Tuition Protection Service - VET

FAQ

Students

What do the new tuition protection arrangements mean for VSL students?

If you are a VSL student who is unable to complete your course due to your private provider defaulting (ceasing to deliver your course or closing entirely), you will be supported under the new tuition protection arrangements.

If your provider defaults, you will be assisted to move to another VSL provider who is delivering the same or a similar course. You can complete your studies at this new provider and not be charged for parts of the course you paid, but did not get to finish with your first provider.

If there is no suitable similar course for you to finish your studies, you may be entitled to a loan re-credit for the parts of the course you were unable to complete due to your provider's default.

Who will support me if my VSL provider defaults?

If your private VSL provider defaults (ceases to deliver your course or closes entirely), the Australian Government's contracted Tuition Protection Service (TPS) administrator will contact you directly. The TPS administrator will assist you to move to a similar replacement course. If the TPS administrator is unable find a suitable replacement course, you may be eligible for a loan re-credit for parts of the course you were unable to finish with the first provider.

The TPS administrator can be contacted at: administrator@ta.education.gov.au or phone 1300 259 044.

Which students are eligible for VSL Tuition Protection?

VSL students studying with private VSL providers are eligible for tuition protection assistance if the course has not commenced, or ceases after commencement but before completion, and student has not previously withdrawn.

Students who pay their fees up-front (ie do not use a VSL loan to support their studies), are not eligible to access VSL tuition protection. Up-front fee paying students should refer to the up-front fees FAQ for further information.

My VSL provider closed in 2019 or earlier - who do I contact to discuss tuition protection assistance?

You should contact the TPS administrator at: administrator@ta.education.gov.au or phone 1300 259 044.

My public VSL provider has closed or ceased delivering my course - what assistance can I access?

If your TAFE or Government-owned provider defaults (ceases to deliver your course or closes entirely), they are required to provide you with assistance. You should contact your provider in the first instance, to identify what support and assistance they are able to provide to you. If you are not satisfied with the response, you should contact your state or territory's Department of Education.

My provider might be closing or ceasing to deliver my course soon - what should I do?

You should discuss any potential default (ceasing to deliver your course or closing entirely), directly with your provider.

You should gather records of your course progression. Talk to your provider to request and print a copy of your statement of attainment, any competencies you have completed and print out copies of any modules, assessments or work you have completed. You should gather copies of any invoices and/or receipts (VSL and up-front payments) from your provider. In the event that your provider defaults, this information will help the TPS administrator and your replacement provider to appropriately place you in a new course.

I was a VET FEE-HELP student - who do I contact to discuss tuition protection assistance?

If you were a VET FEE-HELP student whose provider closed, the VET Student Loans Ombudsman (VSLO) is best placed to assist you. Please visit the VSLO website for more information or call the VSLO on: 1300 362 072 (select option 2).

I paid fees up-front - what assistance can I access?

If you paid upfront fees and require assistance, information to help you understand your next steps can be found on the 'What to do when your training provider closes' page on the Australian Skills Quality Authority's (ASQA) website.

Your local state and territory consumer protection agency (sometime called 'consumer affairs') can provide you with information about your rights and options. A list of the agencies and links to their websites are also available on ASQA's website.

If you believe you are owed a refund and the training provider or liquidator does not assist you, you may be able to seek a refund of tuition fees by contacting the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) on 1300 302 502.

I paid a gap payment (up-front fee) directly to my provider, in addition to my VSL loan - what assistance can I access?

Eligible VSL students whose private provider ceases to deliver a course or closes entirely, will be supported under the new tuition protection arrangements.

For any gap payments or other up-front fees a student paid to their defaulting provider, a student should refer to the up-front fees FAQ for further information.

I'm a domestic student accessing state funding or subsidies - what assistance can I access?

Students accessing a combination of VSL and state funding or subsidies should consider assistance provided under TPS, as well as any assistance which may be provided through your relevant state or territory Department to determine what assistance best meets your needs.

What do the new tuition protection arrangements mean for international students?

There are no changes to tuition protection arrangements for international students. The current TPS arrangements will continue as a dedicated service for international students, with the same protections and support through placements and refunds.

What do the new tuition protection arrangements mean for higher education students?

If you are a FEE-HELP or HECS-HELP student who is actively studying or has a formal deferment in place at the time your private provider defaults (ceases to deliver your course or closes), you will be supported under the new tuition protection arrangements.

If your provider defaults, you will be assisted to move to another provider who is delivering the same or a similar course. Alternatively, you may be entitled to a loan re-credit for the parts of the course you paid for using a FEE-HELP or HECS-HELP loan, but did not get to finish.

I've received a list of replacement providers from the TPS administrator - what next?

You should follow the instructions provided in the communication from the TPS administrator with the replacement provider option(s).

You should ensure you are prepared to discuss your course progression with potential replacement providers. This includes having: your statement of attainment; a list of completed competencies; copies of assignments and assessments; and all invoices you have paid or received a loan for.

Remember, you will need to contact replacement providers and arrange to be enrolled with them, this does not happen automatically.

I'm moving to a replacement provider under tuition protection - what will I have to pay for?

Your replacement provider is required to 'teach out' (finish teaching) the parts of the course you commenced using a VSL, but were unable to complete with your defaulting provider. Your replacement provider is required to recognise all units of competency your defaulting provider reported as competent on your statement of attainment, provided they form part of your replacement course.

If there are parts of the course you have not yet 'paid' for using a VSL, or parts of the course you failed or withdrew from with your defaulting provider, your replacement provider can charge you for those units.

Before you move to a replacement provider, you should discuss with potential replacement provider(s): which units of competency will be recognised; which units you will have to pay for; if these additional units of study can be paid for using a VSL loan, or if they will have to be paid up-front; the mode of delivery (on-campus, online, blended delivery); and the expected timeframe to complete your studies.

I've been offered replacement courses by the TPS administrator, but I'd rather receive a loan re-credit - is this possible?

Wherever practical, eligible VSL students will be assisted to continue their studies in the same or similar course with a replacement provider. Where there is no suitable replacement course, eligible students will be provided with a re-credit to their HELP balance.

If replacement courses offered by the TPS administrator are not suitable, you should discuss this directly with the TPS administrator. The TPS administrator and the Department will consider your individual circumstances and make a determination about whether you are eligible to access a loan re-credit. If you are eligible, this re-credit will be for VSL tuition fees paid for the original course or parts of the course, which were not completed due to the provider's default.

Providers

What do the new tuition protection arrangements mean for VSL providers?

The VSL tuition protection arrangements see some changes for providers. Under the arrangements, there are specific conditions imposed on defaulting providers, and all providers have replacement provider obligations.

The VSL tuition protection arrangements require non-exempt providers to pay annual levies, commensurate with their size and risk. Indicative levy amounts will be available in early 2020.

The arrangements include transfer payments, which may be paid to VSL providers who enrol students as a replacement provider.

When did the new tuition protection arrangements start?

The new tuition protection arrangements started on 1 January 2020.

What constitutes a VSL Tuition Protection default?

A default occurs when either a course, or part of a course:

  • fails to start on the day on which it was scheduled, or
  • ceases after commencement but before completion.

The cause of the default does not matter, whether it occurs because the provider of their own accord ceases to provide a course or whether it is the result of compliance action taken against the provider.

I'm a defaulting provider - what are my obligations?

The VSL tuition protection arrangements impose a range of obligations with associated timeframes on defaulting providers. These obligations are prescribed in the VET Student Loans Act 2016 (VSL Act) and VSL Rules. Obligations include requirements to notify and cooperate with the Tuition Protection Director, and to provide information to students.

Within 24 Hours of Default

  • Give written notice to the VSL Tuition Protection Director of the circumstances of the default.
  • Notify students enrolled in the course, in writing, that the course is no longer being provided:

Providers must send the student notice to the:

  • student's personal email address as advised by the student OR
  • student's postal address as advised by the student OR
  • student by another method agreed to by the student.

Providers must specify in the student notice:

  • the name of the course, or part or parts of the course that the student was enrolled in at the time of the default
  • the date of the default
  • a website specified by the VSL Tuition Protection Director where the student can get further information about tuition protection.

Within 3 Business Days of a Default Occurring

Give written notice to the VSL Tuition Protection Director specifying:

  • the student's full name and contact details
  • the course, or part or parts of the course, that the student was enrolled in at the time of the default
  • the amount of the tuition fees for each course, or part of the course, that student was enrolled in at the time of the default
  • details about the payment of those tuition fees, including the amounts that are covered fees
  • whether the student was studying part-time or full-time
  • the mode of delivery of the original course
  • if the student did not study online, the location where the original course was primarily delivered
  • whether the student has withdrawn from the course or part of the course and the date of withdrawal
  • any part of the course for which the student has deferred study, the date of the deferral and the date the student is expected to re-commence study
  • the completion status for each part of the course the student has enrolled in, including whether the student's status is ongoing, passed or failed
  • the name and code of each unit of competency as it appears on the National Register of VET for each part of the course the provider has defaulted in relation to a student.

As Soon as Practicable

  • Update your provider website to reflect: that the course is no longer being provided; and to provide tuition protection information.

If Requested by the Tuition Protection Director

Provide to the Tuition Protection Director in relation to students to whom the provider has defaulted, either:

  • a copy of a statement of attainment or other Australian Qualifications Framework certification documentation issued by the course provider or an authorised issuing organisation in accordance with the Australian Qualifications Framework for the parts of the course that the student has completed OR
  • a copy of an authenticated VET transcript prepared by the Registrar (within the meaning of the Student Identifiers Act 2014) for the parts of the course that the student has completed.

I'm a replacement provider - what are my obligations?

VSL providers are encouraged to act as replacement providers, to support displaced VSL students to continue and complete their study. VSL providers are required to comply with replacement provider obligations, and are able to act as replacements providers.

If requested by the Tuition Protection Director, providers must provide information to assist the Tuition Protection Director in making decisions regarding suitable replacement courses for displaced students.

Replacement providers may receive a transfer payment which is intended to cover a portion of the administrative costs a replacement provider may incur. Transfer payments are payable at the discretion of the Tuition Protection Director.

Replacement providers are required to meet a number of requirements to facilitate efficient and fair treatment of students to allow them to continue their studies with minimal disruption.

If a student accepts an offer of a place in a replacement course, the replacement provider must give written notice of the acceptance to the VSL Tuition Protection Director within 14 days of the student's acceptance of the offer.

Replacement providers must also:

  • enrol the student in the replacement course as soon as practicable
  • grant course credits for parts of the original course successfully completed by the student, as evidenced by:

a statement of attainment or other Australian Qualifications Framework certification documentation issued in accordance with the Australian Qualifications Framework; or an authenticated VET transcript prepared by the Registrar (within the meaning of the Student Identifiers Act 2014)

  • not charge the student tuition fees for the replacement component of the replacement course if tuition fees have been paid for the affected part of the original course.

I'm a replacement provider for students displaced under Interim Tuition Assurance obligations - what are my obligations?

VSL tuition assurance activations that occurred prior to 1 January 2020, continue to be managed under the Australian Government's Interim Tuition Assurance arrangements. Providers who act as replacement providers for students affected by an activation that occurred on or before 31 December 2019, are required to continue to meet replacement provider obligations to support students to complete their course with as minimal disruption as possible.

How was the levy framework developed?

The Australian Government Actuary (AGA) developed the levy framework for the new arrangements. The AGA has provided, and will continue to provide, advice on the levies to ensure the arrangements are financially sound. The AGA is represented on the VSL Tuition Protection Fund Advisory Board.

How much are the levies?

Indicative levy amounts will be provided to the sectors in early 2020.

What is the new levy comprised of?

Non-exempt providers will pay a levy comprised of an administrative fee component, a risk rated premium component and a special tuition protection component.

How are the new levies calculated?

Parts of the levies are calculated using a provider's validated data from previous years. For example, 2020 levies will be based on a provider's 2019 validated Higher Education Information Management System (HEIMS) data. It is essential that providers ensure their HEIMS data is up to date to ensure the levies reflect the provider's actual enrolments and risk.

Providers are reminded that they are required to update the HEIMS data in accordance with the VET Student Loans Act 2016 (VSL Act).

How are the levies set?

The levies are set using legislative instruments and will be reviewed annually, to ensure they remain appropriate to the sector.

The new arrangements commenced on 1 January 2020 - when will the levies become payable?

Levies are expected to be collected in the second half of 2020. Details of the risk rated premium component and contributing factors will be made available to providers in early 2020.

Are all VSL providers subject to the arrangements?

TAFEs and other Government-owned providers are exempt from the new tuition protection arrangements, with the exception of obligations relating to providing information about replacement courses and obligations of replacement providers. These providers are required to provide tuition protection support and assistance for students in the event they default.

This means that while TAFEs and Government-owned providers are exempt from paying any component of the levies and obligations relating to provider default, they will still be required to provide information to the Tuition Protection Director to enable the Tuition Protection Director to make decisions about suitable replacement courses, and to meet replacement provider obligations if they accept students whose provider has defaulted.

'Table A' Universities are exempt from all tuition protection requirements.

All other VSL providers, including not-for-profit and community-based providers, are required to be part of the new VSL tuition protection arrangements.

I am a provider operating across the VET, Higher Education and/or international education sectors - how do the arrangements work for me?

Providers operating across the VET, Higher Education and international education sectors pay separate levies for each sector. Independent levy amounts will be calculated based on data for each sector, and levies may be collected at different times during the year.

What do the levies pay for?

The levies collected under the arrangements will be held in sector-specific quarantined accounts and be used to fund ongoing tuition protections for VSL students and providers. This means there will be no cross-subsidisation across the existing TPS for international students or tuition protection arrangements for VSL, FEE-HELP or HECS-HELP.

The levies are used to pay for:

  • tuition protection activation costs, including: transfer payments; and any loan re-crediting costs where there is no similar course for the student to continue their study.
  • the third party TPS administrator that will assist students
  • insurance, as required, while the fund builds up to a sufficient amount
  • yearly actuarial services to advise the levy settings
  • the Tuition Protection Director and Advisory Board remuneration.

Who is managing the arrangements?

The VSL tuition protection arrangements are managed by a statutory appointed VSL Tuition Protection Director who is supported by an independent VSL Tuition Protection Fund Advisory Board.

The Tuition Protection Director:

  • manages and makes calls on the fund
  • ensures providers are compliant with their tuition protection requirements
  • determines levies
  • supports students and providers if tuition protection is activated
  • provides general support to the sector regarding tuition protection.

What is the special tuition protection component of the levy?

The special tuition protection component is applied when the fund is below the target size. The target size is reviewed annually by the Tuition Protection Director and Advisory Board (including the Australian Government Actuary).

As the levies are reviewed and set annually, once the fund has reached its target size, the special tuition protection component may no longer be applied.

The special tuition protection component amount for 2020 will be finalised in early 2020, and implemented through a legislative instrument.

What is the transfer payment?

The new tuition protection arrangements include a transfer payment which may be made to replacement providers enrolling students from a closed provider.

The payments are intended to cover a portion of the administrative costs a replacement provider may incur. The payment of transfer payments is at the discretion of the Tuition Protection Director.

What does the tuition protection administrator do?

In the event a provider ceases to deliver a course or closes entirely and tuition protection is activated, the tuition protection administrator will assist displaced VSL students, the closed provider and replacement providers.

The tuition protection administrator will assist the Tuition Protection Director to match displaced students with suitable replacement courses and providers. The TPS administrator will work with the Tuition Protection Director and the replacement provider to ensure the replacement provider has the appropriate data, support and information to enrol displaced students.

Do the new tuition protection arrangements extend to domestic students who pre-pay their tuition fees upfront?

No. The new tuition protection arrangements do not extend to any other tuition protection requirements for pre-paid fees, for example, those under the Standards for Registered Training Organisations 2015 (Standards). Students who prepay their fees, including 'gap' fees paid by VSL students, will continue to be covered under the tuition protection arrangements set out in the Standards.

Questions regarding obligations under the RTO Standards, should be directed to the Australian Skills Quality Authority (ASQA) information line on 1300 701 801 or via email at enquiries@asqa.gov.au.