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Education Legislation Amendment (Up-front Payments Tuition Protection) Bill 2020

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2019-2020

 

 

 

 

 

THE PARLIAMENT OF THE COMMONWEALTH OF AUSTRALIA

 

 

 

 

 

 

HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES

 

 

 

 

 

EDUCATION LEGISLATION AMENDMENT (UP-FRONT PAYMENTS TUITION PROTECTION) BILL 2020

 

 

 

 

 

EXPLANATORY MEMORANDUM

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(Circulated by the authority of the Minister for Education,

the Honourable Dan Tehan MP)

 



Education Legislation Amendment (Up-front Payments Tuition Protection) Bill 2020

OUTLINE

 

The principal purpose of the Education Legislation Amendment (Up-front Payments Tuition Protection) Bill 2020 ( Bill ) is to amend the Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency Act 2011 ( TEQSA Act ) and the Higher Education Support Act 2003 ( HESA ) to implement the expansion of the Australian Government’s Tuition Protection Service ( TPS ) to include domestic up-front fee paying higher education students. The Bill ensures domestic up-front fee paying students and students who access FEE-HELP or HECS-HELP assistance ( HELP students ) at private higher education providers receive the same tuition protection. The Bill will be introduced with the Higher Education (Up-front Payments Tuition Protection Levy) Bill 2020 ( Levy Bill ).

 

Tuition protection aims to ensure students are protected and supported in the event that their provider defaults - that is, where the student has not withdrawn from a unit of study and either:

·          the provider fails to start to provide a unit to the student on the day on which the unit was scheduled to start; or

·          the provider ceases to provide a unit to the student on a day after the unit starts but before it is completed.

 

From 1 January 2020, TPS arrangements were expanded to students accessing VET Student Loans, FEE-HELP and HECS-HELP assistance at private education providers through the Education Legislation Amendment (Tuition Protection and Other Measures) Act 2019. The proposed tuition protection arrangements in this Bill are modelled on the TPS arrangements for HELP students at a private higher education provider under HESA, and international students under the Education Services for Overseas Students Act 2000 ( ESOS Act ). For many years now, Australia has been a world leader in supporting international students studying in Australia in instances of provider closures.

The expansion of the successful TPS model to domestic students enrolled at private higher education providers who pay their tuition fees up-front is part of the Government’s ongoing commitment to safeguarding students who are affected by a provider default, and providing the same protection as HELP students.

The Bill provides new tuition protection arrangements for domestic up-front fee paying students, which will:

·          rename the ‘HELP Tuition Protection Director’ to be the ‘Higher Education Tuition Protection Director’ ( TP Director ) to have a single TP Director administering tuition protection for domestic up-front fee paying students and HELP students across the higher education sector. The TP Director is the same person as the independent TPS Director appointed under the ESOS Act;

·          rename the ‘HELP Tuition Protection Fund Advisory Board’ to be the ‘Higher Education Tuition Protection Fund Advisory Board’ ( Advisory Board ), to have the same Advisory Board providing support, advice and recommendations to the TP Director on tuition protection arrangements for domestic up-front fee paying students and HELP students. The Advisory Board has the same members as those appointed to the TPS Advisory Board under the ESOS Act, who are a combination of sector and government representatives to ensure there is a diverse range of views factored into decision making;

·          require private higher education providers to contribute annual levies, commensurate with their size and risk, under the Levy Bill. The levy system ensures the new arrangements are sustainable and can respond to trends in the higher education sector;

·          rename the existing ‘HELP Tuition Protection Fund’ established under subsection 167-1(1) of HESA, to be the ‘Higher Education Tuition Protection Fund’. This special account will be used to make payments in relation to the arrangements to support affected domestic students in the higher education sector, regardless of whether they pay their tuition fees up-front or defer them through a HELP loan and for the remuneration and allowances of the TP Director and Advisory Board;

·          impose a new condition of registration on registered higher education providers under the TEQSA Act to comply with the new tuition protection requirements, including the requirement to keep records and provide information to the Secretary to support the administration of tuition protection;

·          allow the Minister to make the Up-front Payments Guidelines ( Guidelines ) to prescribe matters relevant to the administration of tuition protection;

·          provide assistance to domestic students who may complete their studies with another provider or may have their tuition fees that were paid up-front refunded for units of study that fail to commence or commenced but were not completed due to the provider’s default:

o    students will be able to choose between continuing their studies in a suitable replacement unit or course with a replacement provider (if available), or a refund of the amount of tuition fees paid up-front by the student for the affected unit. This reflects the small and diverse nature of the sector, where it can be difficult for a student to find a suitable replacement unit or course;

·          require providers to discharge their tuition protection obligations upon default in relation to their affected students, and if not discharged then the TP Director must assist the affected students. This requirement is also being included under the existing TPS arrangements for HELP students through amendments to HESA to ensure the tuition protection process is consistent for all affected higher education students, regardless of if they pay their tuition fees up-front or defer them through a HELP loan;

·          impose obligations on defaulting providers to notify the TP Director and students of the default in a timely manner, and cooperate with the TP Director;

·          impose obligations on replacement providers to enrol students as soon as practicable, give the student course credits in recognition of their prior completed studies as appropriate, and not charge students for the replacement unit of the replacement course. These requirements facilitate efficient and fair treatment of students to allow them to continue their studies with minimal disruption;

·          authorise the collection, use and disclosure of personal information between relevant parties (e.g. Department of Education, Skills and Employment ( Department ), TP Director and Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency) for the purposes of performing functions or exercising powers under the TEQSA Act and HESA as it relates to tuition protection;

·          apply the Regulatory Powers (Standard Provisions) Act 2014 ( Regulatory Powers Act ) to new Part 5A (about tuition protection) of the TEQSA Act.

 

The Bill provides for the new tuition protection arrangements to commence on 1 January 2021. Consistent with previous tuition assurance arrangements, the proposed arrangements do not apply to Table A providers (i.e. public universities), TAFEs or Government funded providers and students enrolled with them are not included in the scope of TPS, since those providers are assessed to have a low risk of default. This does not prevent Table A providers, TAFEs or Government funded providers from enrolling displaced students as replacement providers. However, the Minister will have the power to determine that the new tuition protection requirements apply or do not apply to specific registered higher education providers having regard to matters set out in proposed section 62B of the TEQSA Act (explained further below in the detailed explanation).

Expanding the Australian Government’s TPS to domestic up-front fee paying students will also ensure that private higher education providers are no longer required to maintain burdensome and costly arrangements to cover these students. Instead, they will pay levies to the Australian Government’s managed TPS fund.

FINANCIAL IMPACT STATEMENT

 

The measure to expand the Australian Government’s TPS to cover domestic students that pay for their tuition fees up-front at private higher education providers through the Bill and Levy Bill is expected to generate $0.1 million in underlying cash and fiscal balance terms over the forward estimates.

 

Impact on underlying cash ($ millions)

 

2020-21

2021-22

2022-23

2023-24

Total

New tuition protection measure - domestic up-front fee paying higher education students

-0.3

+0.0

+0.2

+0.2

+0.1

 

 

 



STATEMENT OF COMPATIBILITY WITH HUMAN RIGHTS

Prepared in accordance with Part 3 of the Human Rights (Parliamentary Scrutiny) Act 2011

 

Education Legislation Amendment (Up-front Payments Tuition Protection) Bill 2020

 

The Education Legislation Amendment (Up-front Payments Tuition Protection) Bill 2020 is compatible with the human rights and freedoms recognised or declared in the international instruments listed in section 3 of the Human Rights (Parliamentary Scrutiny) Act 2011 .

Overview of the Bill

The principal purpose of the Education Legislation Amendment (Up-front Payments Tuition Protection) Bill 2020 ( Bill ) is to amend the Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency Act 2011 ( TEQSA Act ) and the Higher Education Support Act 2003 ( HESA ) to implement the expansion of the Australian Government’s Tuition Protection Service ( TPS ) to include domestic up-front fee paying higher education students. The Bill ensures domestic up-front fee paying students and students who access FEE-HELP or HECS-HELP assistance ( HELP students ) at private higher education providers receive the same tuition protection. The Bill will be introduced with the Higher Education (Up-front Payments Tuition Protection Levy) Bill 2020 ( Levy Bill ).

 

Tuition protection aims to ensure students are protected and supported in the event that their provider defaults - that is, where the student has not withdrawn from a unit of study and either:

·          the provider fails to start to provide a unit to the student on the day on which the unit was scheduled to start; or

·          the provider ceases to provide a unit to the student on a day after the unit starts but before it is completed.

 

From 1 January 2020, TPS arrangements were expanded to students accessing VET Student Loans, FEE-HELP and HECS-HELP assistance at private education providers through the Education Legislation Amendment (Tuition Protection and Other Measures) Act 2019. The proposed tuition protection arrangements in this Bill are modelled on the TPS arrangements for HELP students at a private higher education provider under HESA, and international students under the Education Services for Overseas Students Act 2000 ( ESOS Act ). For many years now, Australia has been a world leader in supporting international students studying in Australia in instances of provider closures.

The expansion of the successful TPS model to domestic students enrolled at private higher education providers who pay their tuition fees up-front is part of the Government’s ongoing commitment to safeguarding students who are affected by a provider default, and providing the same protection as HELP students.

The Bill provides new tuition protection arrangements for domestic up-front fee paying students, which will:

·          rename the ‘HELP Tuition Protection Director’ to be the ‘Higher Education Tuition Protection Director’ ( TP Director ) to have a single TP Director administering tuition protection for domestic up-front fee paying students and HELP students across the higher education sector. The TP Director is the same person as the independent TPS Director appointed under the ESOS Act;

·          rename the ‘HELP Tuition Protection Fund Advisory Board’ to be the ‘Higher Education Tuition Protection Fund Advisory Board’ ( Advisory Board ), to have the same Advisory Board providing support, advice and recommendations to the TP Director on tuition protection arrangements for domestic up-front fee paying students and HELP students. The Advisory Board has the same members as those appointed to the TPS Advisory Board under the ESOS Act, who are a combination of sector and government representatives to ensure there is a diverse range of views factored into decision making;

·          require private higher education providers to contribute annual levies, commensurate with their size and risk, under the Levy Bill. The levy system ensures the new arrangements are sustainable and can respond to trends in the higher education sector;

·          rename the existing ‘HELP Tuition Protection Fund’ established under subsection 167-1(1) of HESA, to be the ‘Higher Education Tuition Protection Fund’. This special account will be used to make payments in relation to the arrangements to support affected domestic students in the higher education sector, regardless of whether they pay their tuition fees up-front or defer them through a HELP loan and for the remuneration and allowances of the TP Director and Advisory Board;

·          impose a new condition of registration on registered higher education providers under the TEQSA Act to comply with the new tuition protection requirements, including the requirement to keep records and provide information to the Secretary to support the administration of tuition protection;

·          allow the Minister to make the Up-front Payments Guidelines ( Guidelines ) to prescribe matters relevant to the administration of tuition protection;

·          provide assistance to domestic students who may complete their studies with another provider or may have their tuition fees that were paid up-front refunded for units of study that fail to commence or commenced but were not completed due to the provider’s default:

o    students will be able to choose between continuing their studies in a suitable replacement unit or course with a replacement provider (if available), or a refund of the amount of tuition fees paid up-front by the student for the affected unit. This reflects the small and diverse nature of the sector, where it can be difficult for a student to find a suitable replacement unit or course;

·          require providers to discharge their tuition protection obligations upon default in relation to their affected students, and if not discharged then the TP Director must assist the affected students. This requirement is also being included under the existing TPS arrangements for HELP students through amendments to HESA to ensure the tuition protection process is consistent for all affected higher education students, regardless of if they pay their tuition fees up-front or defer them through a HELP loan;

·          impose obligations on defaulting providers to notify the TP Director and students of the default in a timely manner, and cooperate with the TP Director;

·          impose obligations on replacement providers to enrol students as soon as practicable, give the student course credits in recognition of their prior completed studies as appropriate, and not charge students for the replacement unit of the replacement course. These requirements facilitate efficient and fair treatment of students to allow them to continue their studies with minimal disruption;

·          authorise the collection, use and disclosure of personal information between relevant parties (e.g. Department of Education, Skills and Employment ( Department ), TP Director and Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency) for the purposes of performing functions or exercising powers under the TEQSA Act and HESA as it relates to tuition protection;

·          apply the Regulatory Powers (Standard Provisions) Act 2014 ( Regulatory Powers Act ) to new Part 5A (about tuition protection) of the TEQSA Act.

 

The Bill provides for the new tuition protection arrangements to commence on 1 January 2021. Consistent with previous tuition assurance arrangements, the proposed arrangements do not apply to Table A providers (i.e. public universities), TAFEs or Government funded providers and students enrolled with them are not included in the scope of TPS, since those providers are assessed to have a low risk of default. This does not prevent Table A providers, TAFEs or Government funded providers from enrolling displaced students as replacement providers. However, the Minister will have the power to determine that the new tuition protection requirements apply or do not apply to specific registered higher education providers having regard to matters set out in proposed section 62B of the TEQSA Act (explained further below in the detailed explanation).

Expanding the Australian Government’s TPS to domestic up-front fee paying students will also ensure that private higher education providers are no longer required to maintain burdensome and costly arrangements to cover these students. Instead, they will pay levies to the Australian Government’s managed TPS fund.

Analysis of human rights implications

The Bill engages the following human rights:

·          the right to education - Article 13 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights ( ICESCR )

·          the right to privacy - Article 17 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights ( ICCPR )

·          the right to equality and non -discrimination - Article 26 of the ICCPR

·          the right to a fair and public hearing - Article 14 of the ICCPR

·          the right to be presumed innocent - Article 14 of the ICCPR

 

Right to Education

The Bill engages the right to education, which is set out in Article 13 of the ICESCR. Article 13 recognises the important personal, societal, economic and intellectual benefits of education.

 

Article 13 provides that secondary education in its different forms, including higher education, shall be made generally available and accessible to all by every appropriate means.

 

The intent of the Bill is to implement a new tuition protection arrangement for domestic students who pay their tuition fees up-front for units of study at a private higher education provider. The Bill aims to ensure that these students are protected and supported in the event that their private higher education provider defaults - that is where the student has not withdrawn from a unit of study and:

·          the provider fails to start to provide a unit to the student on the day on which the unit was scheduled to start; or

·          the provider ceases to provide a unit to the student on a day after the unit starts but before it is completed.

 

The Bill promotes the right to education as it is designed to ensure that in the event that a student’s provider defaults, the student will be assisted to continue their studies in a suitable replacement unit or course or receive a refund of their tuition fees paid up-front in respect of the affected units of the course. Where students receive a refund, they will be able to independently seek alternative units or a course of study in order to continue their education and obtain a qualification.

 

The Bill also imposes obligations on providers in the event that they default - such as a requirement to notify students and the TP Director of the default, and a requirement to discharge their obligations to students within the period of 14 days after the day the provider defaulted in relation to the student. It also imposes obligations on providers in their capacity as replacement providers - such as to enrol the students in the replacement courses as soon as practicable, to give them course credits as appropriate and to not charge them tuition fees for the replacement units of a course. These obligations ensure defaulting providers support their affected students to carry on their higher education learning without disruption. 

 

This Bill is compatible with and promotes the right to education.

 

Right to Privacy

The Bill engages the right to privacy, which is set out in Article 17 of the ICCPR. Article 17 provides that no one shall be subjected to arbitrary or unlawful interference with their privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to unlawful attacks on their honour and reputation and that everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks.

 

The right to privacy can be permissibly limited in order to achieve a legitimate objective and where the limitations are lawful and not arbitrary. Authorised disclosure of personal information also invokes the exception in Australian Privacy Principle ( APP ) 6.2(b) in Schedule 1 to the Privacy Act 1988 ( Privacy Act ), which permits the disclosure of an individual’s personal information for a secondary purpose where the disclosure is authorised by law.

 

In this case, the legitimate objective is the protection and support of domestic up-front fee paying students in the event that their private higher education provider defaults, through the Australian Government’s TPS arrangements, which the Bill expands to encompass these students.

 

Registered higher education providers under the TEQSA Act will have obligations to keep records and provide personal information to the Department about their students (including in relation to contact details, information about enrolled units and tuition fees) in accordance with requirements set out in the Guidelines. This information will be collected by the Secretary and provided to the TP Director for the purposes of assisting students when a provider defaults. The Secretary’s collection, use and disclosure of personal information from providers about domestic up-front fee paying students under this requirement is reasonable, proportionate and necessary to support the effective administrative of tuition protection to quickly and effectively assist students when a provider defaults. The Secretary and TP Director are also required to comply with the relevant APPs regarding the collection, use and disclosure of this personal information.

 

The meaning of ‘personal information’ under HESA will be expanded to include personal information obtained or created by an officer (as defined in HESA) for the purposes of Part 5-1A of HESA (about tuition protection) and proposed section 26A and Part 5A of the TEQSA Act (about tuition protection). Commonwealth officers within the meaning of HESA (including Departmental officers and the TP Director) and officers of registered higher education providers will be authorised to disclose personal information so long as the disclosure is for the performance of duties or functions, or the exercise of powers under or for the purposes of the TEQSA Act, HESA, Higher Education Support (HELP Tuition Protection Levy) Act 2020 ( HELP Tuition Protection Levy Act ) or the proposed Levy Bill. 

 

HESA will also be amended to authorise the disclosure of information from Commonwealth officers (i.e. Departmental officers) to persons providing actuarial services (e.g. Australian Government Actuary) in connection with assisting that officer to perform duties or functions or exercise powers under the TEQSA Act, HESA, HELP Tuition Protection Levy Act or the proposed Levy Bill.

 

The TP Director will also have a new power under HESA and the TEQSA Act to require, by written notice, that higher education providers provide information relevant to tuition protection to the TP Director. It is important that the TP Director can obtain necessary information from providers in order to quickly and effectively assist displaced students when a provider defaults.

 

TPS is a successful proven tuition protection model that safeguards students from disruption in their studies, or disadvantage, as a result of their provider defaulting and being unable to deliver their unit of study or course of study. Higher education students paying their tuition fees up-front will benefit from the TPS expansion arrangements, as they will have the option in the event of a provider default to take up a replacement course, or receive a refund for payment made on incomplete units of study that the defaulting provider has failed to deliver. For private higher education providers that are also approved to offer HELP loans, it will reduce the burden of having to maintain separate protection arrangements for these up-front paying students, as they will be covered by the same tuition protection scheme.

 

Access to quality higher education student data on an ongoing basis is reasonable, necessary and proportionate to achieve the policy objective, which is to protect higher education students when their provider defaults through the TPS, in order for the students to continue their higher education studies.

 

The TP Director, and the members of the Advisory Board are also considered an ‘agency’ for the purposes of the Privacy Act and must comply with the APPs in the Privacy Act, including in relation to the collection, use or disclosure of personal information. Thus, the use of personal information under the Bill, collected for the purposes of the expanded TPS arrangements will apply to these entities. This is necessary to ensure that the TP Director and Advisory Board have the relevant information in order to carry out their powers and functions in relation to the TPS arrangements. In the case of the TP Director, this includes assisting students whose provider has defaulted and in the case of the Advisory Board members, this includes providing advice to the TP Director regarding the up-front payments tuition protection levy.

 

These entities are subject to the limitations and offences in respect of the use of information set out in the Privacy Act and Division 179 of HESA (protection of personal information). This protects the personal information of students and other parties.

 

The Department has also undertaken a Privacy Impact Assessment ( PIA ) to inform the drafting of the Bill and recommendations were implemented through the amendments. The PIA process will also assist to identify potential privacy impacts that the expansion might have on individuals in order to implement strategies to manage, minimise or eliminate those impacts. 

 

The Bill is compatible with and promotes the right to privacy by ensuring that appropriate safeguards and limitations apply to persons who use and disclose personal information collected under this Bill.

 

Right to Equality and Non-discrimination

 

This Bill engages Article 26 of the ICCPR which states that ‘the law shall prohibit any discrimination and guarantee to all persons equal protection against discrimination on any ground such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status’.

 

The Bill promotes the right to equality and non-discrimination through expanding the existing Government-backed tuition protection service to cover domestic up-front fee paying students enrolled at private higher education providers, which will enable these students to receive the same high quality tuition protection as students that access a HELP loan. Thereby ensuring all higher education students enrolled at private higher education providers are equally protected in the event of a provider default.

 

The Bill is compatible with the right to equality and non-discrimination.

 



 

Right to a Fair and Public Hearing

Article 14 of the ICCPR ensures that everyone shall be entitled to a fair and public hearing by a competent, independent and impartial tribunal established by law.

 

The Bill engages the right to a fair and public hearing, including through ensuring that infringement notices can be issued in respect of certain contraventions of civil penalty provisions set out in proposed new Part 5A of the TEQSA Act.

 

Recipients of an infringement notice can, by paying a financial penalty, be effectively forgiven of the contravention. If a recipient chooses not to pay the financial penalty, the person can access a fair public hearing, should civil penalty proceedings be commenced in respect of the alleged contravention.

 

The provisions of the Regulatory Powers Act which are triggered by the Bill also specify requirements for what must be included in an infringement notice, ensuring that a person issued with an infringement notice is aware of the person’s right to have the matter heard by a court.

 

The Bill also invokes the provisions of Part 4 of the Regulatory Powers Act for the enforcement of civil penalty provisions. The civil penalties allow a higher education provider to be penalised for contraventions without the need to impose a criminal penalty. The size of the civil penalties capable of being imposed is sufficient to act as a deterrent.

 

The Bill also provides for strict liability offences, including in relation to:

·          provider discharging its obligations to students within the period of 14 days after the day the provider defaulted in relation to the student;

·          provider giving notice to the TP Director (as relevant) and students in relation to a default;

·          replacement provider when providing a replacement course to students: granting students course credits as appropriate, not charging them tuition fees for the replacement units of their course, enrolling them in the course as soon as practicable, and keeping up to date enrolment information records;

·          complying with requests for information from the TP Director (as relevant);

·          arrangements for payments between providers for courses or units that are provided jointly with one or more other registered higher education providers (as relevant).

 

Compliance by providers with these provisions is necessary to ensure the integrity of the tuition protection arrangements. Applying strict liability to these offences is consistent with the Guide to Framing Commonwealth Offences, Infringement Notices and Enforcement Powers . If a provider is prosecuted through criminal proceedings in relation to these offences, they will still be able to mount a fair and public defence in relation to the factual elements of the relevant offence.

 

The Bill is compatible with the right to a fair and public hearing.

 



 

Right to be Presumed Innocent

Article 14 of the ICCPR requires that, in the determination of any criminal charge, everyone shall be entitled to a set of minimum guarantees and that anyone convicted will have the right to review and compensation if the conviction is not upheld. Article 14 of the ICCPR also requires that anyone charged with a criminal offence shall have the right to be presumed innocent until proved guilty according to the law.

 

As mentioned above, the Bill creates a number of new strict liability offences that apply to factual scenarios, including in relation to:

·          provider discharging its obligations to students within the period of 14 days after the day the provider defaulted in relation to the student;

·          giving notice to the TP Director (as relevant) and students in relation to a default;

·          replacement provider when providing a replacement course to students: granting students course credits as appropriate, not charging them tuition fees for the replacement units of their course, enrolling them in the course as soon as practicable, and keeping up to date enrolment records;

·          complying with requests for information from the TP Director (as relevant);

·          arrangements for payments between providers for courses or units that are provided jointly with one or more other registered higher education providers (as relevant).

 

Although these are strict liability offences, in respect of which mental elements do not need to be proven by a prosecution, as above, a provider can still mount a defence based on the factual elements of the offence. The standard of proof in relation to those factual elements will remain as the normal criminal standard, with the result that a prosecution will bear the onus of proving the relevant factual elements. These offences are proportionate to the value of maintaining adequate safeguards in relation to the students’ and providers’ participation in the legislative tuition protection arrangements. It is considered reasonable in these cases to impose strict liability offences to ensure the integrity of the tuition protection arrangements and to facilitate students being able to continue their education with minimal disruption in the event of their provider defaulting. Each of these offences can also be enforced through less serious measures, including by issuing infringement notices, or simply issuing warnings without prosecution, where appropriate. Applying strict liability to these offences is consistent with the Guide to Framing Commonwealth Offences, Infringement Notices and Enforcement Powers.

 

Establishing a strong civil enforcement regime better facilitates students obtaining value and quality outcomes from their investment in education and allows them to continue their higher education with minimal disruption in the event of a provider default.

 

The Bill is compatible with the right to be presumed innocent.

Conclusion

The Bill is compatible with human rights because, to the extent that it may limit human rights, the limitations are reasonable, necessary and proportionate.



Education Legislation Amendment

(Up-front Payments Tuition Protection) Bill 2020

NOTES ON CLAUSES

Clause 1 - Short title

 

This clause provides for the Act to be the Education Legislation Amendment

(Up-front Payments Tuition Protection) Act 2020.

 

Clause 2 - Commencement

 

The table in subclause 2(1) provides that the whole of this Act commences on 1 January 2021.  

 

Clause 3 - Schedules

 

This clause provides that any legislation that is specified in a schedule is amended or repealed as set out in the applicable items in the schedule and that any other item in a schedule has effect according to its terms.



 

 

 

List of abbreviations

 

Department

Department of Education, Skills and Employment

ESOS Act                 

 

Education Services for Overseas Students Act 2000

HESA                        

 

Higher Education Support Act 2003

Levy Bill

Higher Education (Up-front Payments Tuition Protection Levy) Bill 2020 

TP Director

Higher Education Tuition Protection Director

Fund

Higher Education Tuition Protection Fund

Advisory Board

Higher Education Tuition Protection Fund Advisory Board

Regulatory Powers Act

Regulatory Powers (Standard Provisions) Act 2014

TEQSA

Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency

TEQSA Act               

 

T ertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency Act 2011

Guidelines

Up-front Payments Guidelines 

 



 

Schedule 1 - Amendment of the Tertiary Education and Quality Standards Agency Act 2011 

 

Summary

 

Schedule 1 to the Bill implements the extension of tuition protection arrangements to apply to domestic students that pay for their tuition fees up-front at a private registered higher education provider under the TEQSA Act. This is intended to ensure these students receive the same high quality tuition protection as students who access FEE-HELP or HECS-HELP assistance at a private higher education provider. Those arrangements offer support through either a suitable replacement unit or suitable replacement course to continue their studies; or a refund of their     up-front payment for incomplete units of study that the provider failed to deliver.

 

Schedule 1 to the Bill also amends the TEQSA Act to provide for the requirement that a defaulting provider has initial responsibility to take action to provide a remedy to their affected students. If the defaulting provider is unable to provide a remedy to their affected students, then the TP Director becomes involved to assist in providing the tuition protection to the affected students in order to enable them to continue their studies and obtain a qualification. These amendments ensure the tuition protection process is consistent for both affected HELP students, and up-front fee paying students in the higher education sector, and aligns with the successful tuition protection model for international students that already utilises this approach.  

 

Detailed explanation

 

Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency Act 2011

 

Items 1-5 - Section 5 (Definitions)

 

Items 1, 3 and 5 insert definitions into section 5 of the TEQSA Act relating to tuition protection, including the following key definitions:

 

·          affected unit which, in respect of an original course, means a unit of study that a domestic student was enrolled in at a time when the student’s registered higher education provider defaulted in relation to the student.

 

·          default refers to when a provider defaults in relation to a student under new section 62C.

 

·          domestic student means a student who is not an overseas student (including an overseas student within the meaning of the ESOS Act) and is enrolled, or proposes to become enrolled in an Australian course of study at a registered higher education provider. For example, a domestic student may include:

Ø   an Australian citizen;

Ø   a person entitled to stay in Australia, or to enter and stay in Australia, without any limitation as to time (for example, a permanent resident);

Ø   a New Zealand citizen;

Ø   a diplomatic or consular representative of New Zealand, a member of the staff of such a representative or the spouse, de facto partner (within the meaning of the Acts Interpretation Act 1901 ) or dependent relative of such a representative.

 

            This definition is based on the definition of ‘domestic student’ in subclause          1(1) of Schedule 1 to HESA, to ensure that the same students are covered by             the tuition protection arrangements under HESA and the TEQSA Act. Also, the definition clarifies that overseas students (within the meaning of the ESOS         Act) do not come within the scope of the new tuition protection arrangements.             Overseas students are already provided tuition protection under the ESOS           Act.

 

·          Higher Education Tuition Protection Director means the person referred to in section 167-15 of HESA. The office of the TP Director is held by the same person who holds the office of TPS Director under section 54A of the ESOS Act. The TP Director is responsible for performing functions and exercising powers in relation to tuition protection for domestic students under HESA and the TEQSA Act.

 

·          Higher Education Tuition Protection Fund means the Fund established by section 167-1 of HESA. The Fund is a special account established for the purposes of tuition protection under HESA and the TEQSA Act. New section 62K sets out when the TP Director must make payments from the Fund.

 

·          original course means an Australian course of study in relation to which a registered higher education provider has defaulted.

 

·          overseas student means a person who is not an Australian citizen and is enrolled, or proposes to become enrolled in an Australian course of study with a registered higher education provider or a unit of study access to which was provided by Open Universities Australia - but does not include the persons described at paragraphs (c) to (e) of that definition. This definition is relevant to determining who is a ‘domestic student’ for the purposes of tuition protection. This definition is based on the definition of ‘overseas student’ in subclause 1(1) of Schedule 1 to HESA.

 

·          replacement course means an Australian course of study that enables a student to finish their original course or a course that is equivalent to an original course following a provider’s default in relation to that student.

 

·          replacement unit means a unit of study that replaces an affected unit of an original course.

 

·          tuition fees means the following:

Ø   in relation to a unit of study for which a domestic student is liable to pay a student contribution amount within the meaning of section 93-5 of HESA, that amount; or

Ø   in relation to a unit of study for which a domestic student is liable to pay tuition fees as defined in Schedule 1 to HESA, that amount; or

Ø   in any other case, tuition fees has the meaning prescribed in the Guidelines. For example, the Guidelines may prescribe the kind of fees that would be considered tuition fees for the purposes of tuition protection, such as tuition fees payable by a student to a provider in order for the student to undertake the unit of study. However, tuition fees would not include incidental fees or fees in respect to the provision of amenities or services that are not of an academic nature.

 

·          tuition protection requirements has the meaning given by new subsection 26A(3).

 

·          unit of study means the following:

Ø   the same meaning as ‘unit of study’ in subclause 1(1) of Schedule 1 to HESA in relation to an Australian course of study and a registered higher education provider that is also a higher education provider under HESA; or

Ø   in any other case, in relation to an Australian course of study and registered higher education provider means a subject or unit (however described) that a person may undertake as part of the course. If the course is not comprised of subjects or units, unit of study means the course.

 

·          up-front payment for a domestic student for a unit of study includes:

Ø   for a unit of study for which a student is liable to pay a student contribution amount within the meaning of HESA, the up-front payment means the up-front payments referred to under section 93-15 of HESA; or

Ø   for a unit of study for which a student is liable to pay a tuition fee within the meaning of HESA, the up-front payment means the up-front payments referred to under section 107-5 of HESA; or

Ø   in any other case, a payment of all or a part of the student’s tuition fees for the unit.

 

·          Up-front Payments Guidelines means the legislative instrument made by the Minister under new section 26B in relation to tuition protection.

 

Items 1, 3 and 5 also insert definitions into section 5 of the TEQSA Act which have the same meaning as in HESA. For example, FEE-HELP assistance, HECS-HELP assistance and Table A provider. 

 

Items 2 and 4 repeal and substitute the following definitions in section 5 of the TEQSA Act:

 

·          civil penalty provision is defined to refer to provisions that carry a civil penalty. For the purposes of the TEQSA Act (other than in new Part 5A), means a subsection, or a section that is not divided into subsections in the Act that has set out at its foot the words “civil penalty” and one or more amounts in penalty units. For the purposes of Part 5A of the TEQSA Act, civil penalty provision has the same meaning as in the Regulatory Powers Act.

 

·          reviewable decision for a decision by TEQSA means a decision covered by section 183, and a decision relating to tuition protection means a decision covered by new section 187A.

 

Item 6 - At the end of subsection 21(1)

 

Item 6 adds new paragraph (c) to subsection 21(1) to include the requirement that TEQSA may grant an application for registration if TEQSA is satisfied that an applicant (to which Part 5A will apply) will comply with the tuition protection requirements introduced in this Bill.

 

Item 7 - After section 26

 

Item 7 inserts new section 26A, Condition of registration - compliance with the tuition protection requirements, after section 26. This new condition will only apply to registered higher education providers that Part 5A applies to. Certain providers are exempt from the tuition protection requirements, such as Table A providers (e.g. public universities) and government owned providers (refer to new section 62B). New subsection 26A(3) provides that the tuition protection requirements are the requirements set out in this section, Part 5A and the Guidelines.

 

The Levy Bill imposes a new up-front payments tuition protection levy ( levy ) for the purposes of the expanded tuition protection scheme under the TEQSA Act. New subsection 26A(4) provides that a provider must pay the levy and any penalties for late payment when it is due and payable. The Notes under subsection 26A(4) clarify that the levy received from a provider is credited to the Fund (see new paragraph 167-5(aa) of HESA) and the Advisory Board advises the TP Director in relation to determining certain components of the levy. 

 

New subsection 26A(5) provides that the Guidelines may make provision in relation to all or any of the matters listed at paragraphs 26A(5)(a) to (h) relating to the collection or recovery of the levy. New subsection 26(6) provides that the Guidelines may also for the purposes of paragraph 167-10(1)(b) of HESA make provision in relation to payments made in connection with the tuition protection requirements. The purposes of the Fund are set out in section 167-10 of HESA (as amended through Item 25 of Schedule 2 to the Bill). Paragraph 167-10(1)(b) of HESA provides that the purposes of the Fund include making payments in connection with tuition protection under the TEQSA Act and the Guidelines.

 

It is appropriate for the Minister to prescribe administrative details related to tuition protection through the Guidelines in respect to the collection or recovery of the levy and payments made in connection with tuition protection, because it will allow administrative and technical details of the scheme to be adjusted relatively quickly as required (compared to the provisions of primary legislation). For example, it is desirable for the Guidelines to set out details relating to the refund, remission or waiver of the levy, to provide flexibility to respond to unforeseen circumstances such as the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on providers. The Guidelines are a legislative instrument for the purposes of the Legislation Act 2003 and therefore subject to appropriate parliamentary scrutiny and disallowance processes.

 

Information and documents related to tuition protection

 

New subsections 26A(7) to (9) include conditions of registration that require registered higher education providers to keep certain records and provide certain information and documents to the Secretary for the purposes of administering tuition protection. The Guidelines may specify information or documents that a provider must keep records in relation to and give to the Secretary in the period, manner and form approved by the Secretary (subsections 26A(7) and (8)). Subsection 26A(9) sets out the kind of information and documents that may be required, including information about a provider’s domestic students, tuition fees (including about up-front payments) and student contact information.

 

The Secretary will collect and provide the information to the TP Director for the purposes of assisting students when a provider defaults (refer to paragraph 179-20(a) of HESA which authorises the disclosure of personal information between the Secretary and TP Director). The Secretary’s collection, use and disclosure of personal information from providers about domestic students under this new requirement is reasonable, proportionate and necessary to support the administration of tuition protection to quickly and effectively assist students when a provider defaults. The Secretary and TP Director are also required to comply with the relevant Australian Privacy Principles ( APPs ) contained in the Privacy Act 1988 regarding the collection, use and disclosure of personal information.

 

It is appropriate for the Minister to provide the administrative and technical details of the information requirements in the Guidelines in order for changes to be made relatively quickly (compared to the provisions of primary legislation), in the event that changes in policy or provider circumstances give rise to the need for changes in the administration of the scheme. The use of delegated legislation allows the Minister, with appropriate parliamentary scrutiny, to work out the application of the law as it applies to the administrative details of the scheme. For instance, it is desirable for the Guidelines to set out the administrative requirements around what information providers should provide to the Secretary in order for the TP Director to have readily available information to contact and place students in replacement courses or provide refunds as applicable. 

 

New section 26B provides that the Minister may, by legislative instrument, make the Guidelines providing for matters required or permitted by the TEQSA Act or HESA, or that are necessary or convenient to be provided in order to carry out or give effect to Part 5A of the TEQSA Act or Parts 5-1A or 5-1B of HESA. The same TP Director, Fund and Advisory Board will be responsible for tuition protection for domestic students that are entitled to HECS-HELP or FEE-HELP assistance under HESA and also students that make up-front payments for their units of study at a provider under the TEQSA Act.

 

 

 

Item 8 - After Part 5

 

Part 5A- Tuition protection

 

Item 8 inserts new Part 5A in the TEQSA Act. Section 62A provides an outline about what Part 5A is about.

 

Division 1 - Preliminary

 

Section 62B Application of this Part

 

New section 62B provides that Part 5A applies to certain registered higher education providers.

 

Paragraphs 62B(1)(a) to (c) exclude Table A providers (e.g. public universities), providers owned by the Commonwealth, a State or a Territory or providers established under legislation, such as TAFEs. The Minister may also prescribe providers of a kind that are exempt from the tuition protection requirements through the Guidelines (paragraph 62B(1)(d)).

 

The purpose of the Bill is to provide a sustainable framework for the provision of tuition protection for domestic students that make up-front payments at a private higher education provider. In part, this will be achieved by ensuring that there are adequate credits to the Fund from levies received from providers. Generally it is those providers that are of minimal risk of default and/or have the capability to protect students in the event of a default, who are likely to be exempt from tuition protection requirements. For example, Table A providers and TAFEs have been expressly excluded from this scheme given they are considered very low risk, and in the unlikely event of a default, should have the capacity and capability to place students without the assistance of the TP Director.

 

It is desirable to allow the Minister, through delegated legislation (Guidelines), maximum flexibility to exempt classes of providers. This is because the circumstances and classes of providers for which it may be appropriate to exempt are not certain and cannot necessarily be foreseen. Specifying this detail in delegated legislation may avoid the need to amend the primary legislation in order to exempt a class of provider not currently contemplated for an exemption, and will allow the Minister to act relatively quickly in the event that changes to policy give rise to the need for changes.

 

In addition, the Minister may, by written notice, determine that Part 5A applies or does not apply to a specified registered higher education provider if the Minister considers it appropriate (subsection 62B(2)). In deciding whether it is appropriate to make a determination, the Minister must have regard to the criteria at subsection 62B(3). The criteria include matters relevant to a provider’s risk of defaulting, financial status, risk of non-compliance, advice from TEQSA or the TP Director, and any other matter the Minister considers appropriate. The Minister’s power to determine, by non-legislative instrument, individual providers to which the tuition protection requirements apply enables the Minister to react to changes in a dynamic sector, while considering the risk the provider poses to the sector and protection to students in respect to their up-front payments. In addition, the intention of this objective criteria is to ensure that the tax consequently imposed through the up-front payments tuition protection levy on leviable providers through the Levy Bill is also based on objective criteria. 

 

As a non-legislative instrument, a determination under subsection 62B(2) enables rapid response to provider and sector changes. This is critical as conditions or time limitations specific to individual providers made under subsection 62B(4) can be introduced, amended or revoked without delay. Non-legislative instruments give certainty to providers that the Minister’s decision is final and not capable of disallowance. This ensures that providers, and students, have certainty about whether the tuition protection requirements apply to them, which assists with financial and compliance planning. This level of certainty is particularly important for providers given that the Minister’s determination has the additional consequence that providers are not a ‘leviable provider’ for the purposes of the Levy Bill.

 

The overarching purpose of the Bill is to ensure that students are adequately protected in the event of provider default. It is essential that changes in provider circumstances can be responded to rapidly and with certainty for students, as well as for the TP Director. This is achieved by the Minister’s power to make a determination having regard to the matters listed in subsection 62B(3) which is relevant to assessing the provider’s risk of default.

 

Subsection 62B(5) clarifies that a determination made under subsection 62B(2) is not a legislative instrument. This subsection is included in the Bill to assist readers, as the determination is not a legislative instrument within the meaning of subsection 8(1) of the Legislation Act 2003.

 

Subsection 62B(6) provides that despite any exemptions, certain provisions in the Bill continue to apply to all providers relating to provider obligations in providing a replacement course to an affected student. This reflects that, in some cases, Table A providers and other exempt providers may agree to act as a replacement provider for students whose providers have defaulted. In these circumstances, it is appropriate that the TP Director can require a potential replacement provider to provide information about suitable replacement courses for a student. It is also appropriate to ensure that the same protections apply to these students, namely that the replacement providers are required to grant them course credits as appropriate, not charge them tuition fees for the replacement unit and enrol them as soon as practicable.

 

Section 62C When a provider defaults in relation to a student

 

New section 62C sets out the circumstances when a registered higher education provider defaults in relation to a domestic student. These circumstances include where the provider:

 

·          fails to start to provide a unit of study to the student on the day on which the unit was scheduled to start; or

·          ceases to provide a unit of study on a day that is after the unit starts but before it is completed; and

the student has not withdrawn before that day, and either the student has made an up-front payment for the unit on or before that day, or an up-front payment was not made for the unit on or before that day and the student was not entitled, and would not have been entitled, to FEE-HELP or HECS-HELP assistance for the unit.

 

For example, new subparagraphs 62C(1)(c)(i) and 62C(2)(c)(i) include the circumstances where a student has paid their tuition fees for a unit of study entirely through up-front payments and the provider defaults before commencing the unit or defaults after commencing the unit but before it is completed.

 

The purpose of subparagraphs 62C(1)(c)(ii) and 62C(2)(c)(ii) is to provide for the circumstances where a student has not made an up-front payment for the unit of study and the student was not entitled and would not be entitled to FEE-HELP or HECS-HELP assistance under HESA for that unit. For example, new subparagraph 62C(2)(c)(ii) includes the circumstances where a student is at a higher education provider (within the meaning of HESA) and is not entitled to any FEE-HELP or HECS-HELP assistance for the unit because they have exceeded their HELP balance and therefore the student has no other option but to pay for the unit entirely up-front. The student has not yet made an up-front payment and the provider has started providing the unit but ceases to provide the unit before completion.

 

It is a matter of fact based on the circumstances whether or not a provider defaults. Similarly, the cause of the default does not matter for the purposes of section 62C, whether it occurs because the provider of their own accord ceases to provide a unit of study or whether it is the result of compliance action taken against the provider.

 

New subsection 62C(3) enables the Guidelines to prescribe circumstances which, if they occur, will mean that a provider has defaulted in relation to a domestic student. This provision is not intended to extend the broad circumstances described in subsections 62C(1) and (2) but rather allow for greater precision and clarity in respect of what situations will, in practice, give rise to a default. For example, the Guidelines may set out situations such as if the student is not enrolled in a unit at a particular time but the provider defaults in relation to the course which prevents the student from completing their course, or if a provider ceases to be a registered higher education provider or enters into liquidation, both of which inevitably mean the provider can no longer be delivering the course to a student.

 

The Note at the end of the section reminds the reader about higher education provider defaults in HESA. If the student was entitled or would have been entitled to FEE-HELP or HECS-HELP assistance in relation to the unit of study or any other affected units of the original course the provider may also have defaulted in relation to the student under section 166-10 of HESA. A provider may default in relation to the same student under new section 62C of the TEQSA Act and section 166-10 of HESA, depending on the student’s payment of tuition fees and entitlement to FEE-HELP or HECS-HELP assistance. The same provider obligations follow under both Acts and the same TP Director will assist the student if the provider fails to do so.

 



 

Division 2 - Tuition Protection

 

Subdivision A - Obligations of defaulting providers

 

Section 62D Providers must give notice of default to Higher Education Tuition Protection Director

 

New section 62D applies if a registered higher education provider defaults in relation to a domestic student. A provider must give written notice to the TP Director of the circumstances of a default within 24 hours of the default occurring. Being aware of the default as soon as possible will allow the TP Director to promptly begin assisting students as required.

 

Under subsection 62D(3), a provider must give written notice to the TP Director of certain matters within 3 business days of defaulting. The notice must detail the following information:

 

·          student’s full name and contact details;

·          units of study and Australian course of study that the student was enrolled in at the time of default;

·          amount of tuition fees for each affected unit that the student was enrolled in at the time of default;

·          details about the payment of those tuition fees, including the sum of any up-front payments or amount of FEE-HELP or HECS-HELP assistance obtained for any affected units;

·          advice as to whether the provider intends to discharge its obligations to the student and how (if appropriate); and

·          any other matter prescribed by the Guidelines.

 

The TP Director may also request in writing that the provider give the TP Director a copy of a student’s record of results for any units of study that the student has completed. Providers are already required, under their obligations as registered higher education providers, to give a record of results to students. This information will aid the TP Director with assisting a student to find a suitable replacement course if the provider fails to discharge its obligations.

 

A notice given under subsections 62D(2) or (3) must comply with any requirements prescribed by the Guidelines. For example, the Guidelines may prescribe the manner by which the information is to be provided to the TP Director, such as by a secure USB, or for it to be reasonably compatible with existing systems.

 

The above information is necessary for the TP Director to be able to liaise with students and possible replacement providers as soon as possible and identify whether there are any suitable replacement courses for students if the provider fails to discharge its obligations. Providers are already required to keep and maintain this information and so they should be able to collate the material for each student without undue burden and within the 3 business day timeframe. Therefore, the disclosure of personal information to the TP Director is reasonable, necessary and proportionate to achieving the legitimate aim of assisting affected students in the event of a provider default.

Failure to comply with section 62D gives rise to a civil penalty and an offence of strict liability. In both instances, the penalty is 60 penalty units. Making contravention of this provision subject to civil penalty is appropriate as it deters providers from non-compliance in circumstances where non-compliance will negatively impact on the TP Director’s ability to assist affected students. In addition, contravention of this provision may lead to the issuing of an infringement notice under the Regulatory Powers Act.

 

As this is a strict liability offence, mental elements (intention, recklessness, negligence) would not need to be proven, only the factual elements. However, strict liability allows the defence of honest and reasonable mistake of fact. Applying strict liability to these offences is consistent with the Guide to Framing Commonwealth Offences, Infringement Notices and Enforcement Powers and is appropriate because the following apply:

 

·          the offence is not punishable by imprisonment;

·          the offence is punishable by a fine of up to 60 penalty units;

·          the offence is subject to specific criteria set out in the section and not subject to broad uncertain criteria;

·          the offence is likely to significantly enhance the effectiveness of the enforcement regime under the TEQSA Act in deterring non-compliance from providers in order to achieve the overall purposes of the Bill to provide tuition protection to domestic higher education students;

·          there are legitimate grounds for penalising persons lacking fault, for example, the TP Director will likely remind and place the provider on notice if the TP Director is concerned that a provider is unlikely to meet certain requirements to guard against the possibility of any contravention; and

·          the contravention of this section is subject to an infringement notice scheme (see new section 131D, which triggers Part 5 of the Regulatory Powers Act in relation to Part 5A of the TEQSA Act), which allows for a less serious form of enforcement in cases where prosecution is not justified (prosecution would only be pursued in more serious cases).  

 

Section 62E Providers must give notice of default to affected students

 

New section 62E applies if a registered higher education provider defaults in relation to a domestic student (see section 62C).

 

The provider must give written notice of the default to students in relation to whom the provider has defaulted within 24 hours. It is important that students are notified as soon as possible of the default. The notice must comply with any requirements prescribed by the Guidelines. It is appropriate that these matters are prescribed in the Guidelines since they are likely to be of an administrative nature.

 

Contravention of this requirement gives rise to a civil penalty and an offence of strict liability. In both instances the penalty is 60 penalty units. Making contravention of this provision subject to civil penalty is appropriate as it deters providers from non-compliance in circumstances where non-compliance will negatively impact on the TP Director’s ability to assist affected students. In addition, contravention of this provision may lead to the issuing of an infringement notice under the Regulatory Powers Act.

 

As this is a strict liability offence, mental elements (intention, recklessness, negligence) would not need to be proven, only the factual elements. However, strict liability allows the defence of honest and reasonable mistake of fact. Applying strict liability to these offences is consistent with the Guide to Framing Commonwealth Offences, Infringement Notices and Enforcement Powers and is appropriate because the following apply:

 

·          the offence is not punishable by imprisonment;

·          the offence is punishable by a fine of up to 60 penalty units;

·          the offence is subject to specific criteria set out in the section and not subject to broad uncertain criteria;

·          the offence is likely to significantly enhance the effectiveness of the enforcement regime under the TEQSA Act in deterring non-compliance from providers in order to achieve the overall purposes of the Bill to provide tuition protection to domestic higher education students;

·          there are legitimate grounds for penalising persons lacking fault, for example, the TP Director will likely remind and place the provider on notice if the TP Director is concerned that a provider is unlikely to meet certain requirements to guard against the possibility of any contravention; and

·          the contravention of this section is subject to an infringement notice scheme (see new section 131D, which triggers Part 5 of the Regulatory Powers Act in relation to Part 5A of the TEQSA Act), which allows for a less serious form of enforcement in cases where prosecution is not justified (prosecution would only be pursued in more serious cases).  

 

Section 62F Obligations on providers in case of default

New section 62F applies if a registered higher education provider defaults in relation to a domestic student.

 

Provider obligations

 

The provider must discharge certain obligations to the student within 14 days after the day the provider defaulted ( provider obligation period ). The provider discharges its obligations if:

 

·          the provider arranges for the student to be offered a place in a suitable replacement unit or suitable replacement course and the student accepts the offer in writing; or

·          the provider provides a refund of the amount equal to the sum of any up-front payments to the student in accordance with subsection 62F(8).

 

Once the provider discharges its obligations, the student is effectively assisted in either finding a suitable replacement unit or suitable replacement course to continue their studies or provided a refund of their up-front payments for the affected unit.

 

 

Suitable replacement units or suitable replacement courses

 

Under subsection 62F(4), the provider must identify whether:

 

·          there is one or more suitable replacement units or suitable replacement courses for the student; or

·          there is no suitable replacement unit or suitable replacement course for the student.

 

The provider must have regard to the matters listed in subsection 62F(5) in identifying whether a course is a suitable replacement course, including:

 

·          whether the replacement course leads to the same or a comparable qualification as the original course;

·          any credits the student may receive for the units of study of the original course successfully completed by the student;

·          mode of delivery and location;

·          whether the student will incur unreasonable additional fees and be able to attend the course without unreasonable impacts on the student’s prior commitments;

·          and other matters prescribed by the Guidelines.

 

Similarly, the provider must have regard to the matters listed in subsection 62F(6) in identifying whether a unit is a suitable replacement unit, including:

 

·          whether the student will receive credit under the student’s original course for the replacement unit. For example, if the student will be able to obtain course  credit towards their original course with the replacement unit so that the student does not need to undertake an additional unit;

·          mode of delivery and location;

·          whether the student will incur unreasonable additional fees and be able to attend the replacement unit without unreasonable impacts on the student’s prior commitments;

·          any other matters prescribed by the Guidelines.

 

A suitable replacement unit may be available to the student in the circumstances where the student is still able to continue their original course, and only requires a replacement unit for the affected unit to continue their original course.

 

Suitable replacement unit or suitable replacement course available

 

If the provider identifies that there are one or more suitable replacement units or suitable replacement courses for the student, then the provider must give a written notice to the student in accordance with new subsection 62F(7). This includes that the notice must provide the student a choice to do one of the following:

 

·          enrol in a suitable replacement unit or suitable replacement course (as identified by the provider);

·          enrol in another unit of study or course; or

·          elect to receive a refund for the up-front payments made by the student in relation to the affected unit.

 

Paragraphs 62F(7)(b) to (f) specify important information that a provider must include in the notice so that the student can make an informed choice about their options above. The Minister may also prescribe other matters in the Guidelines which the notice must include.

 

No suitable replacement unit or suitable replacement course or student elects refund

 

Subsection 62F(8) provides that if the provider identifies no suitable replacement course or suitable replacement unit, or the student elects to receive a refund, then the provider must pay the student a refund of the amount equal to the sum of any up-front payments made for the student’s affected units (refer to the new definition of ‘up-front payment’ inserted by Item 5 of the Bill). This obligation ensures that a student is afforded a refund for any up-front payments for tuition fees paid to the provider for the affected unit.

 

Under subsection 62F(9), the provider must provide the refund in accordance with any requirements prescribed by the Guidelines. For example, the Guidelines may prescribe that the provider must provide a refund to the student via electronic transfer to the student’s nominated bank account.

 

Elections for FEE-HELP or HECS-HELP must be consistent

 

Subsection 62F(10) provides that despite paragraph 62F(7)(a) (student choice), if the student was entitled to FEE-HELP or HECS-HELP assistance for any affected units of the original course, any elections made under that paragraph in relation to those units must be consistent with any elections made under paragraph 166-25(7)(a) of HESA. Section 166-25 of HESA (as amended by Item 90 of Schedule 2 to the Bill) imposes obligations on higher education providers in case of default in relation to students under section 166-10 of HESA. Generally, HESA provides tuition protection to students that are entitled or would have been entitled to FEE-HELP or HECS-HELP assistance for the unit of study.

 

If a provider defaults under both section 166-10 of HESA and section 62C of the TEQSA Act in relation to the same student, then the student must make a consistent election under both schemes. An example is included under subsection 62F(10). The Minister may prescribe through the Guidelines the circumstances in which elections are considered to be consistent or inconsistent. 

 

For example, if a student has obtained FEE-HELP assistance for part of the tuition fees for an affected unit, and also made an up-front payment for the tuition fees for the same affected unit, the student can only elect to receive a re-credit of the FEE-HELP assistance (under new subparagraph 166-25(7)(a)(iii) of HESA) and refund of the up-front payment (under new subparagraph 62F(7)(a)(iii) of the TEQSA Act) or elect to enrol in a suitable replacement unit or suitable replacement course (under new subparagraph 166-25(7)(a)(i) of HESA and new subparagraph 62F(7)(a)(i) of the TEQSA Act).

 

Section 62G Failure to discharge obligations

 

New section 62G provides that a registered higher education provider is liable to a civil penalty and commits an offence of strict liability if the provider defaults in relation to a domestic student and the provider fails to discharge its obligations to the student in accordance with section 62F. In both instances, the penalty is 60 penalty units.

 

Subsection 62G(3) provides that the maximum penalty for each day that an offence under subsection 62G(2) continues is 10 per cent of the maximum penalty that can be imposed in respect of that offence. The note under subsection 62G(3) clarifies that subsection 62G(2) is a continuing offence under section 4K of the Crimes Act 1914.

 

Making contravention of this provision subject to civil penalty is appropriate as it deters providers from non-compliance in circumstances where non-compliance will negatively impact on the TP Director’s ability to assist affected students. In addition, contravention of this provision may lead to the issuing of an infringement notice under the Regulatory Powers Act.

 

As this is a strict liability offence, mental elements (intention, recklessness, negligence) would not need to be proven, only the factual elements. However, strict liability allows the defence of honest and reasonable mistake of fact. Applying strict liability to these offences is consistent with the Guide to Framing Commonwealth Offences, Infringement Notices and Enforcement Powers and is appropriate because the following apply:

 

·          the offence is not punishable by imprisonment;

·          the offence is punishable by a fine of up to 60 penalty units;

·          the offence is subject to specific criteria set out in the section and not subject to broad uncertain criteria;

·          the offence is likely to significantly enhance the effectiveness of the enforcement regime under the TEQSA Act in deterring non-compliance from providers in order to achieve the overall purposes of the Bill to provide tuition protection to domestic higher education students;

·          there are legitimate grounds for penalising persons lacking fault, for example, the TP Director will likely remind and place the provider on notice if the TP Director is concerned that a provider is unlikely to meet certain requirements to guard against the possibility of any contravention; and

·          the contravention of this section is subject to an infringement notice scheme (see new section 131D, which triggers Part 5 of the Regulatory Powers Act in relation to Part 5A of the TEQSA Act), which allows for a less serious form of enforcement in cases where prosecution is not justified (prosecution would only be pursued in more serious cases).  

 

Section 62H Providers to notify of outcome of discharge of obligations

 

Under new section 62H, if a registered higher education provider defaults in relation to a domestic student under new section 62C, the provider must give a notice to the TP Director within 7 days after the end of the provider obligation period about:

 

·          whether the provider discharged its obligations to the student in accordance with section 62F;

·          if the provider arranged a replacement unit or replacement course for the student, the details of the student, replacement unit or replacement course and evidence of the student’s acceptance of the offer;

·          if the provider provided a refund to the student, the details of the student and details of the amount of the refund.

 

The purpose of this notification obligation is to ensure that the TP Director is aware of whether a provider has discharged its obligations to a student, and if not, the TP Director is able to take steps to assist the student under section 62J. The notice must comply with any requirements prescribed by the Guidelines.

 

Failure to comply with section 62H gives rise to a civil penalty and an offence of strict liability. In both instances, the penalty is 60 penalty units. Making contravention of this provision subject to a civil penalty is appropriate as it deters providers from non-compliance in circumstances where non-compliance will negatively impact on the TP Director’s ability to identify a suitable replacement course for a student affected by a provider default. In addition, contravention of this provision may lead to the issuing of an infringement notice under the Regulatory Powers Act.

 

As this is a strict liability offence, mental elements (intention, recklessness, negligence) would not need to be proven, only the factual elements. However, strict liability allows the defence of honest and reasonable mistake of fact. Applying strict liability to these offences is consistent with the Guide to Framing Commonwealth Offences, Infringement Notices and Enforcement Powers and is appropriate because the following apply:

 

·          the offence is not punishable by imprisonment;

·          the offence is punishable by a fine of up to 60 penalty units;

·          the offence is subject to specific criteria set out in the section and not subject to broad uncertain criteria;

·          the offence is likely to significantly enhance the effectiveness of the enforcement regime under the TEQSA Act in deterring non-compliance from providers in order to achieve the overall purposes of the Bill to provide tuition protection to domestic higher education students;

·          there are legitimate grounds for penalising persons lacking fault, for example, the TP Director will likely remind and place the provider on notice if the TP Director is concerned that a provider is unlikely to meet certain requirements to guard against the possibility of any contravention; and

·          the contravention of this section is subject to an infringement notice scheme (see new section 131D, which triggers Part 5 of the Regulatory Powers Act in relation to Part 5A of the TEQSA Act), which allows for a less serious form of enforcement in cases where prosecution is not justified (prosecution would only be pursued in more serious cases).  

 

 

 

 

 

Subdivision B - Role of the Higher Education Tuition Protection Director

 

Section 62J Student placement service

 

New section 62J applies if the TP Director determines that a registered higher education provider has defaulted in relation to a domestic student and either the provider has failed to discharge its obligations under section 62F to the student by the end of the provider obligation period or the provider is unlikely to be able to discharge its obligations to the student by the end of the provider obligation period.

For example, the TP Director may consider it is unlikely that a provider will discharge its obligations to the student if the provider enters into liquidation, which would inevitably mean the provider is unlikely to offer a suitable replacement course or suitable replacement unit or provide a refund to the student.

 

The TP Director must decide whether the TP Director is satisfied that there are or are not any suitable replacement courses for the student (see subsection 62J(2)).

 

Matters relating to whether a course is a suitable replacement course

 

Under subsection 62J(3), the TP Director must have regard to the following matters in deciding whether there is a suitable replacement course:

 

·          whether the replacement course leads to the same or a comparable qualification as the original course;

·          what credits the student may receive for the units of study of the original course successfully completed by the student;

·          mode of delivery and location of the replacement course;

·          whether the student will incur unreasonable additional fees and be able to attend the course without unreasonable impacts on the student’s prior commitments;

·          any other matters prescribed in the Guidelines.

 

A course that is a suitable replacement course for one student affected by a provider’s default may not be a suitable replacement course for another student affected by the same default.

 

In some circumstances, a course may still be a suitable replacement course even where not all of the above matters are met; for example, a student may agree to online delivery of the replacement course at a replacement provider despite the original course being face-to-face. An example of when a replacement course may unreasonably impact on the student’s prior commitments is if the teaching hours for the replacement course interfere with the student’s prior work commitments.

 

Suitable replacement course available

 

If the TP Director is satisfied that there is one or more suitable replacement courses for the student, the TP Director must give a written notice to the student in accordance with subsection 62J(4). The notice must provide the student a choice to do one of the following:

 

·          enrol in a suitable replacement course;

·          enrol in another course; or

·          elect to receive a refund of the amount equal to the amount the provider was liable to pay the student under subsection 62F(8) (i.e. sum of up-front payments for the affected unit).

 

Paragraphs 62J(4)(b) to (f) specify important information that the TP Director must include in the notice so that the student can make an informed choice about their options above, including information about replacement course options and the contact details of the proposed replacement provider(s) so that the student can undertake their own enquiries. The Minister may also prescribe other matters in the Guidelines which the notice must include.

 

Accepting an offer of a suitable replacement course

 

New subsections 62J(5) to (7) set out the requirements for a student that chooses to accept an offer in a suitable replacement course. The student must accept the offer in writing within the period of 30 days after the TP Director gives notice under subsection 62J(4) or within a shorter or longer period (not exceeding 12 months) as otherwise determined by the TP Director. The acceptance must be given to the provider of the suitable replacement course.

 

No suitable replacement course available

 

If the TP Director is satisfied that there is no suitable replacement course for the student, the TP Director must provide a written notice to the student in accordance with new subsection 62J(8), which includes:

 

·          an explanation of the matters the TP Director must have regard to;

·          an explanation of the student’s right to request reconsideration, under section 187D, of the TP Director’s decision within 28 days after the day on which the student is given the notice;

·          a statement that, to facilitate early refunds, the student may, at any time during the 28 days, give the TP Director notice in writing that the student will not seek reconsideration of the decision;

·          a statement that, if the student does not apply for reconsideration, an amount equal to the amount the provider was liable to pay to the student under subsection 62F(8) will be paid to the student.

 

The student’s right of internal review is for a reconsideration of the TP Director’s decision under subsection 62J(2), which is not reviewable by the Administrative Appeals Tribunal. Item 20 inserts new section 187A into the TEQSA Act that deals with reviewable decisions relating to tuition protection. An explanation about the absence of external merits review for this decision is provided under Item 20.

 

If a student notifies the TP Director prior to the expiry of the 28 days that they will not seek reconsideration of the decision, this does not mean that the actual refund will occur within the 28 days, but rather that the process to facilitate the refund will occur sooner.

 

Elections for FEE-HELP or HECS-HELP must be consistent

 

Similar to above, subsection 62J(9) provides that the student must make a consistent choice under HESA and the TEQSA Act if the student was also entitled to FEE-HELP or HECS-HELP assistance for any affected units of the original course. For example, a student who is entitled to FEE-HELP assistance or HECS-HELP assistance for an affected unit of an original course also makes an up-front payment for the same affected unit. If the student elects, under subparagraph 166-25(4)(a)(iii) of HESA to have an amount re-credited to the student’s HELP balance, then the student’s election under subsection 62J(4) of the TEQSA Act must be to receive a refund under subparagraph 62J(4)(iii).

 

Section 62K When payments must be made from the Higher Education Tuition Protection Fund

 

New section 62K provides when the TP Director must make a payment from the Fund. One of the purposes of the Fund under section 167-10 of HESA (as amended by Item 25 of Schedule 2 to the Bill) is to make payments in connection with tuition protection under the TEQSA Act and the Guidelines (paragraph 167-10(1)(b)) of HESA).

 

If a domestic student accepts an offer of a replacement course in accordance with new subsections 62J(5), (6) and (7), the TP Director must pay an amount equal to the amount the defaulting provider was liable to pay the student under subsection 62F(8) to the provider of the replacement course ( replacement provider ) from the Fund. This means that the TP Director will pay the replacement provider the same amount of the student’s up-front payments paid to the defaulting provider for the affected units. This ensures that the replacement provider has the funds to deliver the replacement units of a suitable replacement course to the student. 

 

Under subsection 62K(2), the TP Director must pay the domestic student an amount equal to the amount a provider was liable to pay to the student under subsection 62F(8) if the provider has failed to discharge its obligations to the student by the end of the provider obligation period and either the TP Director decides that is no suitable replacement course for the student or the student elects a refund. This means that the TP Director must pay from the Fund an amount to the student equalling the sum of any up-front payments made by the student to the defaulting provider in relation to the affected units.

 

Subsection 62K(3) provides that the TP Director is not required to pay an amount to a student under subsection 62K(2) if:

·          the TP Director becomes aware of the circumstances referred to in paragraph 62K(2)(a) more than 12 months after the day the provider defaulted in relation to the student; or

·          the TP Director becomes aware of the circumstances referred to in subparagraph 62K(2)(b)(ii) more than 12 months after the day the TP Director gives notice to the student under subsection 62J(4). For example, the TP Director is not required to pay a refund to the student if the student elects a refund more than 12 months after the day the student received the TP Director’s notice.

Subsection 62K(4) provides that the TP Director may pay a greater amount than the amount required to be paid under subsection 62K(1) to a replacement provider if the TP Director considers that to do so would best protect the interests of the student and would not jeopardise the sustainability of the Fund.

 

Subsection 62K(5) provides that if the TP Director is required to pay an amount to a replacement provider and the amount required to be paid is more than the cost of the replacement course, then the TP Director must pay the difference to the student. The purpose of this provision is to ensure that the student does not pay in excess of the replacement course costs if the up-front payments for the affected units of the original course were greater than the cost of the replacement course. This provision allows the student to receive a repayment of the cost difference between the original course and replacement course.  

 

Under subsection 62K(6), a payment under section 62K must be made in accordance with any requirements prescribed by the Guidelines. For example, the Minister may prescribe in the Guidelines that the TP Director must make the payment via electronic transfer to the replacement provider or student’s nominated bank account.

 

Section 62L Consequences of payments being made from the Higher Education Tuition Protection Fund

 

New subsection 62L(1) provides that if a registered higher education provider defaults in relation to a domestic student and the TP Director pays an amount in accordance with section 62K, then the student ceases to have any claim against the provider in respect of any up-front payments made for the affected units. For example, the student cannot pursue a claim for breach of contract against the defaulting provider for a refund of the up-front payments made for the affected unit. 

 

Provider must pay back the TP Director

 

If the TP Director makes a payment under section 62K to a replacement provider or student, then the defaulting provider must pay an amount equal to the amount the TP Director paid in relation to the student back to the TP Director. This is because effectively, the TP Director was required to step in and discharge the defaulting provider’s obligation on behalf of that provider to assist the student. The TP Director may, on behalf of the Commonwealth, recover that amount from the provider as a debt due to the Commonwealth by action in a court of competent jurisdiction under new subsection 62L(3). If the provider had granted the TP Director a charge or other security over any of its assets, the TP Director may enforce the charge or security in satisfaction, or partial satisfaction, of the debt (for example, if the provider enters into administration or liquidation) (subsection 62L(4)).

 

Section 62M Notification obligations for payments made from the Higher Education Tuition Protection Fund

 

If the TP Director makes a payment under section 62K to a replacement provider or student, then the TP Director must give a written notice to the defaulting provider stating the amounts of any such payments. The purpose of this notice is to advise the defaulting provider of the amount the TP Director paid to discharge the provider’s obligations to the student in order for the provider to pay back the TP Director under subsection 62L(2).

 

Subdivision C - Obligations on replacement providers

 

Section 62N Obligations of providers to provide information about replacement courses

 

The TP Director may, by written notice, require a registered higher education provider to provide such information that the TP Director reasonably requires to enable the TP Director to make a decision under new subsection 62J(2) regarding suitable replacement courses for a domestic student in relation to whom a provider has defaulted. The information must be provided in a form (if any) approved by the TP Director and in accordance with such other requirements as the TP Director makes.

 

The disclosure of personal information about students between the TP Director and replacement provider under this section is reasonable, necessary and proportionate to achieving the legitimate aim of assisting affected students to be placed in a suitable replacement course in accordance with the overall objectives of the Bill to provide tuition protection. For example, the TP Director may request information from a possible replacement provider about course information, including about the offered modes of delivery (e.g. online or face-to-face) in order to assess whether that course is a suitable replacement course for a particular student in consideration of the student’s circumstances.

 

Failure to comply with section 62N gives rise to a civil penalty and an offence of strict liability. In both instances, the penalty is 60 penalty units. Making contravention of this provision subject to a civil penalty is appropriate as it deters providers from non-compliance in circumstances where non-compliance will negatively impact on the TP Director’s ability to identify a suitable replacement course for a student affected by a provider default. In addition, contravention of this provision may lead to the issuing of an infringement notice under the Regulatory Powers Act.

 

As this is a strict liability offence, mental elements (intention, recklessness, negligence) would not need to be proven, only the factual elements. However, strict liability allows the defence of honest and reasonable mistake of fact. Applying strict liability to these offences is consistent with the Guide to Framing Commonwealth Offences, Infringement Notices and Enforcement Powers and is appropriate because the following apply:

 

·          the offence is not punishable by imprisonment;

·          the offence is punishable by a fine of up to 60 penalty units;

·          the offence is subject to specific criteria set out in the section and not subject to broad uncertain criteria;

·          the offence is likely to significantly enhance the effectiveness of the enforcement regime under the TEQSA Act in deterring non-compliance from providers in order to achieve the overall purposes of the Bill to provide tuition protection to domestic higher education students;

·          there are legitimate grounds for penalising persons lacking fault, for example, the TP Director will likely remind and place the provider on notice if the TP Director is concerned that a provider is unlikely to meet certain requirements to guard against the possibility of any contravention; and

·          the contravention of this section is subject to an infringement notice scheme (see new section 131D, which triggers Part 5 of the Regulatory Powers Act in relation to Part 5A of the TEQSA Act), which allows for a less serious form of enforcement in cases where prosecution is not justified (prosecution would only be pursued in more serious cases).  

 

Section 62P Obligations of replacement providers

 

New section 62P sets out the obligations that apply to a registered higher education provider when a student accepts an offer of a replacement unit or replacement course with that provider.

 

The replacement provider must give written notice to the TP Director within 14 days after the student has accepted the offer of a replacement unit or replacement course with the provider. This is important to ensure that the TP Director is made aware that the student has been successfully placed in a replacement unit or replacement course with that provider.

 

The replacement provider must also ensure that the student is:

 

·          for a replacement course, granted credits for units of study of the original course successfully completed by the student;

·          if the student has paid tuition fees for an affected unit of the original course, not charged tuition fees for a replacement unit or a replacement unit of the replacement course; and

·          enrolled in the replacement course or replacement unit as soon as practicable.

 

These requirements ensure that the student is afforded appropriate protections when enrolling in a replacement unit or replacement course.

 

Contravention of this provision is a civil penalty and an offence of strict liability. In both instances, the penalty is 60 penalty units. Making contravention of this provision subject to a civil penalty is appropriate as it deters providers from non-compliance in circumstances where non-compliance will impact on the ability of students, whose provider has defaulted, to continue their studies in a suitable replacement unit or course. In addition, contravention of this provision may lead to the issuing of an infringement notice under the Regulatory Powers Act.

 

As this is a strict liability offence, mental elements (intention, recklessness, negligence) would not need to be proven, only the factual elements. However, strict liability allows the defence of honest and reasonable mistake of fact. Applying strict liability to these offences is consistent with the Guide to Framing Commonwealth Offences, Infringement Notices and Enforcement Powers and is appropriate because the following apply:

 

·          the offence is not punishable by imprisonment;

·          the offence is punishable by a fine of up to 60 penalty units;

·          the offence is subject to specific criteria set out in the section and not subject to broad uncertain criteria;

·          the offence is likely to significantly enhance the effectiveness of the enforcement regime under the TEQSA Act in deterring non-compliance from providers in order to achieve the overall purposes of the Bill to provide tuition protection to domestic higher education students;

·          there are legitimate grounds for penalising persons lacking fault, for example, the TP Director will likely remind and place the provider on notice if the TP Director is concerned that a provider is unlikely to meet certain requirements to guard against the possibility of any contravention; and

·          the contravention of this section is subject to an infringement notice scheme (see new section 131D, which triggers Part 5 of the Regulatory Powers Act in relation to Part 5A of the TEQSA Act), which allows for a less serious form of enforcement in cases where prosecution is not justified (prosecution would only be pursued in more serious cases).  

 

Section 62Q Obligations of replacement providers regarding enrolment information

 

New section 62Q requires a replacement provider to keep up to date records of the following in relation to affected students:

 

·          the student’s full name and contact details;

·          the name of the replacement unit or the replacement course (and units of study in that course) that the student is currently enrolled in;

·          any tuition fees paid (or incurred) by the student for the replacement unit or for any units of study of the replacement course;

·          payments made by the TP Director under section 62K to the provider in relation to the replacement course;

·          details of the replacement unit or units of study successfully completed by the student;

·          details of the credits granted to the student for the replacement unit or for the units of study of the original course successfully completed by the student.

 

Contravention of section 62Q is a civil penalty and an offence of strict liability. In both instances, the penalty is 60 penalty units.

 

As this is a strict liability offence, mental elements (intention, recklessness, negligence) would not need to be proven, only the factual elements. However, strict liability allows the defence of honest and reasonable mistake of fact. Applying strict liability to these offences is consistent with the Guide to Framing Commonwealth Offences, Infringement Notices and Enforcement Powers and is appropriate because the following apply:

 

·          the offence is not punishable by imprisonment;

·          the offence is punishable by a fine of up to 60 penalty units;

·          the offence is subject to specific criteria set out in the section and not subject to broad uncertain criteria;

·          the offence is likely to significantly enhance the effectiveness of the enforcement regime under the TEQSA Act in deterring non-compliance from providers in order to achieve the overall purposes of the Bill to provide tuition protection to domestic higher education students;

·          there are legitimate grounds for penalising persons lacking fault, for example, the TP Director will likely remind and place the provider on notice if the TP Director is concerned that a provider is unlikely to meet certain requirements to guard against the possibility of any contravention; and

·          the contravention of this section is subject to an infringement notice scheme (see new section 131D, which triggers Part 5 of the Regulatory Powers Act in relation to Part 5A of the TEQSA Act), which allows for a less serious form of enforcement in cases where prosecution is not justified (prosecution would only be pursued in more serious cases).  

 

Subdivision D - Miscellaneous

 

Section 62R Arrangements for payment between providers

 

If a registered higher education provider (original provider) for a unit of study or an Australian course of study enters into an arrangement with one or more other registered higher education providers to provide the unit or course jointly for one or more domestic students:

 

·          the arrangement must be such that the students pay their tuition fees directly to the original provider; or

·          the arrangement must be in writing and provide for the receipt and disbursement of any tuition fees paid by students directly to any of the other providers.

 

These arrangements will ensure that the TP Director can identify which provider has obtained up-front payments from a student for their tuition fees in order to assist the student if the original provider defaults in relation to the student and fails to discharge its obligations to the student.

 

However, for the purposes of determining the original provider’s obligations under the tuition protection requirements, any tuition fees paid by students directly to any of the other third party providers are taken to have been paid directly to the original provider. This requirement is important to ensure that if the original provider defaults in relation to a student under section 62C, that original provider must still meet their obligations under subdivision A to either place the student in a suitable replacement unit or suitable replacement course or provide a refund of any up-front payments to the student.

 

Contravention of section 62R is a civil penalty and an offence of strict liability. In both instances, the penalty is 60 penalty units.

 

As this is a strict liability offence, mental elements (intention, recklessness, negligence) would not need to be proven, only the factual elements. However, strict liability allows the defence of honest and reasonable mistake of fact. Applying strict liability to these offences is consistent with the Guide to Framing Commonwealth Offences, Infringement Notices and Enforcement Powers and is appropriate because the following apply:

 

·          the offence is not punishable by imprisonment;

·          the offence is punishable by a fine of up to 60 penalty units;

·          the offence is subject to specific criteria set out in the section and not subject to broad uncertain criteria;

·          the offence is likely to significantly enhance the effectiveness of the enforcement regime under the TEQSA Act in deterring non-compliance from providers in order to achieve the overall purposes of the Bill to provide tuition protection to domestic higher education students;

·          there are legitimate grounds for penalising persons lacking fault, for example, the TP Director will likely remind and place the provider on notice if the TP Director is concerned that a provider is unlikely to meet certain requirements to guard against the possibility of any contravention; and

·          the contravention of this section is subject to an infringement notice scheme (see new section 131D, which triggers Part 5 of the Regulatory Powers Act in relation to Part 5A of the TEQSA Act), which allows for a less serious form of enforcement in cases where prosecution is not justified (prosecution would only be pursued in more serious cases).  

 

Section 62S Other tuition protection information must be provided

 

New section 62S applies to a registered higher education provider if the TP Director believes on reasonable grounds that the provider has information relevant to the TP Director’s functions under the TEQSA Act. The TP Director may by, written notice, request a provider to give information within the period (not shorter than 14 days after the notice is given) and manner specified in the notice.

 

The disclosure of personal information about students between the TP Director and a provider under this section is reasonable, necessary and proportionate to achieving the legitimate aim of the TP Director’s role to assist affected students if the defaulting provider fails to discharge its obligations. For example, in order to provide a refund to the student, the TP Director may need to seek further information from the defaulting provider about the details of the student’s up-front payments (such as invoices, receipts of payments) for the affected units in order for the TP Director to correctly refund the student under subsection 62K(2).

 

A provider must comply with the notice, and a contravention of section 62S is a civil penalty and an offence of strict liability. In both instances, the penalty is 60 penalty units.

 

As this is a strict liability offence, mental elements (intention, recklessness, negligence) would not need to be proven, only the factual elements. However, strict liability allows the defence of honest and reasonable mistake of fact. Applying strict liability to these offences is consistent with the Guide to Framing Commonwealth Offences, Infringement Notices and Enforcement Powers and is appropriate because the following apply:

 

·          the offence is not punishable by imprisonment;

·          the offence is punishable by a fine of up to 60 penalty units;

·          the offence is subject to specific criteria set out in the section and not subject to broad uncertain criteria;

·          the offence is likely to significantly enhance the effectiveness of the enforcement regime under the TEQSA Act in deterring non-compliance from providers in order to achieve the overall purposes of the Bill to provide tuition protection to domestic higher education students;

·          there are legitimate grounds for penalising persons lacking fault, for example, the TP Director will likely remind and place the provider on notice if the TP Director is concerned that a provider is unlikely to meet certain requirements to guard against the possibility of any contravention; and

·          the contravention of this section is subject to an infringement notice scheme (see new section 131D, which triggers Part 5 of the Regulatory Powers Act in relation to Part 5A of the TEQSA Act), which allows for a less serious form of enforcement in cases where prosecution is not justified (prosecution would only be pursued in more serious cases).  

 

Section 62T Right to refund may be cancelled etc. without compensation

 

Under new section 62T, a right to be paid an amount under section 62K is granted on the basis that the right may be cancelled, revoked, terminated or varied by or under later legislation and no compensation is payable if the right is so cancelled, revoked, terminated or varied.

 

Section 62U Continuing application of Part to certain persons

 

New section 62U provides that Part 5A continues to apply in relation to a person that was a registered higher education provider as if the person were still a registered higher education provider for the purposes of dealing with or resolving any matter that arose during, or that relates to, the period when the person was a registered higher education provider.

 

For example, if a registered higher education provider defaults in relation to a student under section 62C, and TEQSA cancels the provider’s registration under section 101 of the TEQSA Act following the default, the provider is still required to meet their obligations in relation to tuition protection under Part 5A despite its registration status. The provider must discharge its obligations under section 62F, notify the TP Director under section 62H, repay the TP Director under subsection 62L(2) (if applicable) and provide tuition protection information as requested by the TP Director under section 62S.

 

Item 9 Subdivision A of Division 2 of Part 7 (after the heading)

 

Item 9 inserts a Note that there are offence and civil penalty provisions in Part 5A of the TEQSA Act also. The Note clarifies that the Bill introduces new offence and civil penalty provisions in Part 5A relating to tuition protection outside of Subdivision A of Division 2 of Part 7 of the TEQSA Act.

 

Item 10 Section 104

 

Item 10 repeals the guide to the Subdivision A - Offences and civil penalty provisions. The repeal of this guide is appropriate because not all offence and civil penalties are now contained within Division 2 of Part 7 because of the new offences and civil penalties included in Part 5A through this Bill. The guidance material with reference to the Criminal Code and Crimes Act 1914 is not necessary guidance that needs to be included in the TEQSA Act and can be readily available through other Commonwealth guidance material and applicable laws.

 

Item 11 At the end of subsection 115(1)

 

Item 11 adds a Note at the end of subsection 115(1) to clarify that civil penalty provisions under Part 5A relating to tuition protection are enforceable under the Regulatory Powers Act (see new section 131C).

 

Item 12 After subsection 125(1)

 

Item 12 inserts new subsection 125(1A) after subsection 125(1), to provide that subsection 125(1) does not apply in relation to a provision of Part 5A or to the associated provisions of Part 5A. The Note clarifies that enforceable undertakings in relation to Part 5A relating to tuition protection are obtained under the Regulatory Powers Act (see new section 131E).

 

Item 13 Paragraphs 127(1)(a) and (b)

 

Item 13 repeals and substitutes paragraphs 127(1)(a) and (b) to clarify that injunctions under section 127 relate to the contravention of the TEQSA Act, other than Part 5A.

 

Item 14 At the end of subsection 127(1)

 

Item 14 adds a Note at the end of subsection 127(1) to clarify that injunctions in relation to Part 5A relating to tuition protection are obtained under the Regulatory Powers Act (see new section 131F).

 

Item 15 At the end of Part 7

 

Item 15 adds new Division 5 - Enforcement in relation to tuition protection, at the end of Part 7 to provide for the application of the Regulatory Powers Act in relation to Part 5A.

 

The Regulatory Powers Act provides for a standard suite of provisions in relation to monitoring and investigation powers, as well as enforcement through the use of civil penalties, infringement notices, enforceable undertakings and injunctions. Implementing the Regulatory Powers Act in respect to Part 5A supports the Government’s regulatory reform agenda, as it simplifies and streamlines Commonwealth regulatory powers across the statute book. In particular, implementing the Regulatory Powers Act in respect to Part 5A streamlines the Commonwealth’s regulatory powers across the higher education sector as it relates to tuition protection for domestic students as the amendments made under item 16 reflect the existing regulatory powers in Part 5-8 of HESA (which applies to tuition protection). Many registered higher education providers whom Part 5A applies to are also higher education providers within the meaning of HESA, and will have mirroring obligations across both the TEQSA Act and HESA as it relates to tuition protection and domestic students.

 

Item 15 triggers Parts 2 to 7 of the Regulatory Powers Act in respect to Part 5A of the TEQSA Act.

 

Division 5 - Enforcement in relation to tuition protection

 

Section 131A Monitoring powers

 

New section 131A triggers Part 2 of the Regulatory Powers Act in relation to the provisions of Part 5A relating to tuition protection that are subject to monitoring. The Note under subsection 131A(1) explains that Part 2 of the Regulatory Powers Act creates a framework for monitoring whether the TEQSA Act has been complied with, including powers of entry and inspection.

 

Information given in compliance or purported compliance with a provision under Part 5A is subject to monitoring under Part 2 of the Regulatory Powers Act. Part 2 of the Regulatory Powers Act creates a framework for monitoring whether the information is correct, which includes powers of entry and inspection.

 

Subsection 131A(3) provides that for the purposes of Part 2 of the Regulatory Powers Act:

 

·          each HESA investigator (as defined in HESA) and authorised officer (as appointed under section 94 of the TEQSA Act) is an ‘authorised applicant’;

·          each HESA investigator and authorised officer is an ‘authorised person’;

·          a judicial officer (as defined in HESA) is an ‘issuing officer’;

·          for an authorised person who is a HESA investigator, the Secretary is the relevant chief executive;

·          for an authorised person who is an authorised officer, the Chief Executive Officer of TEQSA is the relevant chief executive; and

·          each applicable court (as defined in HESA) is a relevant court.

 

An authorised person may be assisted by other persons in exercising powers or performing functions or duties under Part 2 of the Regulatory Powers Act in relation to the provisions of Part 5A.

 

Section 131B Investigation powers

 

New section 131B provides that Part 5A is subject to investigation under Part 3 of the Regulatory Powers Act if it is a civil penalty provision or an offence against the Crimes Act 1914 or the Criminal Code that relates to this Act. The Note under subsection 131B(1) explains that Part 3 of the Regulatory Powers Act creates a framework for investigating whether a provision has been contravened, including the powers of entry, search and seizure. The same persons as described above for new subsection 131A(3) are also applicable for the purposes of Part 3 of the Regulatory Powers Act.

 

An authorised person may be assisted by other persons in exercising powers or performing functions or duties under Part 3 of the Regulatory Powers Act in relation to the provisions of Part 5A.

 

Section 131C Civil penalty provisions

 

New section 131C provides that each civil penalty provision in Part 5A is enforceable under Part 4 of the Regulatory Powers Act. The Note under subsection 131C(1) explains that Part 4 of the Regulatory Powers Act allows a civil penalty provision to be enforced by obtaining an order for a person to pay a pecuniary penalty for the contravention of the provision.

 

New subsection 131C(2) provides that for the purposes of Part 4 of the Regulatory Powers Act as it applies in relation to Part 5A:

 

·          the TP Director is an authorised applicant; and

·          each applicable court is a relevant court.

 

Section 131D Infringement notices

 

New section 131D provides that a civil penalty provision under Part 5A is subject to an infringement notice under Part 5 of the Regulatory Powers Act. The Note under subsection 131D(1) explains that Part 5 of the Regulatory Powers Act creates a framework for using infringement notices in relation to provisions.

 

Subsection 131D(2) provides that for the purposes of Part 5 of the Regulatory Powers Act as it applies in relation to Part 5A, the TP Director is an infringement officer and is the relevant chief executive. This approach reflects the existing role of the TP Director under subsection 215-20(3) of HESA.

 

Section 131E Enforceable undertakings

 

New section 131E provides that undertakings made in relation to Part 5A are enforceable under Part 6 of the Regulatory Powers Act. The Note under subsection 131E(1) explains that Part 6 of the Regulatory Powers Act creates a framework for accepting and enforcing undertakings relating to compliance with provisions.

 

New subsection 131E(2) provides that for the purposes of Part 6 of the Regulatory Powers Act as it applies in relation to Part 5A:

 

·          the Secretary is an authorised person; and

·          each applicable court is a relevant court.

 

Section 131F Injunctions

 

New section 131F provides that Part 5A is enforceable under Part 7 of the Regulatory Powers Act. The Note under subsection 131F(1) explains that Part 7 of the Regulatory Powers Act creates a framework for using injunctions to enforce provisions.

 

Subsection 131F(2) provides that for the purposes of Part 7 of the Regulatory Powers Act as it applies in relation to Part 5A:

 

·          the Secretary is an authorised person; and

·          each applicable court is a relevant court.

 

Items 16-17 - ­Subsection 154L

 

Items 16-17 amend section 154L in relation to delegations by the Chief Executive Officer of TEQSA. Item 17 repeals and substitutes subsection 154L(2).

 

New subsection 154(L)(2) provides that the Chief Executive Officer may, in writing, delegate his or her powers and functions under the Regulatory Powers Act as it applies in relation to Part 5A of the TEQSA Act to a member of the staff of TEQSA who is an SES employee (or an acting SES employee) or an APS employee who holds or performs the duties of an Executive Level 2 position or an equivalent position. Before delegating any functions or powers under subsections 154L(1) and (2), the Chief Executive Officer must consider the matters at subsection 154L(3) to determine whether the delegate has the appropriate skills and qualifications to perform the function or power.

 

The Chief Executive Officer has new powers and functions under sections 131A and 131B as it relates to monitoring and investigation powers for the purposes of Part 5A. It is appropriate for the Chief Executive Officer to delegate his or her powers and functions to the level of SES employee (including acting SES employee) or an APS employee who holds or performs the duties of an Executive Level 2 position (or equivalent position). TEQSA is a small agency with limited SES employees which may require the Chief Executive Officer to also delegate these functions and powers to the level of APS employee at the Executive Level 2 position. In delegating any powers, the Chief Executive Officer must consider whether the delegate is sufficiently senior for the staff member to perform the function or exercise the power or whether the employee has appropriate qualifications or expertise to perform the function or duty or exercise the power. 

 

The Chief Executive Officer’s delegation power under subsection 154L(2) also mirrors subsection 215-40(2) of HESA, which also allows the Chief Executive Officer of TEQSA to delegate powers and functions under the Regulatory Powers Act as it applies in relation to HESA to the same level of officers. This means the same level of delegates under HESA and the TEQSA Act will be able to exercise powers in respect to monitoring and investigation powers relevant to tuition protection under both Acts.

 

Item 18 After the heading to Division 1 of Part 10

 

Item 18 inserts new heading, Subdivision A - Review of TEQSA decisions, after the heading to Division 1 of Part 10 as a result of Item 20.

 

Item 19 Section 183 (at the end of the heading)

 

Item 19 adds the words, ‘of TEQSA’ at the end of the heading at section 183 to clarify that section 183 only applies to reviewable decisions of TEQSA as a result of Item 20.

 

Item 20 At the end of Division 1 of Part 10  

 

Item 20 adds at the end of Division 1 of Part 10, Subdivision B - Review of tuition protection decisions. Given reviewable decisions relating to tuition protection are not decisions made by TEQSA, it is appropriate to add a new subdivision to separately deal with the process of reviewable decisions relating to tuition protection under Part 5A. New sections 187B-187E reflect the approach in HESA in respect to similar reviewable decisions under that Act.

 

Section 187A Reviewable decisions relating to tuition protection

 

New section 187A sets out the reviewable decisions in relation to tuition protection and the decision maker for each of those decisions. The table under section 187A outline that the following are reviewable decisions:

 

·          a decision by the Minister that Part 5A applies, or does not apply, to a registered higher education provider (under paragraphs 62B(2)(a) or (b));

·          a decision that the TP Director is satisfied that there are one or more suitable replacement courses available for a student (paragraph 62J(2)(a)); and

·          a decision that the TP Director is not satisfied that there is a suitable replacement course available for a student (paragraph 62J(2)(b)).

 

Section 187B Reviewer of decisions

 

New section 187B provides that the reviewer of a reviewable decision relating to tuition protection is the decision maker unless subsection 187B(2) applies. If the reviewable decision was made by a delegate of a decision maker and the decision is to be reconsidered by a delegate of the decision maker, then the delegate who reconsiders the decision must be a person who was not involved in making the decision and occupies a position that is senior to that occupied by a person involved in making the initial decision.

 

Section 187C Reviewer may reconsider reviewable decisions

 

New section 187C provides that the reviewer of a reviewable decision may reconsider the decision if the reviewer is satisfied that there is sufficient reason to do so at its own initiative. The reviewer may reconsider the decision even if an affected person has not made an application for reconsideration under section 187D or the decision has been confirmed, varied or set aside under section 187D and an application has been made to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal ( AAT ) under section 187E.

 

Following reconsideration, the decision maker must confirm, vary or set aside and substitute a new decision under subsection 187C(3). The decision on review takes effect on the day specified in the decision on review or if a day is not specified, on the day on which the decision on review was made. The reviewer must also give written notice of the decision on review to the person to whom the decision relates, within a reasonable period after the decision is made and must contain a statement of reasons.

 

The Note under subsection 187C(6) also explains that section 27A of the Administrative Appeals Tribunal Act 1975 requires the person to be notified of the person’s review rights.

 

Section 187D Reconsideration of reviewable decisions on request

 

New section 187D allows a person whose interests are affected by a reviewable decision to request the reviewer to reconsider the decision. For example, a registered higher education provider affected by the Minister’s decision that Part 5A does not apply to that provider under paragraph 62B(2)(b) may request that the Minister reconsider that decision.

 

The request must be made by written notice given to the reviewer within 28 days, or such longer period as the reviewer allows, after the day on which the person first received notice of the decision and set out the reasons for the request.

 

After receiving the request, the reviewer must reconsider the decision and confirm, vary or set aside and substitute a new decision under subsection 187D(4). However, the reviewer is not required to reconsider the decision if the decision was made under paragraph 62J(2)(b) and the student gave notice in writing, under paragraph 62J(8)(c) that the student would not seek reconsideration of the decision relating to the TP Director’s decision that there is not a suitable replacement course for the student.

 

The decision on review takes effect on the day specified in the decision on review or if a day is not specified, on the day on which the decision on review was made. The reviewer must also give written notice of the decision on review to the person to whom the decision relates, within a reasonable period after the decision is made and must contain a statement of reasons.

 

The reviewer is taken to have confirmed the decision if the reviewer does not give notice of a decision to the person within 45 days after receiving the person’s request. The Note under subsection 187D(9) also explains that section 27A of the Administrative Appeals Tribunal Act 1975 requires the person to be notified of the person’s review rights.

 

Section 187E AAT review of reviewable decisions

 

New section 187E provides that a person whose interests are affected by a reviewable decision may make an application to the AAT for the review of a reviewable decision that has been confirmed, varied or set aside under sections 187C or 187D.

 

However, an application cannot be made to the AAT for the review of a decision made under paragraphs 62J(2)(a) or (b) about suitable replacement courses. In consideration of the Administrative Review Council’s publication ‘ What decisions should be subject to merits review?’, the TP Director’s decision about whether there is a suitable replacement course for a student is not a decision that is suitable for external merits review. The decisions would have no appropriate or effective remedy through an external review process, because the decision would only operate for a limited period such that the effect of the decision is likely to be spent by the time of an external review. Due to the nature of provider defaults, it is important that the TP Director acts quickly and efficiently to either place the affected student in a suitable replacement course or provide a refund in order for the student to continue their studies with minimal disruption. If the TP Director decided that there was no suitable replacement course for the student, then the TP Director would provide a refund to the student. In practice, if the student became aware of a suitable replacement course that was not identified by the TP Director, then the TP Director would consider the option and place the student if suitable. The external merits review process would not provide any appropriate or effective remedy for the student, because the student is likely to have already received a refund or come to an agreed resolution with the TP Director.

 

Further, the reasons for the absence of external merits review for these decisions are because:

 

·          clear parameters are set out at subsection 62J(3) about what the TP Director must have regard to in determining whether a course is a suitable replacement course for the student. This is intended to ensure that the first instance decision is reasonable and justifiable, in respect of which students may seek reconsideration of the decision through internal review processes under section 187D (as above);

·          in practice, the TP Director will actively work with replacement providers and students to identify suitable replacement courses for a student. It is intended that, to the extent possible, a student would be provided with the option of several suitable replacement courses to choose between;

·          when a provider defaults, it would be in the best interests for students to receive a resolution of the issue of whether or not there is a suitable replacement course as soon as practicable to allow them to continue their studies. Engaging in the potentially lengthy external merits review process may mean that students are unable to continue their studies until the matter is resolved;

·          in respect of a decision that there is no suitable replacement course for a student - the student will receive a refund of their up-front payments for the affected units which means they should not be financially disadvantaged should there not be a suitable replacement course;

·          further, legislation does not compel a replacement provider to enrol a student in a replacement course which means practically, if external merits review  was available and considered there are potentially other suitable replacement courses, it cannot assist the students if no providers are prepared to deliver that course to the student.

 

 

Item 21 After paragraph 192(1)(c)

 

Item 21 inserts new paragraph (ca) after paragraph 192(1)(c) to allow TESQA to disclose higher education information (as defined in the TEQSA Act) to the TP Director for the purposes of administering laws relating to higher education. Given the TP Director will have a role in administering laws relating to higher education (under the TEQSA Act and HESA) in respect to tuition protection, it is appropriate that TEQSA is authorised under this new paragraph to disclose higher education information to the TP Director.

 

Item 22 After section 201

 

Section 201A Delegation by Secretary

 

Item 22 inserts new section 201A which provides the power for the Secretary to delegate (in writing) certain functions or powers under the TEQSA Act.

 

Subsection 201A(1) provides that the Secretary may delegate functions or powers under the TEQSA Act (other than paragraph 134(1)(i) or Division 5 of Part 7) to an APS employee who holds or performs the duties of an APS Level 6 position, or an equivalent or higher position in the Department. Relevantly, the Secretary will have new powers under section 26A (see Item 7 of Schedule 1 to the Bill) relating to the collection of information and documents related to tuition protection from registered higher education providers. Due to administrative and operational necessity, it is not practicable for the Secretary to personally collect information under section 26A, therefore it is intended that the Secretary would delegate these powers to appropriate APS employees in the Department having regard to the matters under subsection 201A(3).

 

Subsection 201A(2) provides that the Secretary may also delegate (in writing) powers and functions under the Regulatory Powers Act as it applies in relation to Part 5A, to an SES employee or an acting SES employee in the Department.

 

Before delegating a function or power, the Secretary must have regard to the matters at subsection 201A(3) to determine whether the delegation is appropriate, including having regard to whether the proposed delegate is sufficiently senior to perform the function or exercise the power or whether the person has appropriate qualifications or expertise to perform the function or duty or exercise the power. This criterion is a safeguard that ensures that any delegation is limited to categories of SES or APS employees that are appropriate to perform the function or exercise the power to be delegated.

 

In addition, the delegate must comply with any directions of the Secretary in exercising powers or performing functions under a delegation.

 

Section 201B Delegation by the Minister

 

Item 22 inserts new section 201B allows the Minister to delegate (in writing) all or any of the Minister’s functions or powers under Part 5A to the Secretary of the Department. The Note under subsection 201B(1) explains that sections 34AA to 34A of the Acts Interpretation Act 1901 contain provisions relating to delegations. The Minister will have a new power under subsection 62B(2) to make a determination that Part 5A applies, or does not apply to a specified registered higher education provider.

 

The Secretary must comply with any directions of the Minister in exercising powers or performing functions under a delegation. 

 

Item 23 After section 203

 

Item 23 inserts new section 203A which requires that before 1 July 2021, the Minister must commence a review of the operation of Part 5A (about tuition protection). This review is to be conducted at the same time as the review of the operation of Parts 5 and 5A of the ESOS Act, Parts 5-1A and 5-1B of HESA and Parts 5A and 5B of the VET Student Loans Act 2016 in respect to the operation of the tuition protection arrangements under those Acts. The Minister is required to cause a report to be prepared of the review and for the report to be tabled in each House of the Parliament within 15 sitting days after the completion of the preparation of the report. 

 

Item 24 Application of amendments

 

Item 24 is an application provision which provides that the amendments made by Schedule 1 to the Bill apply in relation to provider defaults that occur on or after the commencement of the Bill (once enacted) (i.e. 1 January 2021).

 

Item 25 Saving provision

 

Item 25 is a saving provision which ensures that any instrument made under subsection 154L of the TEQSA Act that was in force immediately before the commencement of this Bill (once enacted) continues in force (and may be dealt with) as if it had been made under that section as amended by this Bill (once enacted). 

 

 

 



 

Schedule 2   Amendment of the Higher Education Support Act 2003       

 

Summary

 

Part 1 of Schedule 2 amends HESA to reflect the following definitional changes made by the Bill:

 

Previous defined term in HESA

New defined term

 

HELP Tuition Protection Director

 

Higher Education Tuition Protection Director

 

HELP Tuition Protection Fund

 

Higher Education Tuition Protection Fund

 

HELP Tuition Protection Fund Advisory Board

 

Higher Education Tuition Protection Fund Advisory Board

 

 

Updating the above terms in HESA, will allow the single TP Director, Fund and Advisory Board to administer and govern tuition protection under HESA and the TEQSA Act as it applies to domestic up-front fee paying students and students entitled to HELP in the higher education sector. This will enable tuition protection arrangements to operate more effectively and efficiently, and ensure that consideration can be given to both schemes by the TP Director and Advisory Board, as many private higher education providers have both domestic up-front paying and HELP students.

 

Part 2 of Schedule 2 amends HESA to authorise:

·          the collection, use and disclosure of personal information between relevant parties (e.g. Department, TP Director and TEQSA) for the purposes of performing functions or exercising powers under the TEQSA Act and HESA as it relates to tuition protection;

·          the disclosure of information from Commonwealth officers (i.e. Departmental officers) to the Australian Government Actuary (AGA) for the purposes of obtaining services from AGA to assist Departmental officers to perform duties or functions or exercise powers under the TEQSA Act, HESA, HELP Tuition Protection Levy Act or proposed Levy Bill.

 

Consequently, these amendments to HESA in Part 2 of Schedule 2 will allow the TP Director to effectively administer the tuition protection arrangements to quickly and efficiently assist up-front fee paying students when a provider defaults, so that students can carry on their higher education studies without disruption.

 

Part 3 of Schedule 2 amends the existing tuition protection arrangements in HESA to include new provider obligations to assist affected students following a provider default. The defaulting provider must discharge its obligations to the student, and if not, the TP Director must assist the student to either be placed in a suitable replacement course or provided a re-credit of the student’s HELP balance. These amendments provide for a consistent approach to tuition protection for HELP students and students that make up-front payments (see Schedule 1 to the Bill).

 

Detailed explanation

 

Part 1 - Amendments relating to the Higher Education Tuition Protection Fund, Higher Education Tuition Protection Director and Higher Education Tuition Protection Fund Advisory Board

 

Higher Education Support Act 2003

 

Consequential amendments relating to Higher Education Tuition Protection Fund

 

Section 167-1 of HESA establishes the HELP Tuition Protection Fund , which the dictionary at subclause 1(1) of Schedule 1 to HESA defines as meaning the HELP Tuition Protection Fund as established by section 167-1.

 

Items 13 and 14 of Schedule 2 to the Bill amend section 167-1 to continue the HELP Tuition Protection Fund, under the new name of Higher Education Tuition Protection Fund ( Fund ).

 

Items 67 and 68 of Schedule 2 to the Bill accordingly amend the dictionary in Schedule 1 of HESA to delete the definition of HELP Tuition Protection Fund and insert a definition of Higher Education Tuition Protection Fund (which means the Fund established by section 167-1 of HESA).

 

The following items in Schedule 2 to the Bill make consequential amendments to HESA to reflect the HELP Tuition Protection Fund being renamed as the Higher Education Tuition Protection Fund.

 

Item

HESA provision

1

159-1 (updated outline)

11

Part 5-1B of Chapter 5 (changed title of Fund)

12

Division 1 of Part 5-1B of Chapter 5 (changed heading)

15, 16, 20, 22

167-5 (changed heading and changed title of Fund)

24, 25

167-10 (changed heading and changed title of Fund)

33, 35

167-20 (changed title of Fund)

66

238-7(1) (changed title of Fund)

 

 

 

Consequential amendments relating to Higher Education Tuition Protection Fund Advisory Board

 

Section 167-30 of HESA establishes the HELP Tuition Protection Fund Advisory Board , which the dictionary at subclause 1(1) of Schedule 1 to HESA defines as meaning the HELP Tuition Protection Fund Advisory Board as established by section 167-30.

 

Items 53 and 54 of Schedule 2 to the Bill amend section 167-30 to change references to the HELP Tuition Protection Fund Advisory Board to its new name of Higher Education Tuition Protection Fund Advisory Board ( Advisory Board ) .  

 

Items 67 and 68 of Schedule 2 to the Bill accordingly amend the dictionary in Schedule 1 of HESA to delete the definition of HELP Tuition Protection Fund Advisory Board and insert a definition of Higher Education Tuition Protection Fund Advisory Board (which means the Board established by section 167-30 of HESA).

 

The following items in Schedule 2 to the Bill make consequential amendments to HESA to reflect the HELP Tuition Protection Fund Advisory Board being renamed as the Higher Education Tuition Protection Fund Advisory Board.

 

Item

HESA provision

1

159-1 (updated outline)

11

Part 5-1B of Chapter 5 (changed title of Advisory Board)

55

167-35 (changed heading and changed title of Advisory Board)

52

Division 3 of Part 5-1B of Chapter 5 (changed heading)

57-58

167-40 (changed heading and changed title of Advisory Board)

 

Consequential amendments relating to Higher Education Tuition Protection Director

 

Section 167-15 of HESA establishes the office of HELP Tuition Protection Director , which the dictionary at subclause 1(1) of Schedule 1 to HESA defines as meaning the person referred to in section 167-15.

 

Item 29 of Schedule 2 to the Bill repeals and substitutes section 167-15 to change references to the HELP Tuition Protection Director to the new name of Higher Education Tuition Protection Director ( TP Director ).  

 

Items 67 and 68 of Schedule 2 to the Bill accordingly amend the dictionary in Schedule 1 of HESA to delete the definition of HELP Tuition Protection Director and insert a definition of Higher Education Tuition Protection Director (which means the person referred to in section 167-15 of HESA).

 

The following items in Schedule 2 to the Bill make consequential amendments to HESA to reflect the office of HELP Tuition Protection Director being renamed as the Higher Education Tuition Protection Director.

 

Item

HESA provision

1

159-1 (updated outline)

3, 4, 5, 6

166-15 (changed heading and changed title of Director)

8

166-27(2)(a) (changed title of Director)

9

166-30(2) (changed title of Director)

10

166-35 (changed title of Director)

11

Part 5-1B of Chapter 5 (changed title of Director)

27

167-10(3) (changed title of Director)

28

Division 2 of Part 5-1B of Chapter 5 (changed heading)

30, 31, 33, 40

167-20 (changed heading and changed title of Director)

42-51

167-25 (changed heading and changed title of Director)

60

206-1 (table items 6 and 7) (changed title of Director)

61

215-15(3) (changed title of Director)

62

215-20(3) (changed title of Director)

64

238-5(1)(aa) (changed title of Director)

 

Other amendments in Part 1 of Schedule 2

Items 17, 18, 21 and 23 - Section 167-5

Section 167-5 of HESA (as amended) concerns amounts that are to be credited to the Higher Education Tuition Protection Fund.

Item 17 After paragraph 167-5(a)

Item 17 adds a new paragraph 167-5(aa), which provides that each amount of up-front payments tuition protection levy received from a registered higher education provider is to be credited to the Fund. The up-front payments tuition protection levy will be imposed through the Levy Bill.

Item 18 Paragraph 167-5(b)

Item 18 amends paragraph 167-5(b) to delete ‘paragraph 167-10(1)(f)’ and substitute ‘paragraph 167-10(1)(g)’. This is a consequential amendment to Item 26 of Schedule 2, which repeals and substitutes subsection 167-10(1).

Item 19 After paragraph 167-5(b)

Item 19 inserts paragraph 167-5(b) to provide that each amount paid by a registered higher education provider to the TP Director under subsection 62L(2) of the TEQSA Act will be credited to the Fund.

Item 21 After paragraph 167-5(d)

Item 21 adds a new paragraph 167-5(da), which provides that any penalties for late payment of the up-front payments tuition protection levy are to be credited to the Fund (see Item 7 of Schedule 1 to this Bill).

Item 23 At the end of section 167-5

Item 23 adds Note 3 at the foot of section 167-5 to explain that the up-front payments tuition protection levy is imposed by the Higher Education (Up-front Payments Tuition Protection Levy) Act 2020 and that the Guidelines deal with the collection of the levy. The Note also refers to new subsection 26A(5) of the TEQSA Act (see Item 7 of Schedule 1 to this Bill).

Items 24 and 25 - Section 167-10

Section 167-10 of HESA (as amended) expands the purposes of the Fund to deal with tuition protection under HESA and the TEQSA Act as introduced through this Bill (refer to Schedule 1 to the Bill).

Item 25 repeals and substitutes subsection 167-10(1). New subsection 167-10(1) provides that the purposes of the Fund are:

·          making payments in connection with tuition protection under HESA and the Higher Education Provider Guidelines;

·          making payments in connection with tuition protection under the TEQSA Act and the Guidelines;

·          paying for the Commonwealth’s costs, expenses and obligations relating to the performance of the TP Director’s functions (including managing the Fund);

·          paying the remuneration and allowances payable to the TP Director and members of the Advisory Board;

·          paying any amount that is required or permitted to be repaid;

·          reducing the balance of the Fund (and therefore its available appropriation) without making a real or notional payment.

Notes to new subsection 167-10(1) draws the reader’s attention to section 80 of the Public Governance, Performance and Accountability Act 2013 (about special accounts) and Part 5A of the TEQSA Act (about tuition protection - see Item 8 of Schedule 1 to this Bill).

Item 26 Subsection 167-10(2) (note)

Item 26 repeals and substitutes the Note to subsection 167-10(2) with two new Notes.

New Note 1 says, by way of example, that the Higher Education Provider Guidelines may provide that a replacement provider could receive a transfer payment if a student accepts an offer of a replacement course with that provider.

New Note 2 explains that, for the purposes of paragraph 167-10(1)(b) (making payments in connection with tuition protection under the TEQSA Act and the Guidelines), subsection 26A(6) of the TEQSA Act provides that the Guidelines may make provision for such payments (see Item 7 of Schedule 1 to this Bill).

 

Items 32, 34, 36, 37, 38, 39 - Subsection 167-20(1)

Subsection 167-20(1) of HESA (as amended) specifies the functions of the TP Director.

Item 32 adds a new function as paragraph 167-20(1)(aa) - namely to facilitate and monitor the placement of students under Part 5A of the TEQSA Act (as inserted into the TEQSA Act by Item 8 of Schedule 1 to this Bill) in relation to whom a registered higher education provider has defaulted (within the meaning of the TEQSA Act).

Item 34 repeals the function in paragraph 167-20(1)(c)(i) - reporting to the Minister on the operation of Part 5-1A of HESA (tuition protection) and replaces it with a new paragraph 167-20(1)(c)(i). New paragraph 167-20(1)(c)(i) provides that one of the functions of the TP Director is to report to the Minister on the operation of Part 5-1A of HESA and Part 5A of the TEQSA Act (both of which concern tuition protection).

Item 36 repeals and amends paragraph 167-20(1)(d) to remove reference to the TP Director’s ability to enter into a loan agreement for the benefit of the Fund, which is no longer a necessary function. The TP Director will continue to have the function of managing the Fund in a way that ensures that it is able to meet all its liabilities from time to time.

Item 37 amends paragraph 167-20(1)(e) to omit ‘for the purposes of section 12’ and substitute ‘under section 13’.

Item 38 adds a new paragraph 167-20(1)(ea) to provide that a further function of the TP Director is to make a legislative instrument every year under section 13 of the Higher Education (Up-front Payments Tuition Protection Levy) Act 2020 .

Item 39 adds a new paragraph 167-20(1)(fa) to provide that another function of the TP Director is recommending that TEQSA take action against a registered higher education provider that has defaulted in relation to a student (within the meaning of the TEQSA Act).

Item 41 At the end of section 167-20

Item 41 adds subsection 167-20(3) at the end of section 167-20 to include that the TP Director must, in performing a function, or exercising power, under section 167-20, have regard to how the performance of that function, or exercise of that power, will affect the tuition protection requirements under HESA and the TEQSA Act.

Item 59 Subsection 167-40(3)

Subsection 167-40(3) of HESA concerns the personal liability of members of the Advisory Board. Item 59 repeals and substitutes the subsection to provide that a member of the Advisory Board is not personally liable to any person apart from the Commonwealth for anything done, or omitted to be done, in good faith in the exercise or performance of the Advisory Board’s powers and functions. This simplifies the previous wording that instead related to anything done, or omitted to be done, in good faith in the exercise or performance of powers or functions under HESA or the Higher Education Support (HELP Tuition Protection Levy) Act 2020 .

Item 63 Subsection 215-40(1A)

Item 63 repeals and substitutes subsection 215-40(1A) as it applies to the TP Director’s delegation of regulatory powers. Item 63 provides that the TP Director may (in writing) delegate the TP Director’s functions and powers under the Regulatory Powers Act as it applies in relation to Part 5-1A of HESA and Part 5A of the TEQSA Act to an SES employee, or an acting SES employee in the Department.

The level of delegation is limited appropriately to the level of SES employees in Department in consideration of the scope and type of power that may be delegated.   

 

 

Item 65 Subsection 238-6

Section 238-6 Delegations by Higher Education Tuition Protection Director

Item 65 repeals and substitutes section 238-6 of HESA concerning delegations by the (re-named) TP Director.

Previously section 238-6 allowed the TP Director to, in writing, delegate any or all functions and powers under HESA (other than the paragraph 167-20(1)(e) legislative instrument making power) to an APS employee of the Department at the APS Level 6 or higher level).

New subsection 238-6(1) provides that the TP Director may, in writing, delegate any or all functions and powers under HESA (other than the paragraph 167-20(1)(e) and (ea) instrument making powers and Part 5-8) or under the TEQSA Act (other than Division 5 of Part 7 of that Act) to an APS employee of the Department at the APS Level 6 or higher level).

Notes to new subsection 238-6(1) explain:

·          paragraphs 167-20(1)(e) and (ea) give the TP Director the function of making legislative instruments under section 13 of the Higher Education Support (HELP Tuition Protection Levy) Act 2020 and section 13 of the Higher Education (Up-front Payments Tuition Protection Levy) Act 2020 ;

·          section 167-20 gives the TP Director certain tuition protection related functions under the TEQSA Act that may be delegated under section 238-6.

New subsection 238-6(2) introduces a safeguard by requiring that, before the TP Director delegates any powers or functions under subsection 238-6(1), the TP Director must have regard to whether:

·          in the case of a delegation to an APS employee holding, occupying or performing the duties of a specified office or position - whether that office or position is sufficiently senior for the person to perform the function or exercise the power; or

·          in the case of other delegations (i.e. to APS Level 6 or higher level employees of the Department) - whether the person has appropriate qualifications to perform the function or duty or exercise the power.

New subsection 238(3) introduces a further safeguard that requires a person exercising a power or function under a section 238-6 delegation to comply with any directions given by the TP Director.

The TP Director’s power to delegate functions and powers to APS Level 6 employees or higher levels is necessary due to the following factors:

·          the key role of the TP Director is to provide support to students when their provider defaults, and such defaults cause significant disruption and stress to students for whom support needs to be provided as soon as practicable. Thus, the office of the TP Director needs to be able to respond in a timely fashion at times of crisis that affect multiple students and for this, needs to have the ability to delegate administrative powers and functions to APS Level 6 employees (or higher levels) in the Department;

·          the TP Director is the same person who is undertaking the role of the TPS Director, and the VSL Tuition Protection Director. This means in the event of a default the TP Director may experience an increase in the volume of the resultant workload as providers usually enrol students in all three sectors, and thus delegation of TP Director’s powers and functions in the manner set out above is required to ensure affected students receive timely tuition protection support across the different schemes.

 

Item 69 Transitional provision

Section 238-7 of HESA requires the Minister, before 1 July 2021, to commence a review of Parts 5-1A and 5-1B of HESA (relating to tuition protection).

Item 69 provides that if a review under section 238-7 that has commenced, but has not been completed before the commencement of Item 69, is taken to be a review that commenced under section 238-7 as amended by this Bill (once enacted).

Item 70 Saving provision

Item 70 is a saving provision to ensure that any instrument made under subsection 215-40(1A) or section 238-6 of HESA that was in force immediately before the commencement of this Bill (once enacted) continues in force (and may be dealt with) as if it had been made under that subsection or section as amended by this Bill (once enacted).

Part 2 - Amendments relating to information collecting and sharing

Higher Education Support Act 2003

Item 71 Subsection 19-66A(2)(note)

Section 19-66A of HESA deals with tuition protection requirements. Item 71 repeals and substitutes the Note to subsection 19-66A(2). The new Note provides that the HELP tuition protection levy is imposed by the Higher Education Support (HELP Tuition Protection Levy) Act 2020 .

Item 72 Paragraph 179-5(b)

Section 179-5 of HESA defines personal information as being:

·          information or an opinion about an identified individual, or an individual who is reasonably identifiable, whether the information or opinion is true and whether the information or opinion is recorded in a material form or not; and

·          is obtained or created by an officer for the purposes of Chapter 2 or Chapters 3 and 4 of HESA.

Item 72 broadens the second leg of the definition to add in Part 5A of the TEQSA Act (see Item 8 of Schedule 1 to this Bill). This will mean that personal information collected in relation to tuition protection under the TEQSA Act will be covered by the protection of personal information provisions of HESA. Given the same Department and TP Director will be administering tuition protection under HESA and the TEQSA Act as it relates to higher education students, it is reasonable and appropriate for the definition of personal information to be expanded for the purposes of tuition protection.  

Item 73 After paragraph 179-15(1)(b)

Subsection 179-15(1) of HESA defines the meaning of an officer . Item 73 expands this definition by inserting a new paragraph 179-15(1)(ba) to provide that a person who was or is an officer of a registered higher education provider is also an officer.

Item 74 After subsection 179-15(3)

Item 74 inserts new subsection 179-15(3AA) to define officer of a registered higher education provider that is a person who is an officer or employee of the provider, or a person who performs services for or on behalf of a provider, even though the person is not an officer or employee of the provider. The inclusion of this definition is necessary given some registered higher education providers (as defined in the TEQSA Act) are not necessarily higher education providers (as defined in HESA) and therefore would not come within the existing definition of officer of a higher education provider under subsection 179-15(3). Officers of registered higher education providers will be required to obtain or create personal information about students as it relates to the new tuition protection requirements in the TEQSA Act. 

 

 

Item 75 Paragraph 179-15(4)(a)

Paragraph 179-15(4)(a) of HESA defines the meaning of official employment of a Commonwealth officer. Item 75 repeals and substitutes paragraph 179-15(4)(a) to expand this definition by including the Higher Education Support (HELP Tuition Protection Levy) Act 2020, Higher Education (Up-front Payments Tuition Protection Levy) Act 2020 and TEQSA Act. Under the expanded definition, the official employment of a Commonwealth officer is the performance of duties or functions, or the exercise of powers under HESA, VET Student Loans Act 2016 and the above Acts.

This amendment will allow a Commonwealth officer (e.g. Departmental officers and TP Director) to disclose personal information in the course of official employment to persons described under section 179-20 as it relates to exercising powers and functions in relation to tuition protection under the various Acts. The expansion of the permitted disclosures of personal information is a reasonable, necessary and proportionate measure to enable Commonwealth officers to perform functions in relation to tuition protection under HESA and the TEQSA Act as it relates to providing tuition protection to domestic higher education students affected by a provider default.

Item 76 After paragraph 179-15(4)(b)

Item 76 adds new paragraph 179-15(4)(ba) to include that the official employment of an officer of a registered higher education provider is service as such an officer.

Item 77 After paragraph 179-20(a)

Item 77 adds new paragraph 170-20(aa) to authorise the disclosure by a Commonwealth officer of personal information to a person in connection with the provision of actuarial services for the purposes of assisting the officer to perform duties or functions or exercise powers mentioned in paragraph 179-15(4)(a). The purpose of this permitted disclosure is to authorise a Commonwealth officer (e.g. Departmental officer or TP Director) to disclose personal information

(e.g. students) to the Australian Government Actuary to obtain expert actuarial services in connection with assisting that officer to perform functions and powers as it relates to tuition protection legislation. For example, the Australian Government Actuary may provide advice to the Department as it relates to setting the levies imposed by the Higher Education Support (HELP Tuition Protection Levy) Act 2020 and Higher Education (Up-front Payments Tuition Protection Levy) Act 2020.

This disclosure is a reasonable, necessary and proportionate measure to enable Commonwealth officers to obtain actuarial services to assist them to perform their role and functions as it relates to administering tuition protection.

Item 78 After paragraph 179-20(c)

Item 78 adds new paragraph 179-20(caa) to authorise the disclosure by a Commonwealth officer of personal information to an officer of a registered higher education provider to assist the provider’s officer in performing duties or functions, or in exercising powers, under, or for the purposes of HESA or the TEQSA Act. This disclosure is a reasonable, necessary and proportionate measure which is required for the purposes of administering tuition protection effectively to affected students under HESA and the TEQSA Act. For example, Departmental officers assisting the TP Director may need to disclose personal information about a student to an officer of a registered higher education provider (as a replacement provider) in order for the replacement provider to place the student in a suitable replacement course in the event of a provider default.

Item 79 After paragraph 179-20(d)

Item 79 adds new paragraph 179-20(da) to authorise the disclosure by an officer of a registered higher education provider of personal information to a Commonwealth officer to assist the Commonwealth officer in the Commonwealth officer’s official employment. This disclosure is a reasonable, necessary and proportionate measure which is required for the purposes of administering tuition protection effectively to affected students under HESA and the TEQSA Act. For example, an officer of a registered higher education provider that defaults in relation to a student may need to disclose personal information about affected students to the TP Director and Departmental officers in order to assist that student in respect to tuition protection under HESA and the TEQSA Act.

Item 80 Subclause 1(1) of Schedule 1

Item 80 inserts the definition of officer of a registered higher education provider to have the meaning given by subsection 179-15(3AA).

 

 



 

Part 3 - Other amendments

Higher Education Support Act 2003

Items 81 and 82 - Section 36-24A

Section 36-24A of HESA sets out when higher education providers that have defaulted are required to pay amounts to a person or to the Commonwealth.

Item 81 repeals and substitutes paragraph 36-24A(1)(e) of HESA which sets out when a higher education provider must, on the Secretary’s behalf, determine that section 36-24A applies to a person. The criteria in new paragraph 36-24A(1)(e) are any of the following: 

·          the provider identifies under paragraph 166-25(4)(b) that there is no suitable replacement unit or replacement course for the person;

·          the person elects under subparagraph 166-25(7)(a)(iii) to have an amount equal to amounts of HECS-HELP assistance they received for the unit re-credited to their HELP balance;

·          the TP Director decides under paragraph 166-26B(2)(b) that the TP Director is not satisfied there is a suitable replacement course available for the person;

·          the person elects under subparagraph 166-26B(4)(a)(iii) to have an amount equal to amounts of HECS-HELP assistance they received for the unit re-credited to their HELP balance.

Item 82 repeals and substitutes subsection 36-24A(2). New subsection 36-24A(2) provides that a provider must pay the Commonwealth an amount equal to any HECS-HELP assistance the person was entitled to for the unit.

Items 83 Section 97-42(1)(d)

Section 97-42 of HESA concerns re-crediting a person’s HELP balance in relation to HECS-HELP assistance in the event of provider default.

Subsection 97-42(1) of HESA sets out the criteria for when a higher education provider must, on the Secretary’s behalf, re-credit a person’s HELP balance with an amount equal to the amounts of HECS-HELP assistance the person received for a unit of study. Item 83 repeals and substitutes paragraph 97-42(1)(d). The criteria in new paragraph 97-42(1)(d) are: 

·          the provider identifies under paragraph 166-25(4)(b) that there is no suitable replacement unit or suitable replacement course for the person;

·          the person elects under subparagraph 166-25(7)(a)(iii) to have an amount equal to amounts of HECS-HELP assistance they received for the unit re-credited to their HELP balance;

·          the TP Director makes a decision under paragraph 166-26B(2)(b) that the TP Director is not satisfied there is a suitable replacement course available;

·          the person elects under subparagraph 166-26B(4)(a)(iii) to have an amount equal to amounts of HECS-HELP assistance they received for the unit re-credited to their HELP balance.

 

Items 84 Section 104-42(1)(d)

Section 104-42 of HESA concerns re-crediting a person’s FEE-HELP balance if there is provider default or the person elects for re-crediting.

Subsection 104-42(1) sets out the criteria when a higher education provider must, on the Secretary’s behalf, re-credit a person’s HELP balance with an amount equal to the amounts of FEE-HELP assistance the person received for a unit of study .

Item 84 repeals and substitutes paragraph 104-42(1)(d).The criteria in new paragraph 104-42(1)(d) are any of the following: 

·          the provider identifies under paragraph 166-25(4)(b) that there no suitable replacement unit or replacement course for the person;

·          the person elects under subparagraph 166-25(7)(a)(iii) to have an amount equal to amounts of FEE-HELP assistance they received for the unit re-credited to their HELP balance;

·          the TP Director makes a decision under paragraph 166-26B(2)(b) that the TP Director is not satisfied there is a suitable replacement course available;

·          the person elects under subparagraph 166-26B(4)(a)(iii) to have an amount equal to amounts of FEE-HELP assistance they received for the unit re-credited to their HELP balance.

Item 85 Section 166-1

Item 85 repeals section 166-1 and substitutes the outline to reflect the changes to tuition protection. The outline includes reference to the fact that if the student has made an up-front payment for the unit the defaulting provider may also have obligations under Part 5A of the TEQSA Act in relation to the default.

Item 86 After subsection 166-5(2)

Section 166-5 of HESA concerns the application of Part 5-1A of Division 1 of Chapter 5 HESA (tuition protection).

Subsection 166-5(2) provides that, despite subsection 166-5(1), the Minister may by written notice determine Part 5-1A applies or does not apply to a specified higher education provider.

Item 86 repeals subsection 166-5(2) and adds a new subsection 166-5(2A) which provides that, in considering where it is appropriate that Part 5-1A applies or does not apply to a provider, the Minister must have regard to all of the following:

·          the risk of the provider defaulting in relation to one or more students;

·          whether the provider is financially viable and likely to remain so;

·          any non-compliance or risk of non-compliance with HESA, or legislative instruments made under HESA;

·          any advice the Secretary, TEQSA or the TP Director gives to the Minister about any of the above matters;

·          any other matter the Minister considers appropriate.

This amendment provides a limitation to the Minister’s discretionary power to make a determination, to ensure that the Minister must consider the relevant matters identified above in determining whether it is appropriate to exercise the power.

Item 87 Subsection 166-5(5)

Item 87 repeals and substitutes subsection 166-5(5) to clarify that despite subsection 166-5(1), sections 166-27, 166-30 and 166-32 apply to all higher education providers. Section 166-27 deals with provider obligations to provide information about replacement courses, section 166-30 deals with obligations of providers who provide replacement courses and section 166-32 deals with the requirement of providers who provide replacement courses to keep up to date enrolment information.

Item 88 At the end of subsection 166-10(1)

Subsection 166-10(1) provides for when a higher education provider defaults in relation to a student. Item 88 adds a Note to subsection 166-10(1) which explains that, if a student has made any up-front payments in relation to units of study of an original course, the provider may also have defaulted in relation to the student under section 62C of the TEQSA Act (see Item 8 of Schedule 1 to this Bill).

Item 89 After paragraph 166-15(3)(a)

Subsection 166-15(3) requires a provider that has defaulted in relation to a student to give a written notice within three business days to the TP Director specifying certain matters. Item 89 adds new subparagraphs 166-15(3)(aa)(i) and (ii) to add the following additional matters:

·          whether the provider intends to discharge its obligations under section 166-25 to the student; and

·          if appropriate, how the provider intends to discharge those obligations.

Item 90 Section 166-25

Item 90 repeals and substitutes section 166-25.

Section 166-25 Obligation on providers in case of default

New subsection 166-26(1) provides that section 166-25 applies if a higher education provider defaults in relation to a student.

Provider obligations

New subsection 166-25(2) provides that a provider must, within 14 days after a default (the provider obligation period ) discharge its section 166-25 obligations to the student.

Under new subsection 166-25(3), the provider discharges its obligations to a student if either of the following applies:

·          the provider arranges for the student to be offered a place in a suitable  replacement unit or suitable replacement course and the student accepts the offer in writing;

·          the provider re-credits the student’s HELP balance in accordance with either subsection 97-42(1) or subsection 104-42(1) and pays an amount to the Commonwealth in accordance with either subsection 36-24A(2) or 110-5(1).

Suitable replacement units or suitable replacement courses

New subsection 166-25(4) requires that a provider must identify whether:

·          there are one or more suitable replacement units or suitable replacement courses for the student; or

·          there is no suitable replacement units or suitable replacement courses for the student.

Matters relating to whether a course is a suitable replacement course

New subsection 166-25(5) requires a provider to have regard to the following when identifying whether there is a suitable replacement course:

·          whether the replacement course leads to the same or comparable qualification as the original course;

·          what credits the student may receive for units successfully completed in the original course;

·          whether the mode of delivery of the replacement course is the same as the mode of delivery of the original course;

·          the location from where the replacement course will primarily be delivered;

·          whether a student will incur unreasonable additional fees and will be able to attend the course without unreasonable impacts on the student’s prior commitments;

·          any additional matters that may be prescribed in the Higher Education Provider Guidelines.

Matters relating to whether a unit is a suitable replacement unit

New subsection 166-25(6) requires a provider to have regard to the following when identifying whether there is a suitable replacement unit:

·          whether the student will receive credit under the student’s original course for the replacement unit;

·          whether the mode of delivery of the replacement unit is the same as the mode of delivery of the affected unit;

·          the location from where the replacement unit will be primarily delivered;

·          whether a student will incur unreasonable additional fees and will be able to attend the unit without unreasonable impacts on the student’s prior commitments;

·          any additional matters that may be prescribed in the Higher Education Provider Guidelines.

Suitable replacement unit or suitable replacement course available

New subsection 166-25(7) requires that where paragraph 166-25(4)(a) applies (the provider identified that there are one or more suitable replacement units or courses for the student) it must give the student a written notice including the following:

·          a statement the student can decide to do one of the following:

o    enrol in a suitable replacement unit or suitable replacement course;

o    enrol in another unit of study or course;

o    elect to have the amount of FEE-HELP or HECS-HELP assistance the student received for the affected unit re-credited to their HELP balance;

·          a description of the suitable replacement unit or suitable replacement course and the qualification it leads to;

·          provider contact details for each suitable replacement unit or course;

·          an explanation that, if the student has paid tuition fees or a student contribution amount for the affected unit of the original course, these amounts would not be payable for a suitable replacement unit or a replacement unit of a suitable replacement course;

·          an explanation that, if the student enrols in another unit or course other than the replacement unit or course, the provider of that unit or course is not obliged to offer a replacement unit without charge to the student;

·          an explanation of the matters that the provider must consider under subsections 166-25(5) and (6);

·          any additional matters that may be prescribed in the Higher Education Provider Guidelines.

Elections for up-front payments must be consistent

New subsection 166-25(8) provides that, despite paragraph 166-25(7)(a) (student choice), if an up-front payment was made for any affected units of the original course, any elections made by the student under paragraph 166-25(7)(a) in relation to those units must be consistent with any elections made under paragraph 62F(4)(a) of the TEQSA Act in relation to those units (see Item 8 of Schedule 1 to this Bill). The Minister may prescribe in the Higher Education Provider Guidelines circumstances in which elections are considered to be consistent or inconsistent.

For example, a student who is entitled to FEE-HELP or HECS-HELP assistance for an affected unit of an original course also makes an up-front payment for the same affected unit. If the student elects, under subparagraph 166-25(7)(a)(i) to enrol in a suitable replacement course, then the student must also elect under subparagraph 62F(4)(a)(i) of the TEQSA Act to enrol in a suitable replacement course for that affected unit.

Section 166-26 Failure to discharge obligations

New section 166-26 provides that a higher education provider is liable to a civil penalty and commits an offence of strict liability, carrying a penalty of 60 penalty units, if they are a higher education provider that defaults in relation to a student and fails to discharge its section 166-25 obligations to the student (whether or not the provider is still a higher education provider at that time).

New subsection 166-26(3) provides that the maximum penalty for each day that a subsection 166-26(2) offence continues is 10 per cent of the maximum penalty that can be imposed (i.e. a maximum daily penalty of 6 penalty units).

A Note to subsection 166-26(3) explains that subsection 166-26(2) is a continuing offence under section 4K of the Crimes Act 1914 .

As this is a strict liability offence, mental elements (intention, recklessness, negligence) would not need to be proven, only the factual elements. However, strict liability allows the defence of honest and reasonable mistake of fact. Applying strict liability to these offences is consistent with the Guide to Framing Commonwealth Offences, Infringement Notices and Enforcement Powers and is appropriate because the following apply:

 

·          the offence is not punishable by imprisonment;

·          the offence is punishable by a fine of up to 60 penalty units;

·          the offence is subject to specific criteria set out in the section and not subject to broad uncertain criteria;

·          the offence is likely to significantly enhance the effectiveness of the enforcement regime under HESA in deterring non-compliance from providers in order to achieve the overall purposes of the Bill to provide tuition protection to domestic higher education students;

·          there are legitimate grounds for penalising persons lacking fault, for example, the TP Director will likely remind and place the provider on notice if the TP Director is concerned that a provider is unlikely to meet certain requirements to guard against the possibility of any contravention; and

·          the contravention of this section is subject to an infringement notice scheme (see section 215-20 ), which allows for a less serious form of enforcement in cases where prosecution is not justified (prosecution would only be pursued in more serious cases).  

 

Section 166-26A Providers to notify of outcome of discharge of obligations

New section 166-26A requires a higher education provider that defaults in relation to a student to give the TP Director a notice within 7 days after the end of the provider obligation period (see subsection 166-25(2)).

New section 166-26A requires the subsection 166-26A(1) notice to include the following:

·          whether the provider has discharged its section 166-25 obligations to the student;

·          if the provider has arranged a replacement unit or replacement course - details of the student and the replacement unit or course, and evidence of the student’s acceptance of an offer of a place in the replacement unit or course;

·          if the provider has re-credited the student’s HELP balance and paid an amount to the Commonwealth as per paragraph 166-25(3)(b) - details of the student, of the amount re-credited, and the amount paid.

New subsection 166-26A(3) provides that the notice must comply with any requirements specified in the Higher Education Provider Guidelines. The purpose of this notification obligation is to ensure that the TP Director is aware of whether a provider has discharged its obligations to a student, and if not, the TP Director is able to take steps to assist the student under section 166-26B.

Failure to comply with new section 166-26A gives rise to a civil penalty and an offence of strict liability. In both instances, the penalty is 60 penalty units. Making contravention of this provision subject to a civil penalty is appropriate as it deters providers from non-compliance in circumstances where non-compliance will negatively impact on the TP Director’s ability to assist students affected by provider default. In addition, contravention of this provision may lead to the issuing of an infringement notice under the Regulatory Powers Act.

 

As this is a strict liability offence, mental elements (intention, recklessness, negligence) would not need to be proven, only the factual elements. However, strict liability allows the defence of honest and reasonable mistake of fact. Applying strict liability to these offences is consistent with the Guide to Framing Commonwealth Offences, Infringement Notices and Enforcement Powers and is appropriate because the following apply:

 

·          the offence is not punishable by imprisonment;

·          the offence is punishable by a fine of up to 60 penalty units;

·          the offence is subject to specific criteria set out in the section and not subject to broad uncertain criteria;

·          the offence is likely to significantly enhance the effectiveness of the enforcement regime under HESA in deterring non-compliance from providers in order to achieve the overall purposes of the Bill to provide tuition protection to domestic higher education students;

·          there are legitimate grounds for penalising persons lacking fault, for example, the TP Director will likely remind and place the provider on notice if the TP Director is concerned that a provider is unlikely to meet certain requirements to guard against the possibility of any contravention; and

·          the contravention of this section is subject to an infringement notice scheme (see section 215-20 ), which allows for a less serious form of enforcement in cases where prosecution is not justified (prosecution would only be pursued in more serious cases).  

 

Section 166-26B Student placement service

New subsection 166-26B(1) provides the section applies if the TP Director has determined a higher education provider has defaulted in relation to a student, and the provider has either failed to discharge its section 166-25 obligations to the student by the end of the provider obligation period, or it is unlikely to be able to do so. For example, the TP Director may consider it is unlikely that a provider will discharge its obligations to the student if the provider enters into liquidation, which would inevitably mean the provider is unlikely to offer a suitable replacement course or suitable replacement unit or provide a refund to the student.

 

Higher Education Tuition Protection Director must decide

New subsection 166-26(B)(2) provides that the TP Director must be satisfied whether or not there are any suitable replacement courses for the student.

 

Matters relating to whether a course is a suitable replacement course

 

Under new subsection 166-26B(3), the matters the TP Director must have regard to in deciding whether there is a suitable replacement course are:

 

  • whether the replacement course leads to the same or a comparable qualification as the original course;
  • what credits the student may receive for the units of study in the original course that the student has successfully completed;
  • whether the mode of delivery of the replacement course is the same as the mode of delivery of the original course;
  • the location where the replacement course will be primarily delivered;
  • whether a student will incur additional fees for the replacement course that are unreasonable;
  • whether the student will be able to attend the replacement course without unreasonably impacting on the student’s prior commitments;
  • any other matters prescribed by the Higher Education Provider Guidelines.

 

Pursuant to new subsection 166-26B(4), if the TP Director is satisfied that there are one or more suitable replacement courses for a student, the TP Director must give a written notice to the student. This notice must include:

 

·          a statement the student can decide to do one of the following:

o    enrol in a suitable replacement course;

o    enrol in another course; or

o    elect to have the amount of FEE-HELP assistance or HECS-HELP assistance the student received for the affected unit re-credited to their HELP balance;

·          a description of the suitable replacement course and the qualification it leads to;

·          provider contact details for each suitable replacement course;

·          an explanation that, if the student has paid tuition fees or a student contribution amount for the affected unit of the original course, these amounts would not be payable for a replacement unit in a suitable replacement course;

·          an explanation that, if the student enrols in a course other than the replacement course, the provider of that course is not obliged to offer a replacement unit without charge to the student;

·          an explanation of the matters that the provider must consider under subsection 166-26B(3);

·          any additional matters that may be prescribed in the Higher Education Provider Guidelines.

Accepting an offer of a suitable replacement course

New subsection 166-26B(5) and (6) provide that, if the TP Director arranges for the student to be offered a place in a replacement course, the student may accept the offer and, if the student does so, the acceptance must be in writing to the replacement provider and must be made within the period specified in new subsection 166-26B(7).

 

Under new subsection 166-26B(7), the time for the student to accept the offer of a replacement course is:

·          within 30 days after the TP Director gives notice to the student under subsection 166-26B(4); or

·          if the TP Director determines exceptional circumstances apply:

o    within a shorter period as determined by the TP Director in writing; or

o    any longer period (not exceeding 12 months) as determined by the TP Director and agreed to by the student.

 

No suitable replacement course available

 

New subsection 166-26B(8) provides that, if the TP Director is satisfied that there is not a suitable replacement course, the TP Director is required to give the student a notice that:

 

  • explains the matters the TP Director is required to consider for the purposes of deciding whether there is a suitable replacement course;
  • explains the student’s right to request a reconsideration of the decision, under section 209-10, within 28 days after the student is given the notice;
  • a statement that to facilitate early re-crediting, the student can notify the Director in writing at any time during the 28 days that they will not seek review of the decision;
  • a statement that, if the student does not apply for reconsideration, an amount equal to the amounts of FEE-HELP or HECS-HELP assistance the student received for the affected unit will be re-credited to the student’s HELP balance.

 

Elections for up-front payments must be consistent

 

New subsection 166-26B(9) provides that, despite paragraph 166-26B(4)(a) (student choice), if an up-front payment was made for any affected units of the original course, any decision the student has made under that paragraph in relation to those units must be consistent with any elections made under paragraph 62J(4)(a) of the TEQSA Act in relation to those units. Under subsection 166-26B(10), the Minister may prescribe in the Higher Education Provider Guidelines circumstances in which elections are considered to be consistent or inconsistent for the purposes of subsection 166-26B(9).

 

For example, a student who is entitled to FEE-HELP assistance for an affected unit of an original course also makes an up-front payment for the same affected unit. If the student elects, under subparagraph 166-26B(4)(a)(iii) to have an amount re-credited to the student’s HELP balance, then the student must elect under subparagraph 62J(4)(a)(iii) of the TEQSA Act to receive an amount equal to the refund for the up-front payment for that same affected unit.

 

Item 91 Subsection 166-27(1)

 

Subsection 166-27(1) of HESA enables the TP Director to require a higher education provider to give information the Director reasonably requires to make a decision about suitable replacement courses for a student in respect of whom the provider has defaulted. Item 91 makes a consequential amendment to omit reference to subsection 166-25(1) and substitute subsection 166-26B(2).

 

 

 

Items 92 to 94 - Subsection 166-30

 

Section 166-30 of HESA provides obligations of replacement providers. Items 92 to 94 amend section 166-30 to reflect the fact that a student may accept an offer of a place in a replacement unit or replacement course. 

 

Item 95 Subsection 166-32(1)

 

Section 166-32 of HESA provides the obligations of replacement providers regarding enrolment information. Item 95 repeals and substitutes subsection 166-32(1) to update the section to include the requirement that replacement providers keep records in relation to a replacement unit or replacement course.

 

Item 96 Paragraph 166-35(1)(b)

Section 166-35 of HESA requires the TP Director to give notices to the Secretary and a provider that defaults in relation to a student where, under new paragraph 166-35(1)(b), either the TP Director is not satisfied there is a suitable replacement course for the student, or the student elects to have amounts of FEE-HELP or HECS-HELP assistance received for an affected unit re-credited to their HELP balance.

Item 97 At the end of Division 2 of Part 5-1A

 

Item 97 adds a news sections 166-40 and 166-45 at the end of Division 2 of Part 5-1A of HESA.

 

Section 166-40 Other tuition protection information must be provided

 

Subsection 166-40(1) provides that the new section applies to a higher education provider if both of the following apply:

 

·          the TP Director reasonably believes the provider has information relevant to the TP Director’s functions under HESA;

·          the TP Director has given the provider a written notice requesting it provide the TP Director with the information within the period specified in the notice (which must be no less than 14 days after the notice is given) and in the manner specified in the notice.

 

The disclosure of personal information about students between the TP Director and a provider under this section is reasonable, necessary and proportionate to achieving the legitimate aim of the TP Director’s role to assist affected students if the defaulting provider fails to discharge its obligations.

 

A provider must comply with the notice, and a contravention of this section is a civil penalty and an offence of strict liability. In both instances, the penalty is 60 penalty units.

 

As this is a strict liability offence, mental elements (intention, recklessness, negligence) would not need to be proven, only the factual elements. However, strict liability allows the defence of honest and reasonable mistake of fact. Applying strict liability to these offences is consistent with the Guide to Framing Commonwealth Offences, Infringement Notices and Enforcement Powers and is appropriate because the following apply:

 

·          the offence is not punishable by imprisonment;

·          the offence is punishable by a fine of up to 60 penalty units;

·          the offence is subject to specific criteria set out in the section and not subject to broad uncertain criteria;

·          the offence is likely to significantly enhance the effectiveness of the enforcement regime under HESA in deterring non-compliance from providers in order to achieve the overall purposes of the Bill to provide tuition protection to domestic higher education students;

·          there are legitimate grounds for penalising persons lacking fault, for example, the TP Director will likely remind and place the provider on notice if the TP Director is concerned that a provider is unlikely to meet certain requirements to guard against the possibility of any contravention; and

·          the contravention of this section is subject to an infringement notice scheme (see section 215-20 ), which allows for a less serious form of enforcement in cases where prosecution is not justified (prosecution would only be pursued in more serious cases).  

 

Section 166-45 Continuing application of Part to certain persons

 

Section 166-45 provides that Part 5-1A continues to apply in relation to a person that was a higher education provider as if the person were still a higher education provider, for the purposes of dealing with or resolving any matter that arose during, or that relates to, the period when the person was a higher education provider.

 

Item 98 Paragraph 167-5(b)

 

Section 167-5 of HESA concerns credits to the Fund. Item 98 makes a consequential amendment to paragraph 167-5(b) to omit ‘paragraph 36-24A(2)(b)’ and substitute ‘subsection 36-24A(2)’.

 

Item 99 Paragraph 169-15(4)(b)

 

Item 99 amends paragraph 169-15(4)(b) to clarify that a student may accept an offer of a place in a replacement unit or replacement course.

 

Items 100 and 101 - Paragraphs 209-10(4A)(a) and (b)

 

Section 209-10 of HESA concerns the reconsideration of reviewable decisions on request. Items 100 and 101 makes consequential amendments to paragraphs 209-10(4A)(a) and (b) as a result of above amendments.

 

Item 102 - Subsection 212-1(2)

 

Section 212-1 of HESA concerns AAT review of reviewable decisions and subsection 212-1(2) provides that, despite subsection 212-1(1), an application cannot be made to review a decision made under paragraphs 166-25(1)(a) or (b) (about a suitable replacement course).

 

Item 89 of Schedule 2 to this Bill repeals section 166-25 and substitutes new sections, including new section 166-26B about the student placement service. Item 102 makes a consequential amendment to subsection 212-1(2) to omit ‘paragraph 166-25(1)(a) or (b)’ and substitute ‘paragraph 166-26B(2)(a) or (b)’.

 

Item 103 Subclause 1(1) of Schedule 1

 

Item 103 inserts a definition of provider obligation period into the dictionary in subclause 1(1) of Schedule 1 to HESA. This definition draws reference to subsection 166-25(2) (see Item 91 of Schedule 2 to this Bill).

 

Item 104 Subclause 1(1) of Schedule 1 (definition of replacement unit)

 

Item 104 omits ‘of a *replacement course’ from the definition of replacement unit.

 

Item 105 Application of amendments

 

Item 105 provides that the amendments made by Part 2 of Schedule 2 to this Bill (once enacted) apply in relation to provider defaults that occur on or after the commencement of this Bill (as enacted) (i.e. 1 January 2021).

 

Item 106 Saving provision

 

Item 106 is a saving provision which provides that an instrument made under subsection 166-5(2) of HESA that was in force immediately before the commencement of this Bill (once enacted) continues in force (and may be dealt with) as if it had been made under that subsection as amendment by this Bill (once enacted).

 



 

Schedule 3   Amendment of other Acts       

 

Summary

 

Schedule 3 makes consequential amendments to the ESOS Act, the Higher Education Support (HELP Tuition Protection Levy) Act 2003 , the Student Identifiers Act 2014 and the VET Student Loans Act 2016 to reflect the following definitional changes made by the Bill:

 

Previous defined term in HESA

New defined term

 

HELP Tuition Protection Director

·          section 167-15 and Schedule 1 to HESA

 

Higher Education Tuition Protection Director

·          see Part 1 of Schedule 2 to the Bill

 

HELP Tuition Protection Fund

·          section 167-1 and Schedule 1 to HESA

 

Higher Education Tuition Protection Fund

·          see Part 1 of Schedule 2 to the Bill

 

HELP Tuition Protection Fund Advisory Board

·          section 167-30 and Schedule 1 to HESA

 

Higher Education Tuition Protection Fund Advisory Board

·          see Part 1 of Schedule 2 to the Bill

 

 

Detailed explanation

 

Education Services for Overseas Students Act 2000

 

Item 1 Subsection 54A(1) (note 2)

 

Item 1 amends Note 2 to section 54A of the ESOS Act (appointment of TPS Director) to replace ‘HELP Tuition Protection Director’ with ‘Higher Education Tuition Protection Director’.

 

Item 2 Paragraph 54B(e)

 

Section 54B sets out the functions of the TPS Director under the ESOS Act. Item 2 amends paragraph 54B(e) to remove the reference to the TPS Director’s ability to enter into a loan agreement for the benefit of the Overseas Students Tuition Fund, which is no longer a necessary function.

 

 

 

Item 3 Section 55A (note)

 

Item 3 amends the Note to section 55A of the ESOS Act (establishment of TPS Advisory Board) to replace ‘HELP Tuition Protection Fund Advisory Board’ with ‘Higher Education Tuition Protection Fund Advisory Board’.

 

Higher Education Support (HELP Tuition Protection Levy) Act 2003

 

Item 4 Subsection 9(4)

 

Item 4 amends subsection 9(4) of the Higher Education Support (HELP Tuition Protection Levy) Act 2003 (legislative instrument for the purposes of the administrative fee component) to replace ‘HELP Tuition Protection Fund’ with ‘Higher Education Tuition Protection Fund’.

 

Items 5 to 10 - Section 13

 

These Items amend various parts of section 13 of the Higher Education Support (HELP Tuition Protection Levy) Act 2003 (legislative instrument for the purposes of the risk rated component or special tuition protection component) to:

 

·          replace ‘HELP Tuition Protection Fund’ with ‘Higher Education Tuition Protection Fund’ (Items 4, 6 and 9)

·          replace ‘HELP Tuition Protection Director’ with ‘Higher Education Tuition Protection Director’ (Items 5, 7 and 10)

·          replace ‘HELP Tuition Fund Advisory Board’ with ‘Higher Education Tuition Protection Fund Advisory Board’ (Item 8).

 

Student Identifiers Act 2014

 

Items 11 and 12 - Subsection 4(1) (definitions)

 

These Items amend the subsection 4(1) definitions provision of the Student Identifiers Act 2014 to repeal the definition of ‘HELP Tuition Protection Director’ and insert a new definition of ‘Higher Education Tuition Protection Director’.

 

Item 13 - Paragraph 14(1)(nb)

 

Item 13 amends paragraph 14(1)(nb) of the Student Identifiers Act 2014 (request to verify or give a student identifier) to replace ‘HELP Tuition Protection Director’ with ‘Higher Education Tuition Protection Director’.

 

Item 14 - Paragraph 18B(2)(ba)

 

Item 14 amends paragraph 18B(2)(ba) of the Student Identifiers Act 2014 (collection, use or disclosure of a student identifier by the Registrar) to replace ‘HELP Tuition Protection Director’ with ‘Higher Education Tuition Protection Director’.

 

 

 

Item 15 After paragraph 18B(4)(b)

 

Item 15 inserts new paragraph 18B(4)(b) to include the TP Director as a listed person that is authorised to collect, use or disclose a student identifier if the collection, use or disclosure is reasonably necessary for the purposes of performing functions or exercising powers in relation to the TEQSA Act or an instrument made under the TEQSA Act. Given the TP Director has a range of new powers and functions under the TEQSA Act (see Schedule 1 to the Bill) relating to tuition protection, it is reasonable and appropriate to include the TP Director under this section in order for the TP Director to deal with a range of student information when assisting affected domestic higher education students.

 

VET Student Loans Act 2016

 

Item 16 Subsection 66M(2) (note)

 

Item 16 amends the Note to subsection 66M(2) of the VET Student Loans Act 2016 (VSL Tuition Protection Director) to replace ‘HELP Tuition Protection Director’ with ‘Higher Education Tuition Protection Director’.

 

Item 17 Paragraph 66N(1)(d)

 

Section 66N provides for the functions of the VSL Tuition Protection Director under the VET Student Loans Act 2016 . Item 17 amends paragraph 66N(1)(d) to remove the reference to the VSL Tuition Protection Director’s ability to enter into a loan agreement for the benefit of the VSL Tuition Protection Fund, which is no longer a necessary function.