Tuition Protection Service

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Frequently asked questions regarding students

How do students benefit from the new Tuition Protection Service (TPS)?
Is a student's visa status likely to change during the placement and refund period?
Does a student have to take an alternative course if there is a suitable option available?
What happens in the event that a student cannot find an alternative course option?
Can students still receive a full refund of pre-paid fees if their provider closes?
How will the pre-paid fees measures benefit students?
What proportion of pre-paid course fees do providers have to refund to students when required?
What documents will assist the TPS in determining a refund of pre-paid tuition fees?
I have withdrawn from my course and my education provider has not given me a refund of the unused part of my prepaid fees
What happens to students who commenced seeking placement prior to 30 June 2012?


How do students benefit from the new Tuition Protection Service (TPS)?

Under the previous system, students had their placement activity managed for them by the Tuition Assistance Scheme or failing that, by the Fund Manager, with limited say in their alternative enrolment.

The TPS gives students greater control and responsibility within the placement process by allowing students to make a choice from available alternative placement options. A more direct relationship in placements between affected students and prospective providers should lead to a more efficient and effective outcome for students and the sector as a whole. Students should also benefit from more timely placements, or refunds where necessary, and a smoother transition to new providers.

Is a student's visa status likely to change during the placement and refund period?

A student's visa status does not change during the placement and refund period. However where a student is refunded an amount of unexpended pre-paid tuition fees by the TPS Director, the Department of Immigration and Border Protection will be notified so as to assess that student for any visa compliance requirements.

Does a student have to take an alternative course if there is a suitable option available?

The TPS is a placement model with refunds provided as a last resort. It is a condition of the student visa program that students maintain their enrolment and attendance, so the preferable outcome is that students receive the tuition for which they have come to Australia and paid for.

The expectation is that students will accept an alternative place if one is available, for which they meet all the entry requirements and there is no cost disadvantage to them. However, the student is not compelled to accept an alternative place and is eligible for a refund of unexpended tuition fees. The student does need to confirm visa implications with Department of Immigration and Border Protection but other options might include: enrolling in a completely different course, other visa types or returning home.

What happens in the event that a student cannot find an alternative course option?

In a situation where a student cannot find an alternative course during the placement period the student is eligible to request a refund of the unexpended portion of pre-paid tuition fees.

Can students still receive a full refund of pre-paid fees if their provider closes?

No. A student is eligible to receive a refund of the unexpended pre-paid tuition fees which the student has paid to that provider. That means that the refund arrangements have changed from full refund to partial refund, and cover only that portion of tuition for which the student has paid but for which tuition has not yet been received. These changes recognise that the existing full refund burden on providers has been unreasonable and a disincentive to meeting their refund obligations under ESOS. It also recognises that students part-way through a course of study should be able to obtain credit for units at another education provider of similar standing.

Following default, the provider has 14 days to fulfil its obligations to affected students. During this time the provider is able to either offer the student an alternative place which is acceptable to the student, or the appropriate refund amount. In the event the provider does not satisfy this obligation to an affected student, the TPS Director will facilitate access for the student to course placement as described above.

How will the pre-paid fees measures benefit students?

Under the previous TAS and Assurance Fund arrangements, students could have been required to pay up to 100% of course tuition fees in advance. By only paying up to 50% of tuition fees upfront before the course commences the financial pressure for paying full upfront tuition fees is be removed (except for short courses of 24 weeks or less which may require 100% of prepaid tuition fees). Providers also have an incentive to maintain student satisfaction after the student commences the course. Additionally, students should be refunded any pre-paid tuition fees in a timely manner if their visa is rejected or the student or provider defaults.

What proportion of pre-paid course fees do providers have to refund to students when required?

The ESOS Act has been amended to limit refunds paid to students to the portion of the course for which the student has paid but which has not been delivered or assessed in the event of a provider closure.

The TPS model outlined above states that when a defaulting provider fails to meet its refund obligation, the partial refund amount is calculated and is available to place the student in an alternative course in the first instance, and failing that, to provide a refund.

The method of calculating refunds is prescribed in a legislative instrument under the ESOS Act.

What documents will assist the TPS in determining a refund of pre-paid tuition fees?

To assist the TPS in calculating the refund of tuition fees for the part of the course for which the student has paid but which has not been delivered or assessed in the event of a provider closure, students should keep the following documents:

  • Student agreement with the provider;
  • Original receipts for tuition fees pre-paid to the provider;
  • Bank statements; and
  • Other relevant correspondence which identifies the amount of prepaid fees paid (e.g. an email or SMS between the provider and student).

I have withdrawn from my course and my education provider has not given me a refund of the unused part of my prepaid fees. What should I do?

The first step would be to read the refund policy contained within your written enrolment agreement to check that you are eligible for a refund. If you do not have a copy, contact your provider or agent and ask for a copy.

After reading your agreement, if you think your provider owes you a refund, you need to ask your provider in writing for a refund. If you are not satisfied with the outcome of the provider's decision, you can contact the TPS. You will be required to provide the TPS with documents (such as the outcome letter to your appeal) to support any claims.

What happens to students who commenced seeking placement prior to 30 June 2012?

Students affected by provider defaults up to 30 June 2012 are managed under the previous TAS and Assurance Fund arrangements. Any students who have not been placed or who have not been provided with a refund after 30 June 2012 are managed by the TPS Director but under those existing arrangements. Provider defaults occurring from 1 July 2012 onwards are managed under the new TPS arrangements.