Go to top of page

OS–HELP Forum Questions & Answers

OS‑HELP - Reporting

Q: How to report a student receiving both OS‑HELP for study in Asia and OS‑HELP Language study loans?

OS‑HELP for study in Asia loans are reported as:

OS‑HELP Language study loans are reported as:

OS‑HELP for study in Asia loan and OS‑HELP Language study loan are linked by:

Q: If student has OS‑HELP for study in Asia and OS‑HELP for language study, how do we report this? As one loan (add the two amounts together) or is each loan to be reported as a separate row of data?

A: If a student has received OS‑HELP assistance for both language study and study in Asia in the same OS‑HELP study period two records would be reported in the OS‑HELP submission for that period. For example if the student received OS‑HELP for study in Asia there would be a record in the OS‑HELP submission for the student using the code 241 - OS‑HELP for study in Asia.

If the student also received a supplementary amount for language study in the same period the student would also have a record in the same submission using code 242 - OS‑HELP language study. The commencement date reported on element 521 - study period commencement date for each of these loans would ensure they are identified as unique records.

Q: When using the 241 reporting code do we need to use that code for ALL students going to Asia, even if they do not take out the full $7,500 amount?

A: Yes, any student who is accessing OS‑HELP assistance to study in Asia would be reported using the new code 241 on element 490. A student studying in Asia may choose to access OS‑HELP assistance for any amount up to the limit of $7,500. They are still reported using code 241 even if they choose to take a lesser amount.

Q: How can we calculate the loan incurral date for a student who has taken a study in Asia and a supplementary loan on the one debt confirmation form?

A: The debt incurral date for any OS‑HELP loan is the date on which the student is paid their OS‑HELP assistance, so the debt incurral date for their language study would be the date on which the student is paid this supplementary amount. This date may be the same as the debt incurral date for the OS‑HELP loan for overseas study, or it may be different. The OS‑HELP debt confirmation form (CAF) is being updated so that there will be space to record the debt incurral date for the supplementary amount.

Q: Will there be a validation that the language code used for 582 is an Asian language?

A: There is no requirement that the language studied must be an Asian language and there are no validations that require this. However, in selecting a student for a supplementary amount for Asian language study, a provider will need to be satisfied that the language study is appropriate preparation for the student's overseas study in Asia.

Return to top


OS‑HELP - Administration

Q: Will the Administrative Information for Providers (AIP): Student Support be updated to reflect changes to OS‑HELP for 2014?

The Administrative Information for Providers (AIP): Student Support has been updated to reflect changes to OS‑HELP for 2014.

Q: The new rules for OS‑HELP include postgraduate students who are enrolled in a Commonwealth supported place (CSP) in a postgraduate course.

There are only a few Commonwealth supported postgraduate courses. Does this mean that students not doing a Commonwealth supported course are not eligible for OS‑HELP assistance?

A: Yes, that's correct. A student must be in a Commonwealth supported place for their course of study to be able to access OS‑HELP. Postgraduate students in a Commonwealth supported place are eligible for OS‑HELP assistance, including OS‑HELP study in Asia and a supplementary amount for language study, if they are selected and paid on or after 1 January 2014 and if they meet all the other eligibility requirements.

Q: If a student is going on a shorter term study tour to several countries, how do we manage the country code?

A: For students going on a study tour the reporting requirement is to provide a primary country of study and a secondary country of study. In line with current practice, the primary country of study is the country where the student spends most of their time. If the student is receiving their OS‑HELP assistance for study in Asia and they are also receiving a supplementary amount for study in Asia, then at least one of the primary or secondary countries must be in Asia.

Q: What evidence is needed?

It's not clear if this is a question about what evidence is needed about the overseas study or about the supplementary amount for language study. For study in Asia the university would need to be satisfied that the study counts towards the student's course and will be in an Asian country. The university would already have in place a process to confirm that the study a student is undertaking overseas is a required part of the student's course.

For the supplementary amount for language study, it is a requirement under the Opens in a new window: OS‑HELP Guidelines 2013 that if a student is not doing their preparatory language study at the higher education provider through which they are receiving their OS‑HELP loan, then they would need to provide some evidence that they are doing the study.

It's a matter for the university to decide what sort of evidence they would require. We are suggesting it could be proof of application or proof of enrolment in a language course or a receipt indicating they have paid for their language study. On the other hand, at the time a student applies for their supplementary amount for language study they may not wish to enrol in the language course until it is clear that they will receive the OS‑HELP loan for study in Asia. They could provide this evidence later as long as the university is happy with that arrangement.

Q: Is there still a requirement that students must be studying full-time or receiving full-time credit for their study taken overseas?

A: Yes the same requirements apply in relation to full time study. Overseas study is full-time if the level of academic engagement required by the student while studying overseas is broadly equivalent to the level of academic engagement required by a student undertaking at least 0.75 EFTSL per year in an equivalent course in Australia.

Q: What if the student is studying full-time but not receiving full-time equivalent credit towards their home degree (taking courses overseas that will not count at home to make up full time enrolment)?

A: To be eligible for OS‑HELP, the overseas study that counts towards the student's course must be done on a full-time basis. The 2012 version of the Administrative information for providers (AIP) provides some further guidance on this. There will also be some guidance in the latest version of the AIP when it's available. We suggest using the formula in the chapter on OS‑HELP for working out equivalencies of full time study based on the credit a student receives for a shorter term experience compared to the credit they would receive for a regular full time semester at the university.

There is also some information in the AIP on other factors for universities to consider when determining whether it's a full time study experience. For example, the number of contact hours that the student will be doing, the assessment load, and so on.

Q: I have a question regarding the "full-time" eligibility requirement for OS‑HELP loans. What would be the action to take in the following case:

A student takes out a loan on the basis that they are going to be studying overseas and enrolled full-time in Australia to receive a full load of credit points. The student is paid the OS‑HELP loan prior to leaving the country. Due to changes in timetabling/availability of units/overloaded classes in the overseas institution, the student arrives overseas and encounters the situation where they can only receive credit points for a part-time load.

A: If the student is eligible at the time they were paid the OS‑HELP loan, then they cannot subsequently be made ineligible due to circumstances beyond their control. In this case, the provider would not need to take any further action. Note also that an OS‑HELP loan cannot be remitted under any circumstances. The student incurs the loan when they are paid the loan amount, and will need to repay the loan through the taxation system.

Q: Are there any reporting requirements related to short term overseas experiences that aren't taken for academic credit i.e. volunteering, internships?

A: OS‑HELP assistance is only available for overseas study experiences that count towards the award course in which the student is enrolled. As an example, this could be an internship for which the student is not receiving credit, as long as the internship is something that is required as part of the course of study they are enrolled in with their Australian provider. The reporting for this type of overseas study would be the same as for any other OS‑HELP assistance.

Q: Is language study only offered to non-award enrolments, and if so why?

A: A student cannot receive the supplementary amount for language study when the language study is being undertaken as part of their higher education award course for which they are in a Commonwealth supported place or receiving FEE‑HELP. The OS‑HELP supplementary amount for Asian language study is intended to assist students with additional up-front expenses they may incur if they wish to undertake language study in preparation for their overseas study in Asia. . This study is generally done on a non-award basis.

Q: If students were completing language courses as part of their undergraduate diploma, rather than for their full degree program, would they be able to access the additional language loan?

A: No if the student is Commonwealth supported or receiving FEE‑HELP for the diploma then they would not be able to access OS‑HELP assistance for any language units of study done as part of the diploma. Note that in these circumstances, the student could use HECS‑HELP or FEE‑HELP to cover the cost of the language units of study.

Q: Can you receive a language loan for award course study done in the language if you are not receiving government funding assistance?

A: Under the legislation and the Opens in a new window: OS‑HELP Guidelines 2013 a student can receive OS‑HELP assistance for language study provided they are not Commonwealth supported or receiving FEE‑HELP for the course in which they are studying the language.

Q: If a student is doing their language study as a TAFE/VET award, can they access OS‑HELP for that language study?

A: Yes, if a student is undertaking their language study as a TAFE or VET award, they could receive OS‑HELP assistance for that particular language study.

Q: Can the language study run concurrently with the OS‑HELP study in Asia program, as long as the commencement date is earlier (e.g. a week before, but the language study runs for five weeks total)?

A: Yes, language study can be undertaken in the same study period as OS‑HELP study in Asia, noting that under the OS‑HELP legislation, the language study must be preparatory to the student's study in Asia (it is up to providers to determine whether it considers students' proposed language study to fulfil this requirement). However, we are aware that there may be instances where a student will need to begin their language study at the same time or after they have commenced their OS‑HELP study period.

HEIMS will support language study which runs concurrently with the OS‑HELP study period, the only caveat being that for systems reasons the commencement date of the language study must be different to the commencement date for study in Asia.

Q: Does this mean that students can't do a language course once they arrive in the Asian country?

A: A student may undertake their language study overseas. It may be undertaken in the same period in which the student is undertaking their OS‑HELP study in Asia, as long as it satisfies the requirement that the language be preparatory to the student's study in Asia.

Q: Are there requirements on the length or duration of a student's language study?

A: There are no requirements around the duration of the language study. It would be a matter for the university to decide whether that language study was relevant and appropriate for the overseas study in Asia that the student was undertaking.

Q: Does this mean there doesn't need to be 6 months between a language payment and the non-supplementary loan?

A: There doesn't need to be six months between a student's language study and their study in Asia. However, each supplementary amount relates to a specific OS‑HELP study period and there must be six months between two OS‑HELP study in Asia periods. The language study can be undertaken immediately before, or in some cases during, the six-month study period of the overseas study. Payment of the loan for overseas study and the supplementary amount for language study can be at the same time, or can be as two separate payments.

Q: If a student receives the language loan and does the language study but for some reason cannot complete the main study program (personal reasons?) is there a consequence, e.g. language loan must be paid back?

A: No. If a student receives a supplementary amount for OS‑HELP language study but is unable to undertake the related study in Asia the student will not be required to pay the language study amount back to the university. The student has incurred the debt for this OS‑HELP assistance which they then repay through the standard processes for repaying HELP debts.

Q: Can the language loan be taken to prepare for an Asian study experience for which the student does not seek an OS‑HELP loan?

A: No. OS‑HELP assistance for language study is not available separately to OS‑HELP assistance for study in Asia. The language loan is only available if the student has been selected to receive OS‑HELP assistance for study in Asia.

Q: Does the language study need to match the country the student is undertaking their OS‑HELP study in Asia i.e. can a student undertake Chinese language studies through their Language loan and then go to Malaysia with their OS‑HELP loan?

A: Yes. The only requirement in terms of the language the student chooses to study in preparation for their study in Asia is that the university accepts that the language is relevant and appropriate for the student's overseas study.

Return to top


OS‑HELP Debt Confirmation forms

Q: I have students who have applied based on their 2014 eligibility so would be interested in being notified when the new forms become available.

Q: I've already had students applying for the supplementary loan for 2014, when will the new forms & terms be available?

A: The electronic version of the booklets and brochures were sent to providers on 1 November 2013. Electronic versions of these products will be posted on the Opens in a new window: Study Assist website as soon as possible. The electronic PDF of the OS‑HELP form is ready to be sent out to providers that request it to build their eCAF forms.

The paper copies of all the OS‑HELP products form are scheduled for distribution to the sector and will be available in mid-November.

Q: Will all students who are eligible for OS‑HELP in 2014 need to complete the new forms?

A: Yes. All students accessing OS‑HELP assistance on or after 1 January 2014 will need to complete a new OS‑HELP debt confirmation form.

Q: Are there plans to make the OS‑HELP 2014 form electronic or developing an electronic process for students to complete? This would significantly improve the process for mobility offices.

A: The electronic version of the booklets and brochures were sent to providers on 1 November 2013. Electronic versions of these products will be posted on the Opens in a new window: Study Assist website as soon as possible. The electronic PDF of the OS‑HELP form is ready to be sent out to providers that request it to build their eCAFs. The department is currently investigating options regarding developing an eCAF for providers, but this is only at the planning stage.

The paper copies of all the OS‑HELP products form are scheduled for distribution to the sector and will be available in mid-November.

Q: I have post graduates who are going on exchange in January 2014. Can their applications be processed in Nov/Dec 2013 and just give them their cheques in Jan 2014?

A: If you select a student on or after 1 January 2014 then they would be assessed according to the new eligibility criteria. To give them some certainty you can tentatively select a student this year and then pay them next year under the new criteria.

This also applies to postgraduate students who are Commonwealth supported and meet the other OS‑HELP eligibility requirements.

Q: Our student is currently applying for OS‑HELP loans and will be submitting the CAF forms. If new forms will be released will students need to resubmit a new form? How will this work?

A: All students accessing OS‑HELP assistance on or after 1 January 2014 will need to complete a new OS‑HELP debt confirmation form.

Q: Will there be two separate CAF forms for the OS‑HELP and Language students?

A: No there will be the one form. You will be able to identify the separate loans on the form.

Q: What changes will be made to the CAF form?

A: The main changes relate to including separate OS‑HELP loans amounts so students can easily identify if they are intending to undertake study in Asia, elsewhere, or are only requesting the Asian language component. The electronic PDF of the OS‑HELP form is ready to be sent out to providers that request it to build their eCAFs. Providers can request the electronic PDF by emailing TertiaryStudyEnquiries [at] education.gov.au.

Q: When will all HELP ECAF be available?

A: The electronic version of all higher education HELP booklets and brochures were sent to providers on 1 November 2013. The electronic versions will be posted on the Opens in a new window: Study Assist website as soon as possible. The electronic PDF of all the higher education HELP form is ready to be sent out to providers that request it to build their eCAFs. The department is currently investigating options regarding developing an eCAF for providers, but this is only at the planning stage.

Does a student's incurred OS‑HELP debt need to be itemised on their Commonwealth Assistance Notice (CAN) according to the type of OS‑HELP accessed in a period?

A: No. While the CAN must contain the total amount of OS‑HELP debt incurred by the student during the relevant period, there is no further requirement to itemise this information according to "OS‑HELP for study in Asia", "OS‑HELP language study", and "OS‑HELP for study in non-Asian countries". Providers may choose to itemise this information according to their own business practices.

Return to top


Commonwealth Assistance Notices

Q: Will there be changes required to the Commonwealth Assistance Notices that we send to students?

A: While the CAN must contain the total amount of OS‑HELP debt incurred by the student during the relevant period, there is no further requirement to itemise this information according to "OS‑HELP for study in Asia", "OS‑HELP language study", and "OS‑HELP for study in non-Asian countries". Providers may choose to itemise this information according to their own business practices.

Q: Does a students' incurred OS‑HELP debt need to be itemised on their Commonwealth Assistance Notice (CAN) according to the type of OS‑HELP accessed in a period?

A: No. While the CAN must contain the total amount of OS‑HELP debt incurred by the student during the relevant period, there is no further requirement to itemise this information according to "OS‑HELP for study in Asia", "OS‑HELP language study", and "OS‑HELP for study in non-Asian countries". Providers may choose to itemise this information according to their own business practices.

Return to top


HECS‑HELP

Q: Why can't you just change the name of code 202 (Paid the full student contribution up front with the HECS‑HELP discount) for Australian and Humanitarian students instead of providers having to change all students over to code 203 (Paid the full student contribution up front without the HECS‑HELP discount)?

A: The code 202 will no longer be valid for reporting students in units of study with a census date on or after 1 January 2014, pending the passage of legislation. The code 203 will be used for all students who pay up front without a discount.

Q: Will there be a new Commonwealth Assistance Form for 2014 to reflect the changes to upfront discount?

A: The department is currently working on a form that removes reference to the HECS‑HELP discount and is discussing timeframes with our printer so that an updated version can be disseminated to providers quickly, pending the legislation. The department is reluctant to print this version until the legislation passes, as it is a high-cost product. The department is also reluctant to release an electronic PDF of this version until the legislation passes, for quality control issues.

Q: If you move all the students from code 202 to code 203:
a) How can Universities differentiate between Australian citizens and permanent residents?
b) How would this then affect the electronic Commonwealth Assistance Form that students complete on enrolment?

A: Students will be identified as permanent residents, New Zealand citizens or the holders of a permanent humanitarian visa based on their citizenship status rather than their student status on element 490.

The passage of legislation

Q: Do we know when is the legislation going to be tabled in parliament, to remove the upfront payment discount?

Q: We have census dates in first week of January how would you suggest we bill students?

Q: We can't assume that the legislation to remove the discount for the upfront payment of student contributions is going to be passed and accept 100% payment from students - we'd be in breach of legislation.

Q: We will need to proceed on the assumption that it might not be passed, and only change our procedures if/when it does?

Q: Due to the tight timeframe and our understanding that providers should receive 12 months notice on major changes we are concerned of meeting these deadlines.

Q: What is the tentative timing in relation to the passage of legislation, to allow institutions to amend all billing and CAN systems. In addition is it proposed that the implementation date be from 1 January 2014?

A. We expect legislation to be tabled in the first week of the spring 2013 sittings of parliament, to commence on 12 November. Given the Australian Government has indicated that it will be proceeding with these changes, we would recommend working on the assumption that it will be passed and implemented by 1 January 2014, noting that that this is still subject to the passage of the legislation through parliament. The department appreciates concerns about the timeframe but this is unavoidable given the circumstances. The department will provide further advice as soon as possible.

Return to top


New Gender Code for special circumstances

Q: Will the X gender be able to be used in revisions, or will it depend on year of submission?

A: Providers will be able to report the gender code X in a student submission or through the student revision process from 1 January 2014.

Q: Can X code be selected by students if they wish to or relevant document needs to be provided on approving code X?

A: In response to the Opens in a new window: Australian Government Guidelines on the Recognition of Sex and Gender, the department has updated the HEIMS systems to allow the reporting of code X (indeterminate/Intersex/Unspecified) in those circumstances where this may be required. This is to facilitate the progressive implementation of the guidelines by all providers by 1 July 2016.

It would be a matter for providers to determine, in line with the guidelines, what documentation or advice a student may need to provide for the reporting the X code for gender.


Return to top