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Wednesday, 18 March 2009
Page: 3033

Ms KATE ELLIS (Minister for Youth and Minister for Sport) (9:54 AM) —I move:

That this bill be now read a second time.

The Higher Education Support Amendment (VET FEE-HELP and Providers) Bill 2009 makes minor clarifications and adjustments to the operation of the FEE-HELP and VET FEE-HELP assistance schemes under the Higher Education Support Act 2003.

VET FEE-HELP assists students studying diploma, advanced diploma, graduate certificate and graduate diploma courses by providing a loan for all or part of their tuition costs.

The scheme is aimed at encouraging students studying within the vocational education and training sector to pursue pathways to further or higher skill qualifications in the higher education sector.

It ensures that all students have the opportunity to access higher level skills training without the financial burden that may otherwise prevent them from enrolling in such courses.

This bill clarifies that a student cannot access VET FEE-HELP assistance to undertake a unit of study unless that unit of study is essential to the student’s course of study.

In addition, the bill ensures that, if a provider of VET FEE-HELP assistance does not maintain certain standards set by the act, then it can be required to cease operating as a VET provider.

This amendment mirrors that made to the act in 2007 in relation to the operation of higher education providers, ensuring consistency between the FEE-HELP and VET FEE-HELP assistance schemes.

These amendments improve the protections already in place for both students and the Commonwealth.

The bill also makes minor changes to the higher education and VET provider approval process to allow higher education and VET provider notices of approval to take effect on the day immediately following the day the relevant notice is registered on the Federal Register of Legislative Instruments.

The amendments remove unnecessary delays in the approvals process, ensuring that a greater number of approved higher education and VET providers can operate sooner, giving eligible students faster access to FEE-HELP or VET FEE-HELP assistance with those providers.

I commend the bill to the House.

Debate (on motion by Dr Southcott) adjourned.