What is the VET Student Loans program and how can my organisation apply?
The VET Student Loans (VSL) program is an income contingent loan offered by the Australian Federal Government that helps eligible students pay for some vocational education and training (VET) diploma level or above courses. VSL courses can only be offered by a limited number of registered training organisations (RTOs) that have been reviewed and authorised by the Federal Department of Education as an approved provider of the VET Student Loans program.
Eligible VSL Courses
VET Student Loans are only available for the following higher level VET qualifications:
- Advanced Diploma
- Graduate Certificate
- Graduate Diploma.
Course eligibility for VSL is limited to:
- courses that have high national priority,
- meet industry needs,
- contribute to addressing skills shortages and
- lead to employment outcomes.
The approved courses list for VET Student Loans entitled VET Student Loans (Courses and Loan Caps) Determination 2016 is available at https://www.legislation.gov.au/Details/F2017C00493
Applicants should check the approved course list to ensure that they offer at least one course on the approved course list, before applying.
VSL Course Provider Eligibility Criteria
Information provided on the Department of Education and Training’s website https://www.education.gov.au/vet-student-loans/vet-student-loans-applicants advises organisations that are seeking to become a VSL course providers, that they are required to meet certain threshold criteria. These include:
- Being a body corporate that is not a trustee
- Carrying on business in Australia and having its central management and control in Australia, and
- Being a Registered Training Organisation (RTO)
To apply to become a VSL course provider, an organisation must demonstrate that it meets the course provider requirements set out in the VET Student Loans Act 2016 (Part 4, Division 1) and the VET Student Loan Rules 2016 (Division 3), made under the Act.
- The VET Student Loans Act 2016 (Part 4, Division 1) requirements include:
- Secretary may approve a body
(2) To meet the course provider requirements the body must:
(a) be a body corporate that is not a trustee; and
(b) be established under the law of the Commonwealth, a State or a Territory; and
(c) carry on business in Australia and have its central management and control in Australia; and
(d) be a registered training organisation; and
(e) meet the provider suitability requirements; and
(f) be a fit and proper person; and
(g) be a party to an approved tuition assurance arrangement; and
(h) be a member of an approved external dispute resolution scheme.
- Note: If Part IIE of the Ombudsman Act 1976 (VET Student Loans Ombudsman) is an external dispute resolution scheme, all approved course providers are taken to be members of the scheme (see section 42BA).
26 Provider suitability requirements:
(2) The provider suitability requirements may deal with the following in relation to a course provider:
(a) financial performance;
(b) management and governance;
(c) experience in providing vocational education;
(d) scope of courses;
(e) fees and modes of delivery for courses;
(f) student outcomes;
(g) industry links.
- The VET Student Loan Rules 2016 (Division 3) https://www.legislation.gov.au/Details/F2017C00602
Division 3 of the VET Student Loans Rules 2016, sets out the General requirements for course providers and provides further details as to what each suitability requirement listed above, would look like. This includes the following:
- To demonstrate that your RTO meets the general requirements, you will need to outline that you are:
- Committed to:
- the delivery of high quality vocational education and training: and
- achieving the best outcomes for students; and
- act efficiently, honestly and fairly in all dealings with students, stakeholders and the Commonwealth (including the National VET Regulator); and
- have a record of satisfactory conduct in relation to any previous vocational education and training:
- provided by the provider; and
- for which the Commonwealth, a State or a Territory provided funding (including by way of loans to students).
- Committed to:
- Your RTO’s Financial Performance in the previous 3 years must demonstrate that your RTO is financially viable, which includes:
- having sound financial management
- having at least 20 percent of revenue from sources other than Australian Government income contingent loans (for applicants with more than 100 student enrolments in 2016)
- being able to pay your debts as and when they are due
- having annually audited financial statements by an independent qualified auditor
- having worker’s compensation and adequate public liability insurance
- The RTO Management and Governance systems and processes, which include:
- robust management and governance structures,
- clearly defined decision-making processes,
- relevant resources and human resource management processes,
- systems to maintain records ensure data integrity and the reporting of data consistently, accurately and on time
- The experience and expertise available in the RTO for the delivery of services, including:
- A minimum of 3 years’ experience in the delivery of VET training,
- the level of expertise of the RTO trainers and assessors,
- the level of expertise of the RTO’s management and high managerial agents,
- history of delivering high quality Diploma and Advanced Diploma qualifications
- track record of providing state subsidized courses – eg. listed on a preferred provider register
- how your training processes have benefitted students – eg. References or articles and good news stories indicating that your training has benefitted the community at a local, state or national level.
- Legislation and standards the RTO complies with and how it ensures reporting and other legislative requirements such as OH&S, anti-discrimination, privacy, etc., are being met.
- The RTO’s student support processes and how the RTO monitors student progress that assists in high student outcomes and course completion rates. The RTO will also need to include in the application:
- Completion rates for each of its courses
- Levels of student engagement in the past 3 years
- surveys that measure student satisfaction and the results of these surveys
- QI indicator survey outcomes
- Number and type of complaints received and actions taken for improvement
- Processes and methodology for determining student academic suitability for a course
- The RTO links with industry and the workplace that ensure workplace needs are met and employment outcomes are improved. This may include:
- Industry advisory boards and the impact of their input
- Student placement arrangements with employers
- Memberships with professional associations and how they assist with the currency of course delivery
- RTO involvement in relevant industry presentations, conferences, etc.
- Projects undertaken with peak employer organisations
- Industry and employer refrences
- Evidence of employment outcomes for students
VSL Course Provider Application Process
Applicants are required to register their interest to apply to become a VSL course provider, via the Department’s online enquiry form, available from: https://www.education.gov.au/vet-student-loans/vet-student-loans-applicants
The application forms consist of:
- the Application Submission Outline – provides a format for applicants to address:
- the course provider requirements
- the provider suitability requirements
- evidence to support claims against each of the requirements
- the VSL Workbook – contains ten (10) worksheets, which must all be completed. Some of these include forms that need to be uploaded to HITS as pdf documents. The VSL Workbook addresses the following information:
- Applicant’s Details
- Key Personnel Details – for each Key Personnel
- Financial Performance (Forms C1, C2)
- Course History
- Industry References (example only)
- Proposed Approved Course Details
- Senior Authorised Officers’ Declaration and Authorisation (Forms G1, G2, G3)
The Application Submission Outline and the VSL Workbook are not publicly available and will only be provided to applicants who register their interest in applying for approval.
All application documents must be submitted to the Department in accordance with the requirements of Part B of the Approved Course Provider Application Guide found on the Department’s website https://docs.education.gov.au/node/44981
In accordance with the Act, for an application to be approved, it must be submitted in the form provided by the Secretary and be accompanied by the Application Fee.
According to the VSL Information for new providers Fact Sheet released early in 2017, stringent requirements will be placed on VSL course providers and only high quality, trusted providers will be approved.
Under the VSL approval arrangements, RTOs will be appraised and evaluated against:
- Their relationships with industry
- The RTO’s previous 3-year track record of student completion rates and employment outcomes
- Any articulation arrangements with higher education providers
- The provider’s track record of delivering education and training
Providers will also be assessed against their:
- Financial performance
- Strong management and governance
- Course scope and fees
An application fee of $5,110 applies to this application round (opening on 30 August 2017).
The Application fee ($5,110) is required to be paid before the RTO’s application can be assessed and payment is required within 14 days, after receiving an invoice from The Department, following lodgement of your application on HITS.
The VET Student Loans program commenced on 1 January 2017. The first applications round for eligible organisations to apply to become VSL course providers, closed on 20 February 2017.
A second application round opened on 30 August 2017 and is due to close at 11.59pm on 26 September 2017 (Canberra time).
Deadline for submission of any questions providers may have, is 4pm Wednesday 13 September 2017.
Information sessions for interested providers, were held in Canberra on Tuesday 5th September 2017.
HELP Information Technology System (HITS)
You must have an active account with HITS in order to submit your VSL application. If you do not have a HITS account, you need to complete the HITS Credentials application form and submit this to the Department as soon as possible.
Steps to preparing and submitting your application
- Become familiar with the VET Student Loans Act 2016 and the VET Student Loans Rules 2016 https://www.legislation.gov.au/Details/C2017C00183 and https://www.legislation.gov.au/Details/F2017C00602 to ensure your understanding of your obligations and responsibilities as an approved VSL course provider.
- Check the threshold criteria to ensure you are eligible to apply to become an approved VSL course provider.
- If you already have a HITS account, determine if it’s active by logging onto HITS using your existing user ID and password.
- If you do not have a HITS account, complete the HITS Credentials application form and submit this to the Department.
- Get your annual financial statements for the current year as well as the previous 2 years signed off by an independent qualified auditor; also obtain auditor’s declaration of compliance and report on your financial performance during the three financial periods. Financials can often take the most amount of time to prepare, so the first thing that you need to do is ensure that your organisation’s financials meet the Financial performance requirements.
- Collect industry/employer or other bodies’ referrals as evidence that your courses meet workplace needs and improve employer outcomes for students.
- Start addressing the Course Provider and Provider Suitability Requirements as outlined in the VSL – Application Submission outline.
- Concurrently, gather information for the completion of Forms A – G in the VSL Workbook including information on:
- Your student completion and engagement rates;
- Student satisfaction rates;
- Your financial Performance in the past 3 years and
- Information and credentials on your key personnel.
- Check all application documents including attached evidence to ensure their accuracy and compliance with the application requirements.
- Check file names against recommended naming conventions listed in the Approved Course Provider Application Guide.
Pay the invoice for your $5110.00 application fee.
As mentioned above all applicants are required to pay an Application fee of ($5,110). This fee is required to be paid before the RTO’s application can be assessed and it must be paid within 14 days after receipt of an invoice, following the lodgement of your application on HITS.
Submit your application on time!
Don’t forget to submit your application through HITS, before 11:59pm on Tuesday 26 September 2017.
The Department will not accept the late submission of applications.
The information provided in this update is our analysis and interpretation of the VET Student Loans application requirements. This information should not be solely relied on for the purpose of your application. Always refer to the information provided by The Department, this will always be the source of truth. For more information please contact Audit Express Pty Ltd.