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Coronavirus (COVID-19) – latest regulatory advice

2 April 2020

FAQs

Latest updates

Provider Information Request submission dates deferred until June (2 April 2020)

TEQSA is working remotely (30 March 2020)

TEQSA is working to provide continuous service for the higher education sector during COVID19, while safeguarding the health and wellbeing of all staff, and the community. 

All TEQSA staff are working remotely, and our Melbourne offices are closed. While we have worked hard to ensure minimal disruptions we do appreciate your patience and understanding during this time. 

Providers are encouraged to continue to reach out to their TEQSA case managers at any time with any concerns, and to report material changes. 

Continue to visit our website, follow us on Twitter and LinkedIn, and subscribe to our eNews, for all our latest updates. 

Reducing regulatory burden during COVID-19 (26 March 2020)

Joint TEQSA and ASQA statement relating to flexible delivery (20 March 2020)

All AQF training and assessment must meet high quality standards regardless of the location of the student and the mode of delivery.  As long as the student remains enrolled with their provider, and the assessment requirements of the course allow it, the location of the student and the mode of delivery should not form an impediment to attainment of an Australian qualification. 

National regulators, including ASQA and TEQSA, will be flexible in order to support students to study online either in Australia or offshore. 

Providers should assure themselves that such arrangements maintain assessment and quality standards, and are appropriately documented. Not all qualifications are suited to online learning, this may include those with mandatory work placements. 

If providers have questions about their specific circumstances they should contact their relevant regulator.

Government resources

Reporting material changes to TEQSA

As a result of the impacts of COVID-19, providers may need to make a number of significant changes to their operations to respond to the current challenges. TEQSA is monitoring the nature of material changes and we are continuing to update our guidance and advice to reflect the evolving issues reported by the sector.

Obligation

You should continue to report material changes that significantly affect your ability to meet the requirements of the Higher Education Standards Framework (Threshold Standards) 2015 to your case manager. For example, this might be a change in delivery mode to enable students to continue their study; campus closure/s; or a material shift in the provider’s financial sustainability or viability.

Submitting a material change

A material change must be submitted within 14 days of becoming aware of the change.

The notification should include information on the nature of the change, how the provider is managing the change, how it was approved (if applicable), and any significant financial implications.

What happens next

Importantly, a material change is a notification to TEQSA, not an application. You do not need to wait for a response from TEQSA once you have met your obligation by submitting a material change.

TEQSA will review the information you submit in your material change and contact you with any questions or concerns if needed. 

Questions

TEQSA is committed to supporting providers during this time and encourage you to contact your case manager with any questions.
 

Message from TEQSA CEO, Anthony McClaran (17 February 2020)

TEQSA is working closely with other Commonwealth agencies to help share updated information about the threat of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19). We encourage providers to contact TEQSA to discuss the impacts of this health crisis and to help us consider what we can do to support the sector during this time. 

We will continue to work collaboratively with the sector to offer a pragmatic and sensible regulatory approach to the challenges faced by all providers at this time.

Students

We commend the sector for all it is doing to support its students, especially international students, during this time. 

We would encourage providers to refer students to the Study in Australia website where they can access a suite of resources and latest information, including in relation to travel and visa information, and wellbeing support. 

For international students in Australia, the descriptions and contact details of many organisations which provide mental health services are listed on the Mental Health Australia website. 

Other resources, for students and the sector, include: 

Compliance

TEQSA acknowledges that due to COVID-19 providers may not be in a position to fully comply with the requirements of Standards 8.19 and 8.20 of the National Code 2018.  

Standard 8 – Overseas student visa requirements

  • 8.19: A registered provider must not deliver more than one-third of the units (or equivalent) of a higher education or VET course by online or distance learning to an overseas student.
  • 8.20: A registered provider must ensure that in each compulsory study period for a course, the overseas student is studying at least one unit that is not by distance or online learning, unless the student is completing the last unit of their course. 

Where providers determine that enrolment in a wholly online or distance learning mode of study is in the student’s best interest for semester 1 or trimester 1 2020, TEQSA will not pursue regulatory action. This includes where a student’s enrolment in online or distance unit will exceed one-third of the student’s higher education course. Accurate and comprehensive documentation must be maintained in the student’s file.

In considering alternative delivery modes to support affected students, providers are reminded of their obligation to provide access and support to students undertaking online or distance learning as required by Standards 6.3, 6.4 and 8.22 of the National Code 2018. 

Standard 6 – Overseas student support services

  • 6.3: The registered provider must offer reasonable support to overseas students to enable them to achieve expected learning outcomes regardless of the overseas student’s place of study or the mode of study of the course, at no additional cost to the overseas student
  • 6.4: The registered provider must facilitate access to learning support services consistent with the requirements of the course, mode of study and the learning needs of overseas student cohorts, including having and implementing documented processes for supporting and maintaining contact with overseas students undertaking online or distance units of study.

Standard 8 – Overseas student visa requirements

  • 8.22 The registered provider must take all reasonable steps to support overseas students who may be disadvantaged by: 
    • 8.22.1 additional costs or other requirements, including for overseas students with special needs, from undertaking online or distance learning
    • 8.22.2 inability to access the resources and community offered by the education institution, or opportunities for engaging with other overseas students while undertaking online or distance learning.

ELICOS

Noting the intensive nature of ELICOS delivery and the challenges presented by online delivery of ELICOS, both ASQA and TEQSA are committed to working with ELICOS providers during this time to ensure that students who are directly impacted by travel restriction from attending class in Australia are not disadvantaged.

ASQA and TEQSA will work flexibly with providers on a case by case basis to ensure any alternative arrangements put in place mitigate disadvantage to students.

Financial dependence on affected overseas students

TEQSA recognises the financial impacts of COVID-19, travel bans, and other quarantine measures, which may lead to institutions suffering financial pressures at this time.

Section 6.2 of the Threshold Standards requires corporate monitoring and accountability. Where short-term measures are implemented to mitigate the effects of COVID-19, TEQSA asks that providers also identify and manage any subsequent risks, in order to ensure adequate resource allocations and ongoing financial viability, for current and future students. 

As above, TEQSA encourages providers to contact their case managers to discuss their circumstances on a case-by-case basis.

Reporting responsibilities for non-commencement of studies 

TEQSA acknowledges that in order to accommodate students who may have been affected by the coronavirus, providers may delay the commencement of the trimester/semester 1, 2020 study period to a later date. In this circumstance, providers have 31 days to report non-commencement of studies (or 14 days for students under 18 years of age) from the revised commencement date.

In the event a student is not able to commence, providers may choose to defer the student’s commencement to a future study period. TEQSA asks that providers continue to meet their reporting obligations under section 19 of the ESOS Act in relation to non-commencement of studies. 

Enquiries

For any other enquiries, please contact enquiries [at] teqsa.gov.au.