Be a savvy student - what you need to know

Need more help? Visit our Top tips for transitioning to tertiary study page.

Be aware of scammers

Does this sound too good to be true? It is.
Be aware of anyone approaching you with the offer of cash, vouchers or gifts (e.g. laptops) to enrol in a course or hand over your personal information.

The Australian Government made changes to the VET FEE-HELP loan scheme in 2015 and 2016 to ensure students were protected from signing up to courses and getting debts that they did not want or need. These changes provided greater protections for students when signing up for a VET FEE-HELP loan. With the introduction of the new loan program, VET Student Loans, the VET FEE-HELP scheme ceased for new students on 31 December 2016. Refer to: for more information.

From 1 January 2017, if you would like to access a loan you may wish to apply for the new VET Student Loans program. Enhanced protections for students apply with the new loan program, and broker activity, incentives and cold-calling are banned. However, you must always be on the lookout to make sure you are not induced by the offer of incentives or hand over personal information if cold-called or without understanding your obligations.

How to choose the right course for you


There are many education institutions (universities, private higher education institutions, TAFEs and vocational education and training (VET) providers) around Australia that offer courses or accredited qualifications. This website focuses on institutions that are specifically approved by the Australian Government to offer HELP loans (including VET Student Loans and VET FEE-HELP, which closed 31 December 2016) to eligible students.

Many education institutions offer the same qualifications. You should compare several different institutions that offer the same type of qualification you are interested in, and consider the following information, before making the decision to enrol.

You will also need to consider if you have the necessary foundation knowledge or prerequisites required to do the course. You should carefully consider whether the course will give you the skills and knowledge that you need for your chosen profession/future study.

The MySkills website (opens in a new window) is the national directory of vocational education and training (VET) organisations and courses. It can provide you with information to help you make your decision about which VET course you would like to do.

Australian Qualification Framework

The Australian Qualification Framework (AQF) underpins the national system of qualifications in Australia and provides an indication of the volume of learning (i.e. timeframe) normally required to complete each qualification, noting that online or appropriately accelerated study may be completed earlier than indicated. Some VET providers may also advertise that their courses can be completed in nominated hours/weeks.

The AQF indicates the volume of learning for relevant qualifications as listed below:

Name Volume of Learning
Certificate IV 0.5 - 2 years
Diploma 1 - 2 years
Advanced Diploma 1.5 - 2 years
Bachelor Degree 3 - 4 years
Bachelor Honours Degree 1 year
Graduate Certificate 0.5 - 1 year
Graduate Diploma 1 - 2 years
Masters 1.5 - 2 years
Doctoral Degree 3 - 4 years


Consider the price of the qualification at different institutions.
If there are large differences, you may wish to contact the institution to discuss why their qualification is cheaper/more expensive.

  • If the qualification is cheaper, check if it is still a recognised qualification by the relevant industry or peak body/organisation that represents that occupation (for example, accounting/engineering, nursing etc).
  • If the qualification is more expensive, ask whether you will receive additional training/learning/support/mentoring as part of your qualification.

Check if you will have to pay any incidental fees.
The price listed for a qualification is for the tuition only, but some subjects/courses will often involve additional costs for textbooks and/or specialist equipment. These fees cannot be deferred/paid with a HELP loan (including VET Student Loans).

Check if there are additional items/specialist equipment that you will have to buy.
For example, are there textbooks, laptops/specialist computer programs that you will have to purchase? Many science courses will require you to purchase protective equipment (i.e. lab coat, glasses, gloves).

Is there a uniform that you will have to purchase?
For example, some courses that have external placements will require you to wear a uniform that identifies your education institution (i.e. nursing/aged care facility/hospitality placements).

What are the other associated costs with external placements?
For example, how to pay for travel, accommodation and meals are considerations to take into account when attending residential schools, internships or work or professional placements.

Also check if you will require any immunisations, criminal record clearances, or attainment of a first aid/senior first aid certificate as part of your course.

Payment options

Consider how you will pay for your qualification.
Consider if you are eligible for a HELP loan (or a VET Student Loan) to pay for your tuition.

You will also need to consider how you will pay for any incidental fees required as you will not be able to use a HELP loan or(a VET Student Loan) for these fees.

If you are not eligible for a HELP loan (including a VET Student Loan), consider whether you are able to pay your tuition fees (and incidental fees) upfront in total/via instalments/payment plans to your institution. You can also enquire with them about whether you would be eligible for any in-house scholarships or other financial assistance they may offer.

How is the qualification / training delivered?

Check whether the qualification is offered on campus or online.

Many education institutions offer students the opportunity to complete a qualification either on campus or online. You may find one mode more suitable than the other, depending upon your family/work commitments.

  • If the qualification is offered on campus, consider whether you have the transport and time to attend lectures/tutorials.
  • If the qualification is offered online, consider whether you have the time and self-discipline to commit to this mode of study.
    • If you do pursue online study, be sure that you have the correct IT equipment to undertake the study – i.e. access to a computer on a regular basis at the allocated time of your lecture/discussion, and the correct speed and data internet connection required for the website (institutions will specify the minimum connection details required).

Job prospects

You should investigate what your job prospects could be once you’ve completed your qualification.

  • Ask your institution if they offer job placements/internships as part of the qualification. Any job placements/internship opportunities offered as part of a qualification will be a valuable experience as it will offer you 'real-life' experience in your intended profession.
  • Ask what the institution’s graduate outcomes are like. For example, ask how many graduates they have produced over the last couple of years, and if those graduates are now employed.
  • You could also contact previous graduates (check out industry/alumni networks) to see what they thought of the qualification, or potential employers in that field for advice on whether they value that qualification or can suggest a better alternate one.

Do you know when your census date is?

Important census date information

  • If eligible, the census date is the last day you can access a HELP loan or a VET Student Loan to pay for your studies, or to withdraw your enrolment without incurring the fees or a HELP debt (including a VET Student Loans debt) for your studies. Even one day is too late, so don’t be caught out! Saying you were unaware of your census date, or that no-one told you, are not acceptable excuses. For more information about the importance of census dates, visit the Deadlines and Withdrawals page.
  • Education institutions set their own census dates, within rules set by the Australian Government. You must contact your education institution for information about when your census date is.
  • To withdraw from a unit or course without incurring a HELP debt (including a VET Student Loans debt) or losing an upfront payment, you need to complete your institution’s formal withdrawal procedures by the census date. You need to complete the formal withdrawal process for every unit you want to withdraw from, including any units for future study periods. If the course you want to withdraw from involved enrolling at more than one institution, you will need to withdraw from each institution separately. For more information about the correct withdrawal procedures, contact your institution directly.

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    Your tax file number (TFN)

    Why do you need a TFN?

    If you want to use a HELP loan or a Vet Student Loans to pay for your study, you must submit your valid TFN (or valid Certificate of application for a TFN) by the census date. Otherwise, you will not be able to use a loan for that study period.

    • Your TFN is a unique number allocated to you by the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) for tax, HELP repayments (including VET Student Loans and VET FEE-HELP) and other purposes. When you access a HELP loan, including a VET Student Loan, the debt is recorded against your TFN and repayments are made via the tax system.
    • You must advise your provider of your TFN within 21 days of receiving it. You have to provide your TFN because repayments on your HELP debt are made through the Australian taxation system. If you do not provide your TFN, you will not be able to use a VET Student Loan for that study period. You must keep your TFN secure. More information is available in the VET Student Loans information booklet 2017.
    • If you do not have a TFN yet because you do not have a job, you must apply to the ATO for one.

    Why do you need to protect your TFN?

    Your TFN is an important part of establishing your identity when you start a new job, open bank accounts and apply for government benefits.

    How can you keep your TFN secure?
    Keep your TFN (and other personal details such as bank account passwords) secure by:

    • not carrying them in your purse or wallet and not storing them in your mobile phone,
    • not sharing them with friends (including on social networking websites),
    • disposing of documents containing identity details by shredding or otherwise destroying them,
    • installing up-to-date anti-virus software on your computer, and
    • providing your identity details only to trusted or reliable organisations.
    You can visit for more information about TFNs and protecting your personal information.

    Who should you provide your TFN to, in order to access a HELP loan (including VET Student Loans)?

  • You should only provide your TFN, to access a HELP loan (including a VET Student Loan), once you have decided to undertake your course. Ensure you know exactly who you are providing your TFN to - and don’t be afraid to ask for proof of identity from anyone asking for your TFN.
  • Once you have expressed interest in enrolling in a course, your institution will assess your eligibility to undertake the course (i.e. whether you have the correct foundation knowledge to commence/will have to undertake an enabling course before enrolling).
  • Be mindful of who you provide your TFN/personal information to.

  • You should be aware that some education institutions use a marketing agent/broker to advertise their courses and enrol students. These agents/brokers DO NOT work for the Australian Government. You may see these agents/brokers at the train station, shopping mall, or outside other public places. They may even knock on your door or phone you. These marketing agents/brokers are required to identify themselves to you as someone acting on behalf of the relevant institution. If you decide to proceed with enrolling with the marketing agent/broker, you may need to provide them with some personal details. If you are uncomfortable doing this, you can also enrol directly with the institution. However, never provide these marketing agents/brokers with your username or password from government agencies like Centrelink or MyGov.
  • Similarly, you should be wary of any education institution/marketing agent/broker offering you a free computer, tablet, phone, or other incentive to enrol. If it sounds too good to be true, then it probably is. Although most marketing agents/brokers do the right thing when recruiting students, there are some that don't. Some may try to pressure or trick you into handling over your TFN and other information like your name and date of birth. Remember, HELP debts including VET Student Loans are recorded against your TFN – so be careful of who you give this information to and do not give your TFN out, just to obtain a ‘free’ product.
  • If you are considering undertaking a Vocational Education and Training course and an education agent/broker approaches you and offers to sign you up for a course where there is access to VET Student Loans, this practice is not acceptable. Greater protections are now in place for students, and broker activity, the offering of incentives and cold calling are banned. Visit for more information.


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    Where can you go if you have an issue or concern?

    As a domestic student, if you are not satisfied with the quality of service or training being provided, and you think your institution is breaching or has breached its legal requirements, your first course of action is to have your complaint investigated through your institution’s internal complaints and appeals processes. Please refer to your institution’s website for detailed information about lodging a complaint.

    If you are enrolled in a vocational education and training qualification at an approved VET FEE-HELP or VET Students Loans provider, and you want to make a complaint, the information on how to do so is available at:

    For all other HELP loans, information about higher education student complaints, is on the Grievances page.

    If you are not satisfied with the outcome after following your institution’s internal procedures, and still believe your institution is breaching or has breached its legal requirements, you may submit a complaint to the relevant regulator for your institution:


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