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Tuition protection – information for providers

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In an event that a non-exempt registered higher education provider fails to commence or ceases to deliver a unit and/or course to their students (that is, the provider “defaults”), that provider has responsibilities under three different mechanisms depending on whether the student is an overseas student, a domestic student accessing Higher Education Loan Program (HELP) loans, or a domestic up-front fee-paying student. These mechanisms are summarised in the table below.

Mechanisms covering different types of students

International student Education Services for Overseas Students Act 2000 (ESOS Act)
FEE-HELP or HECS-HELP student Higher Education Support Act 2003 (HESA)
Domestic up-front fee-paying Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency Act 2011 (TEQSA Act)

Providers with overseas and/or HELP students are already part of the tuition protection scheme. Regarding overseas students, providers should refer to Sections 46B and 46D of the ESOS Act for their specific obligations in the event of a default. For FEE HELP and HECS HELP students, providers1 should refer to Part 5-1A of HESA for their obligations in the event of a default.

As of 1 January 2021, there are new requirements for providers2 regarding domestic students who pay their tuition fees up-front. Providers must pay any tuition protection levies (and any late payment penalty), keep records for tuition protection purposes, and disclose tuition protection information and documents to the Department of Education, Skills, and Employment (DESE). Providers must also comply with certain obligations in the case of a default such as to provide a refund or alternate suitable unit and/or course replacement within 14 days to their students affected by the provider default.

Providers are also required to report certain information in the approved form under Section 12 of the Tuition Protection (Up-front Payments Guidelines) 2020. The approved form can be found on the DESE website.

Relevant TEQSA requirements 

Part 5A of the TEQSA Act sets out tuition protection arrangements for domestic up-front fee-paying students. It is a condition of registration for private higher education providers to meet the tuition protection requirements, including reporting student information and student notification requirements.

The Higher Education Standards Framework (Threshold Standards) 2015 (HES Framework) contains obligations under Standard 6.2.1 for providers to ensure there are credible business continuity plans and adequately resourced financial and tuition safeguards to mitigate disadvantage to students who are unable to progress in a course of study due to unexpected changes to the higher education provider’s operations.

The TPS alone does not fulfil this obligation, and is not a replacement for it. For further advice on financial and tuition safeguards and implications of the new scheme for your context, contact your TEQSA case manager.

Table A providers (i.e. public universities), TAFEs and other government owned providers are exempt from the requirements relating to the up-front payments tuition protection arrangements, except for obligations relating to providing information about replacement courses (section 62N of TEQSA Act) and obligations of replacement providers (Section 62P and 62Q of the TEQSA Act). Further, they are still required to have arrangements for financial and tuition safeguards as per Standard 6.2.1 of the HES Framework. 

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Notes

  1. 'Table A' Universities, TAFEs and other Government-owned providers are exempt from the tuition protection arrangements for HELP students, except for obligations relating to providing information about replacement courses (section 166-27 of HESA) and obligations of replacement providers (Sections 166-30 and 166-32 of HESA)
  2. 'Table A' Universities, TAFEs and other Government-owned providers are exempt from the tuition protection arrangements for domestic up-front fee-paying students, except for obligations relating to providing information about replacement courses (section 62N of TEQSA Act) and obligations of replacement providers (Section 62P and 62Q of the TEQSA Act).