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A Commonwealth supported place (CSP) is a subsidised higher education enrolment. CSPs are available at all public universities (and at a handful of private higher education providers in national priority areas like nursing and education).
The Australian Government subsidises a CSP by paying part of the fees for the place directly to the university. The subsidy amount is not a loan and students do not have to pay the subsidy amount back. However, students are also required to contribute towards their study and they pay the remainder of the fee known as the 'student contribution amount' for each unit they are enrolled in. Universities set their own student contribution amounts (within limits set by the Australian Government).
CSPs are only available to domestic students and most undergraduate students studying at university are enrolled in a CSP. There is no cap to the amount of study a student can undertake in a CSP. A student enrolled in a CSP is referred to as a Commonwealth supported student.
Only some universities offer CSPs at the postgraduate level as most of these courses are offered as fee paying (meaning they aren't subsidised). Postgraduate students should check with their intended university to see if it offers CSPs in their intended course (as there are many factors involved in whether a university can offer CSPs at the postgraduate level).
In addition, being eligible for a CSP does not guarantee that a student will be offered a CSP in the course of their choice or at their chosen university. Applications are assessed by universities/Tertiary Admission Centers and offers are based on merit as students must also meet the relevant course entry requirements. The relevant university/Tertiary Admission Centre will notify students in writing to advise them if they have been offered a CSP in their course.
To be eligible for a Commonwealth supported place, you must:
- be an Australian citizen, a New Zealand citizen or the holder of a permanent visa;
- meet the relevant citizenship and residency requirements;
- be enrolled in each unit at your university by the census date;
- read the relevant edition of the HECS-HELP and Commonwealth supported places information booklet;
- submit a valid Request for Commonwealth support and HECS-HELP form to your university by the census date (or earlier administrative date); and
- finalise your payment arrangements for your student contributions with your university by the census date.
For Australian citizens
If you are an Australian citizen, you will meet the CSP residency requirements if your university reasonably expects that you will undertake at least some of your course of study in Australia.
You will not meet the CSP residency requirements if your university reasonably expects that you will not undertake any of your course in Australia. For example, if you intend on studying overseas via distance education for your entire course, then you would not meet the CSP residency requirements.
You will need to confirm with your university as to what their expectations are in relation to the residency requirements. In addition to the CSP residency requirements, universities often have their own specific requirements for distance education students – for example, it is not uncommon for universities to expect that their distance education students complete a portion of their studies on-campus in Australia, which could be one unit, or one semester etc.
For permanent visa holders (including permanent humanitarian visa holders) and New Zealand citizens
If you are a permanent visa holder or a New Zealand citizen, you must be resident in Australia for the duration of your unit(s) to meet the CSP residency requirements. However, any period of residence outside Australia will be disregarded if:
- it cannot reasonably be regarded as indicating an intention to reside outside Australia for the duration of the unit; or
- it is required for the purpose of completing a requirement of that unit.
Note for all students:
If you do not pay your student contributions (either upfront or if eligible with a HECS-HELP loan) by the census date, then your university must cancel your enrolment in the CSP. If this happens, you will have to wait until the next study period to reapply for a CSP as you will not be transferred over automatically into another CSP.
For Australian citizens, permanent humanitarian visa holders, and eligible New Zealand Special Category Visa holders
If you are an Australian citizen or a permanent humanitarian visa holder enrolled in a CSP, and you meet the HECS-HELP eligibility criteria, you can use the HECS-HELP scheme to pay your student contributions by the census date.
From 1 January 2016, if you are an eligible New Zealand Special Category Visa holder (NZ SCV) who meets the long-term residency requirements, you may now access the HECS-HELP scheme to pay your student contributions by the census date. More information about the NZ SCV residency requirements for HELP loans is available from the NZ SCV FAQ page (opens in a new window)
For permanent (non-humanitarian) visa holders and other New Zealand citizens
If you are a permanent (non-humanitarian) visa holder, or a New Zealand citizen who does not meet the NZ SCV long-term residency requirements (see above), you are not eligible for HECS-HELP. You must pay your student contributions upfront to your university by the census date.
You don't have to accept a Commonwealth supported place (CSP) if you don't want to (some students choose not to for a number of different reasons). However, these places are much cheaper than fee paying places.
If you don't want to accept a CSP, or if you want to be in a CSP for only some of your units, you need to inform your university of this in writing by the census date (or earlier administrative date) for the relevant study period. Bear in mind that your university does not have to offer you a fee paying place instead.
If you are not enrolled in a Commonwealth supported place (CSP) as a Commonwealth supported student, you will be enrolled in a fee paying place as a fee paying student. This means the Government will not subsidise your education and you will need to pay the tuition fees set by your university or higher education provider.
If you are enrolled in a fee paying place, you may be eligible to access a FEE-HELP loan to pay your tuition fees. You can check the FEE-HELP (opens in a new window) page for more information.
Note: a common question that students ask the department is whether a Commonwealth supported place (CSP) and HECS-HELP is the same thing.
Remember, a CSP is the subsidised enrolment (see above) and HECS-HELP is the scheme that assists eligible students enrolled in a CSP pay their student contributions. The eligibility requirements for a CSP and HECS-HELP are slightly different so make sure to read the relevant information.