Tuition Protection Service

Login or Register

Frequently asked questions regarding pre-paid tuition fees

What are the requirements on limiting pre-paid tuition fees and requiring initial tuition fees to be placed in a separate account?
How does limiting the collection of pre-paid tuition fees work in practice?
How do these measures benefit students?
What is meant by "registered providers are not to require payment of remaining fees more than two weeks prior to the second study period"?
How does the limit on prepaid fees relate to the length of the first study period, i.e. can providers collect 50% of fees or only fees for the first study period?
Why can't providers require any remaining tuition fees until two weeks before the second study period?
How should providers deal with course fees that apply to different course lengths?
If the course is less than 24 weeks are there any limits on the amount of tuition fees providers can collect before the student commences and when can providers collect any remaining tuition fees?
Are holiday breaks included in the study periods set out in the written agreement?
Can a provider receive 100% of pre-paid fees for a course where the CoE is longer than 24 weeks even though the course actually has no more than one study period of 24 weeks excluding holidays?
Can I amend a course to make it 24 weeks?
How should providers manage the situation where a student does not pay for the second study period?
Are application fees, i.e., fees for the application process involved in determining whether a student is suitable for enrolment with a provider, included in tuition fees?
Does the limit on pre-paid fees also apply to homestay, book fees, OSHC, etc?
In the event of a course extension, which will create a longer course than the original enrolment, what fees can be accepted?
Can a study period be set independently for each student based on their individual enrolment period?
Were there any limitations on the amount of pre-paid tuition fees that may be collected before 1 July 2012 if the student is not due to commence until after 1 July 2012?
If a student has already accepted an offer for a course that does not start until after 1 July 2012 do I have to update the written agreement to include information about study periods?
Are providers required to amend promotional course material to reflect the course duration expressed as study periods?
If a student has a package of courses or multiple COEs at the time of enrolment do these count as multiple courses? If they are multiple courses, can a college accept full fees for each course?
Can the provider pay the agent's commission from prepaid tuition fees before the fees are deposited into a designated account?
We have agents who collect 100% of fees from students. Are they now subject to the new requirements in relation to the collection of prepaid tuition fees?
Should providers pay all of an education agent's commission up front or only on the fees received?
We are a provider that takes Payment in Arrears. Are we required to abandon this practice given that we will now be required to pay into the TPS?
We are a provider that does not collect fees from students at all. Are we still required to pay into the TPS?


What are the requirements on limiting pre-paid tuition fees and requiring initial tuition fees to be placed in a separate account?

The amended legislation introduces new limits to the amount of prepaid tuition fees a provider can collect from the student before they commence the course and, after commencement, before the second study period. It also requires providers not administered by a state authority or eligible to receive recurrent Commonwealth funding to keep initial prepaid tuition fees in a designated account before the student commences the course.

This measure will support the TPS by:

  • ensuring providers are better able to meet their refund obligations to students
  • improving outcomes for students affected by a provider default
  • encouraging providers to establish sustainable business models
  • reducing the potential refund liability on the TPS
  • facilitating the DIAC visa application assessment process.

How does limiting the collection of pre-paid tuition fees work in practice?

The ESOS Act now limits the collection of pre-paid tuition fees. Providers can receive no more than 50% of the total tuition fees for the course before the student commences the course (or 100% for short courses that fall within one study period of 24 weeks or less) and then, after the student commences, providers cannot require a student to pay any further fees until 2 weeks before the start of the second study period.

This measure means that with the exception of short courses, providers are no longer able to collect up to 100% of tuition fees up-front for courses. Providers are required to define the length of a study period for a course, generally to reflect units of academic attainment, such as a semester. Study periods must be a maximum of 24 weeks in length. A study period may also include more than one consecutive short course, for example, two ten week English Language Intensive Courses for Overseas students if together they do not exceed the 24 week limit.

How do these measures benefit students?

Previously, students may 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 removed (except for short courses of 24 weeks or less which may require 100% of prepaid tuition fees). Providers now 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 is meant by "registered providers are not to require payment of remaining fees more than two weeks prior to the second study period"?

Providers may 'receive' up to 50% of total tuition fees for the course at any time before a student commences a course. After the student commences, providers may not 'require' a student to pay any remaining tuition fees earlier than two weeks before the start of the second study period. This will apply to remaining tuition fees of all overseas students who have not yet begun the course prior to 1 July 2012. Invoices to students must clearly indicate a due date that complies with the requirement. If a student voluntarily pays tuition fees after commencement but earlier than two weeks before the start of the second study period, the provider is not required to return the fees and would not be considered in breach of this requirement.

How does the limit on prepaid fees relate to the length of the first study period, i.e. can providers collect 50% of fees or only fees for the first study period?

The requirement that a provider must not receive more than 50% of the total tuition fees is not related to the length of the study period but is a percentage of total tuition fees. However, after the course begins, no further pre-paid tuition fees may be taken before the beginning of the second study period. No study period can be longer than 24 weeks.

Why can't providers require any remaining tuition fees until two weeks before the second study period?

This limitation ensures that students have the opportunity to determine whether the course is appropriate for them before becoming liable for the entirety of course fees. If the provider was able to collect the remainder of fees immediately on commencement, this would undermine the intent of this restriction.

How should providers deal with course fees that apply to different course lengths?

Providers have flexibility to determine the length of each study period (within the 24 week bandwidth) and the fees that apply to each study period.

If the course is less than 24 weeks are there any limits on the amount of tuition fees providers can collect before the student commences and when can providers collect any remaining tuition fees?

No. If a course is only 24 weeks or less it only has one study period and therefore there are no restrictions on when or how much of the tuition fees for the course you can collect either before or after commencement.

Are holiday breaks included in the study periods set out in the written agreement?

The information about courses and their study periods should reflect the duration of the course as it is registered. Part C of the National Code requires that course duration includes structured holiday breaks and also allows the duration of ELICOS courses to vary according to each student's learning goals as reflected in the expected duration of study on the student's CoE.

There is no requirement for holiday breaks to be included in any particular study period, this is up to each provider to determine. This means, for example, that if a provider has a CRICOS registered course of 26 weeks with 4 weeks of holidays, the written agreement could specify a study period of 22 weeks. In this case, in the interests of transparency, the written agreement should also outline the number of weeks holiday that are not included in the study period.

If a holiday break is included in a study period, this may mean that the student's CoE is longer than 24 weeks. Can a provider receive 100% of pre-paid fees for a course where the CoE is longer than 24 weeks even though the course actually has no more than one study period of 24 weeks excluding holidays?

Yes. The student's CoE should accurately represent the course of study being undertaken by the student and if it includes a holiday break, it may be longer than 24 weeks but only include one study period. The obligation for a provider to receive no more than 50% of the student's total tuition fees does not apply if the course has only one study period.

Can I amend a course to make it 24 weeks?

For any amendments to your course registration details you need to apply to your regulator.

How should providers manage the situation where a student does not pay for the second study period?

Providers should continue to manage non-payment of fees according to their own policies and procedures. PRISMS provides the option to cancel the student CoE for non-payment of fees. Timeframes around cancellation of the CoE should take into account the requirement to give the student 20 working days to appeal a provider initiated cancellation of a CoE.

Are application fees, i.e., fees for the application process involved in determining whether a student is suitable for enrolment with a provider, included in tuition fees?

No. A provider is not required under the ESOS Act or the National Code to refund application fees. Application fees are a relatively small amount and are those fees payable so that a student can apply to undertake the course and are generally paid for the purposes of assessing a student's previous academic history to determine whether or not the student is suitable for enrolment with the provider.

Does the limit on pre-paid fees also apply to homestay, book fees, OSHC, etc?

The limits apply to tuition fees within the definition of the ESOS Act - these are fees directly related to the provision of a course that the provider is providing, or offering to provide to the student. This would not apply to homestay or OSHC or similar consequential costs not directly related to the provision of the course but may apply to book fees if included in the course package (i.e. where books are provided directly by the provider as part of the course, not just a list of book requirements given to the student).

In the event of a course extension, which will create a longer course than the original enrolment, what fees can be accepted?

For example, a student studies 22 weeks (full fees taken at the time of enrolment), they then extend for a further 10 weeks, making a total of 32 weeks. For the second enrolment, can we accept 5 weeks, or 10 weeks? Or does the total of 32 weeks mean they have to refund 6 weeks as they can only accept 50% of the fees?

If a student requests an extension after they commence their course there would be no requirement to refund tuition fees already paid. However, if the extension means that the course is longer than a study period of 24 weeks, the remaining tuition fees cannot be required earlier than two weeks prior to the commencement of the second study period. There are no limitations on the collection of tuition fees for any extensions beyond the second study period.

Providers are required to enter into a written agreement with each overseas student setting out the study period and tuition fees for each period. Does this mean that a study period can be set independently for each student based on their individual enrolment period?

e.g. for an ELICOS student enrolling for 30 weeks the study period could be defined as 15 weeks + 15 weeks in their agreement whereas a student enrolling for 40 weeks could have the study period defined as 20 weeks + 20 weeks.

There is no reason why a provider could not tailor study periods to suit the needs of individual students and the courses taking into account the requirement that the structure is consistent with the way the courses are registered on CRICOS including approved holiday periods. Part C of the National code requires that 'the registered duration of the course must include approved holiday periods' (par 7.3).

Were there any limitations on the amount of pre-paid tuition fees that may be collected before 1 July 2012 if the student is not due to commence until after 1 July 2012?

No. There were no limitations on the amount of prepaid tuition fees collected from an international student before the 1 July 2012, even if the student was not due to commence until after 1 July 2012. If an international student accepted an offer of enrolment and paid more than 50 per cent of the total tuition fees for the course before 1 July 2012, they were doing so within the current legislation and you do not have to return any money. If they commenced the course after 1 July 2012 and have any remaining fees, you may not require them to pay any remaining fees until two weeks before their second study period.

After 1 July 2012, a provider may not 'receive' more than 50 per cent of total course tuition fees (unless the course fits within one study period of no more than 24 weeks) before a student commences a course. All fees received after July 1 must be in accordance with the legislation. Therefore, after 1 July 2012 if an international student pays you more than 50 per cent of the total tuition fees before they commence the course, you must return any amount over the 50 per cent (unless the course is 24 weeks or less).

After 1 July 2012, a provider must not require any remaining tuition fees from a student more than two weeks before the start date of the student's second study period.

If a student has already accepted an offer for a course that does not start until after 1 July 2012 do I have to update the written agreement to include information about study periods?

No. A student who has already accepted an offer for a course, even if they are not due to commence the course until after the 1 July 2012, has done so under the previous legislative arrangements. The requirement for written agreements to include the length of each study period for the course and the tuition fees for those study periods applies to all written agreements signed on or after 1 July 2012. This means that written agreements and letters of offer, if not compliant by that date, will need to be amended to meet the requirements of the legislation.

Are providers required to amend promotional course material to reflect the course duration expressed as study periods?

No. The requirement is for the information to be in the written agreement with the student but not necessarily in the marketing material although the marketing material should give the student a clear idea of the study they would be undertaking.

If a student has a package of courses or multiple COEs at the time of enrolment do these count as multiple courses? If they are multiple courses, can a college accept full fees for each course?

Yes. Packaged courses and multiple CoEs where they apply to separate courses would each be considered as separate courses and the provider can either collect up to 100% total tuition fees for courses of no more than 24 weeks in length or 50% of fees for courses longer than 24 weeks. For example, where a student has two CoEs for two 20 week courses then yes, a college can accept 100% of the tuition fees for each 20 week course, however, the obligation for providers not administered by a state education authority or eligible for recurrent Commonwealth funding to maintain a designated account for tuition fees before the student has begun the course will apply to each course.

Can the provider pay the agent's commission from prepaid tuition fees before the fees are deposited into a designated account?

Agent fees are not mentioned in the ESOS Act or Regulations as they are outside the scope of the legislation. Providers not administered by a state education authority or eligible for recurrent Commonwealth funding must keep the initial tuition fees as per the written agreement in a designated account until the student commences. If the provider chooses to incorporate the agent commission as a part of the tuition fees, as set out in the written agreement, then that entire sum must be kept in a designated account until the student commences study.

We have agents who collect 100% of fees from students. Are they now subject to the new requirements in relation to the collection of prepaid tuition fees?

Yes. Agents who collect prepaid tuition fees from international students, do so on a provider's behalf and in that case, from a legal aspect, the acts of an agent are the acts of the provider. So agents must comply with the ESOS requirements relating to the collection of prepaid fees which come into effect on 1 July 2012.

Standard 4 of the National Code places obligations on the provider to take all reasonable measures to use education agents that have an appropriate knowledge and understanding of the international education industry and not to use education agents that are dishonest or lack integrity.

Standard 4.1 requires providers to enter into a written agreement with each agent it engages to formally represent it. The agreement must specify the responsibilities of the education agent and the registered provider and the need to comply with the requirements of the National Code.

In addition, the provider must enter into a written agreement with the student concurrently with or prior to accepting tuition fees for a course from the student. The written agreement must set out the tuition fees for each study period in accordance with the legislation. There should be no circumstance in which either the agent or student are unaware of the amount of tuition fees that can be collected either by the provider or on the provider's behalf.

Should providers pay all of an education agent's commission up front or only on the fees received?

Agent commissions are not within the scope of the ESOS Act. They are a private business transaction between the provider and the agent.

We are a provider that takes Payment in Arrears. Are we required to abandon this practice given that we will now be required to pay into the TPS?

No. Providers who collect Payment in Arrears are able to continue to do so and should ensure that this arrangement is transparent to international students and regulators. While this will not remove the requirement for the provider to pay into the TPS, the TPS Director may take it into account for the purposes of the risk based component of the TPS levy.

We are a provider that does not collect fees from students at all. Are we still required to pay into the TPS?

Yes. All CRICOS providers will be required to pay an annual TPS Levy. Contributions to the TPS framework will be universal but also risk based, with all currently available exemptions from the Assurance Fund arrangements removed. The TPS Director will likely take into account situations where there are fees at risk for the purposes of determining the risk based component of the TPS levy for a particular provider.