Government will not proceed with previously proposed changes to extend access to the Higher Education Loan Program (HELP) to all Australian permanent residents and all New Zealand citizens. Eligibility for access to a Commonwealth supported place (CSP) will remain as per the established legislation.

Permanent humanitarian visa holders and New Zealand Special Category Visa holders who meet the long-term residency requirements will continue to be eligible for both a CSP and HELP loans.

A previous proposal to increase the maximum student contribution by 7.5 per cent will not proceed. Maximum student contributions will only increase in line with annual indexation as per existing arrangements.

Current and Future Students

What will the maximum student contribution amounts be in 2018?

The student contribution bands and ranges for 2018 are available on the student contribution amounts page.

From 2018, the Government will cap the amount of funding it pays to universities for bachelor courses. In 2018 and 2019, the cap will be set at the funding provided in 2017. From 2020, the amount of funding growth will be linked to performance requirements.

Current Students

I am currently enrolled in a CSP, how will the changes affect me? Will the limit on funding growth have any impact on my university experience?

If you are already in a CSP, you will be able to complete your course in a CSP. The linking of funding growth to performance will encourage your university to provide you with a better student experience while you are studying.

Future Students

I am thinking about enrolling in a bachelor course as a CSP, how will the changes affect me? Will the limit on funding growth have any impact on my ability to access a CSP or on my university experience?

While the Government is capping the amount of funding growth a university can access, it is not capping the number of CSPs that a univeristy can provide. Universities can continue to enrol as many students in bachelor CSPs as they choose and will continue to receive all the student contributions that are paid by students.

The linking of funding growth to performance will encourage your university to provide you with a better student experience while you are studying.

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 amount of their repayments. This change is subject to the passage of legislation.

Current and Future Students

What are the proposed changes to the compulsory HELP repayment threshold?

For the 2018-19 financial year the compulsory HELP repayment threshold will be $45,000. This repayment threshold will apply to all HELP and VET Student Loans debts.

How much will I have to pay if I earn over the compulsory repayment threshold?

The amount you repay each year is a percentage of your income. This percentage increases as your income increases, so the more you earn, the higher your repayment will be. The minimum repayment percentage is one per cent at $45,000 (less than $9 per week), while at the next threshold the repayment percentage is two per cent at $51,957. This increases to 10 per cent for incomes of $131,989 and above. The ATO will calculate your compulsory repayment for the year and include it on your income tax notice of assessment.

The changes will be applied to existing and new HELP debts from 1 July 2018 (including any debts under VET Student Loans).

A new combined limit for HECS-HELP, FEE-HELP, VET FEE-HELP and VET Student Loans will be introduced, capping the amount that each student can borrow under HELP to pay for their tuition costs. This change is subject to the passage of legislation.

Current Students

I am currently enrolled in a CSP and deferring payment through HECS-HELP. I am not a fee-paying student and therefore not currently bound by the FEE-HELP limit. Do these changes affect me in any way?

From 1 January 2019, any new HECS-HELP borrowing will be counted towards a student’s HELP tuition limit. This means that if you continue to access HECS-HELP beyond 2018, the loans you incur after this point will be subject to the new combined HELP tuition limit. However, HECS-HELP debt incurred before 2019 will not be taken into account.

I am a Medicine student and have already reached my FEE-HELP limit under the current arrangements. Is it too late for me to access the additional loan funding made available under these changes?

No, it is not too late. Subject to the passage of legislation, medical, dental and veterinary science students who have previously reached their FEE HELP limit will have access to additional funds up to the new $150,000 limit – this results in more than $19,000 in extra loans being made available.

I am currently completing a business course at a private provider under FEE-HELP, and I was recently accepted into a CSP for a Bachelor of Economics at a university for 2018. I applied for the CSP thinking that I could defer the cost of the course through HECS-HELP, however I have almost exhausted my FEE-HELP limit. Do these changes affect me?

If you plan to access HECS-HELP to finance your CSP study beyond 2018, the HECS-HELP debt you incur from 2019 will count towards the new combined HELP tuition limit, subject to the passage of legislation. This is in addition to the FEE-HELP debt incurred through your previous course. If the total amount of these loans reaches the limit you will not be able to access HELP loans in respect of any further study.

Future Students

I am commencing study in a CSP in 2018 and plan to access HECS-HELP to finance my study. Under current arrangements I can borrow as much as I need, however I heard that from 1 January 2019 HECS-HELP loans will have a cap. What is the new limit and how does it affect me?

Subject to the passage of legislation, from 1 January 2019, the Government will introduce a combined cap on the amount of tertiary education 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 loans and VET Student Loans.

The proposed lifetime HELP tuition limits are:

  • $150,000 for students undertaking medicine, dentistry and veterinary science courses, and
  • $104,440 for other students.

If you plan to access HECS-HELP for all of your study, all loans you incur from 1 January 2019 will be subject to the new limit. However, any HECS-HELP loans you incur in 2018 will not count towards the limit.

More choices for students

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.

Current Students

I currently access a Regional study hub (RSH) in Cooma or Geraldton. How will I benefit from this measure?

If you currently have access to the RSH in Cooma or Geralton you will continue to be able to access the support and facilities. Additionally, the RSH you access may seek to apply for support through this program.

I am currently a regional student studying through distance education, how can I get access to a Regional study hub (RSH) or request one be opened near me?

You will need to speak with your university and your local community to see if they would be interested in developing an application. The government has committed funding to assist in the establishment and maintenance of up to 8 community owned regional study hubs. The locations of these hubs are still to be determined and having your joint university and community’s support may bring a RSH to your area.

Future Students

Where will the six new Regional study hubs (RSHs) be located?

The locations of these hubs are still to be determined. Work will be undertaken with state governments, local councils and other stakeholders to identify the most effective locations for additional regional study hubs.

How can I gain access to a Regional study hub (RSH)?

To gain access to a RSH, you will need to contact the hub directly to discuss the arrangements for accessing the study hub.

Postgraduate coursework places

A previous proposal to implement a ‘student-centred’ model for the distribution of postgraduate coursework places will not proceed.

Current Students

I am currently studying in a Commonwealth supported postgraduate place. Will changes to postgraduate CSPs affect me?

If you are currently studying in a postgraduate CSP, you can continue studying in that CSP as per the existing arrangements at your higher education provider.

Future Students

I was hoping to start a postgraduate course in the future. How will changes to postgraduate CSPs affect me?

Higher education providers receive an annual allocation of CSPs for students wishing to undertake postgraduate study. Each provider has its own process to select students to receive a postgraduate CSP. Check with your preferred provider to find out what courses have CSPs, what the selection process is, and how to apply.

Can I undertake postgraduate study if I don’t have a CSP ?

Yes. Higher education providers offer fee-paying places for students who do not gain access to a CSP.

Eligible students can still access a FEE-HELP loan to pay their tuition fees.

A proposal to expand the demand driven funding system to include Commonwealth supported places (CSPs) in approved sub-bachelor courses will not proceed.

Current Students

I have already commenced study in a sub-bachelor course at a university. How will the changes affect me?

If you have already accepted an offer of a CSP, you will be able to continue your sub-bachelor course in a CSP.

Future Students

I am thinking of studying a sub-bachelor course in the future – can I access a CSP?

Higher education providers receive an annual allocation of CSPs for students wishing to undertake sub-bachelor study. Check with your preferred provider or your state’s tertiary admission centre to find out what courses have CSPs, what the selection process is, and how to apply.

New arrangements for enabling courses

A new distribution mechanism will be implemented from 1 January 2019 to better match places to student need. A proposal to allow higher education providers to charge a student contribution amount for enabling courses will not proceed.

Current Students

I am currently studying in an enabling course in a CSP. How will changes to funding for enabling courses affect me?

You will not be affected.

Why is the Government changing the way enabling CSPs are allocated?

The Government wants to improve the quality and outcomes of enabling courses. Students benefit from improved enabling courses that should better equip them for further study. From 2019, providers will be awarded Commonwealth supported enabling places if they can demonstrate high standards of academic preparation and deliver high quality student outcomes.

Future Students

I was hoping to start an enabling course in 2019. How will these changes affect me?

From 2019, CSPs in enabling courses will only be available at higher education providers that have received an allocation of places from the Government. If you wish to access a CSP for an enabling course you will need to check that your preferred provider has an allocation of places.

Higher education providers can continue to offer fee-paying places (non-subsidised) in enabling courses if they choose.

Can I undertake an enabling course if I don’t have a CSP?

Yes, you can still undertake an enabling course if you do not have a CSP. In this case you will be a fee paying student. If you are eligible, you can cover the cost of your course fees through a FEE-HELP loan.

Will I have to pay for an enabling course?

If you are in an enabling course as a CSP student, you cannot be charged a student contribution.

You can still undertake an enabling course if you do not have a CSP, in which case you will be a fee paying student. If you are eligible, you can cover the cost of your course fees through a FEE-HELP loan.

A proposal to provide Commonwealth contributions for Work Experience in Industry (WEI) units will not proceed.

Current and Future Students

I am currently undertaking, or planning to undertake, WEI units. How will changes to funding for WEI units affect me?

From a student’s perspective, the experience will not be different – i.e. you will still complete your work placement as a part of your course of study.

You may still be required to pay a student contribution amount for this unit of study but there will be no changes to the cost of your course.

Increased transparency and accountability

From 2020, the Government will link how much universities can grow their Commonwealth Grant Scheme (CGS) funding by, based on their performance.

Current and Future Students

I am currently studying or thinking of studying at an Australian university. Will the limit on funding growth have any impact on my university experience?

The linking of funding growth to performance will encourage your university to provide you with a better student experience while you are studying.

Is the Government reducing funding to the sector?

No. All universities will be able to receive the same amount of funding for their bachelor-level students as they received in 2017. However, if a university wants to increase its funding beyond that received in 2017, it will only be able to do so from 2020 if it meets performance targets.

Given the significant amount of public money and student fees that universities receive every year, the Australian Government believes universities must be accountable for how this money is spent and for delivering high quality outcomes for students. The introduction of performance contingent funding growth will provide an incentive to ensure universities are transparent in their decision-making and spend their income on high-quality teaching.

No university will see a reduction in funding compared to 2017 funding levels unless the university decides to reduce its enrolment of Commonwealth supported places.

The Government will undertake a review of the Australian Qualifications Framework (AQF) commencing in the second half of 2017 and to be completed by 31 December 2018.

Current and Future Students

Will stakeholders be consulted in the review of the AQF?

Yes, stakeholders will be consulted throughout the review process. This is an integral part to the review – the Government needs to know and understand the issues facing the sector in relation to the AQF so that they can be addressed accordingly. Further details on how stakeholders can get involved will be available online in the coming months and education providers will be sent details of how to provide feedback to the review process. In the meantime, any queries can be sent to the AQF email inbox at: AQFC@aqf.edu.au.

Will there be substantial changes to the AQF in the review?

This will not be clear until further into the review process when feedback is received from the sector on the types of issues of concern and how they can be best addressed. Adequate lead-time for will be provided for implementation of any changes so that students and education providers are not disadvantaged.

Will current qualifications become invalid if a revised AQF comes into place?

No. Current qualifications will still be valid, even if there are changes to the current AQF.