Lodging complaints

NOTE: Subject to the passage of legislation, VET Student Loans will commence on 1 January 2017, replacing the current VET FEE-HELP scheme, which will cease on 31 December 2016.

For more information about VET Student Loans, go here.

I have a complaint about my VET FEE‑HELP provider. Where do I go for help?

Please note: the information on this page is relevant only to students enrolled in a vocational education and training (VET) qualification at an approved VET FEE-HELP provider (provider).
If you are a higher education student, go here for information about how to lodge a complaint about your university/higher education provider.

Your provider must have a grievance/complaints and appeals procedure for you to access if you have an academic or non‑academic complaint. The instructions for how to lodge a complaint will be available on your provider’s website, usually located with its other student policies/procedures.

This means that your provider should always be your first point of call for any complaints about your study and/or the service you have received from it or its agents. Your provider has a responsibility to you, to try and to resolve any matters relating to its operations.

Complaints will either be academic in nature (for example, you may have a disagreement over a grade or poor course/trainer quality) or non-academic (for example, in relation to fees, harassment, discrimination or a policy breach).

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Making an informal complaint

Depending on the seriousness of your complaint, and if you feel comfortable in doing so, you may wish to approach your tutor, trainer or a person at your provider’s student administration/enrolments area with whom you feel comfortable, to try and resolve the matter informally.

You can always have a friend or support person with you when talking to your provider.

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Making a formal complaint

This is a formal process so you must lodge your complaint with your provider via its official form, which should be available from its website. If you lodge a formal complaint, your provider must give you a response within the timeframe outlined in its policy.

*Internal appeal
If you disagree with your provider’s decision, you can lodge an internal appeal. The appeal must be considered by an independent senior officer or by a dedicated complaints committee at your provider. In this situation, you must be given a written statement of the outcome of your appeal, including full details of your VET provider’s reasons for its decision. Your provider’s policy must include a reasonable timeframe for the response.

*External review of internal appeal
If you disagree with your provider’s decision on your internal appeal, you can ask for your complaint to be reviewed by the external person or body nominated by your provider (the details of whom you must contact in this situation will be in your provider’s formal complaints policy).

*Still not satisfied?
If you are not satisfied with the outcome after following your provider’s formal complaint process, and going through its internal and external review procedures, and you still believe your provider is either treating you unfairly or is breaching/has breached its legal requirements (i.e. it didn’t follow the steps it said it would in its formal complaint process), you may submit a complaint to the relevant regulator for your provider (see the contacts below for VET provider quality).

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Complaints about provider quality

Any complaints about poor course or trainer quality for nationally registered training organisations (RTOs) should be directed to the Australian Skills Quality Agency (ASQA).

However, if the organisation is registered in Victoria or Western Australia, complaints should be directed to the Victorian Registration and Qualifications Authority or the WA Training Accreditation Council.

Please Note: ASQA does not address individual student complaints, but uses the information received through student complaints to ensure providers are delivering quality training and assessment services.

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Other avenues for student complaints

If you have a complaint or query about the VET sector, you can contact the National Training Complaints Hotline on 13 38 73 (Monday to Friday from 8 am to 6 pm nationally) or via email at: NTCH@education.gov.au.

If you incurred a VET FEE-HELP debt before 1 January 2016 because you:

  • were offered money, a phone/laptop or some sort of voucher or other type of inducement/incentives to sign up,
  • were told that a course was free (or not informed that the VET FEE‑HELP was a loan that needed to be repaid),
  • received unsolicited contact from a provider or its agent (cold-calling),
  • are dissatisfied with a provider’s response to your request to cancel a debt if you never enrolled,
you can contact the Department of Education and Training by completing the Student HELP Loans Enquiry form on this website.

 

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Public VET providers

If you are studying with a public VET provider (i.e. a TAFE or public university that offers VET courses) and your complaint relates to a perceived breach of your provider’s policies and procedures (i.e. it didn’t follow the steps it said it would in its formal complaint process), you can lodge an external appeal with the Ombudsman in the state or territory where your provider is located.

The contact details for these Ombudsman Offices are:

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Private VET providers

If you are studying at a private VET provider, you can lodge your complaint with the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC). The ACCC will only have jurisdiction (i.e. the power) to investigate complaints that are in breach of the Competition and Consumer Act 2010. Visit the ACCC website for details on how to submit a complaint.

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I couldn't finish my course - do I still have to pay for it?

In certain circumstances, you can apply to your provider to request that your debt be cancelled if your situation (realistically) meets the defined 'special circumstances’ criteria. For example, this process would not apply if you ‘forgot’ to hand in your assignments or got bored and stopped going to your classes etc.

If your situation is legitimate, you will need to apply to your provider in accordance with its policy - so in the manner specified in its 'Review and Re-credit Policy’. This policy should be available on your provider’s website (if you can’t find it, you need to call your provider to request it). To ensure your request is considered an official request, you must follow your provider’s specified procedures.

It is also recommended that you keep written records and copies of all correspondence/interactions with your provider. This will be particularly important in case there are further disputes in the process, and to prove your situation if you have to escalate your request.

More information on the special circumstances criteria is available from the Cancelling a HELP debt under ‘Special Circumstances’ page of this website.

Please note: There are no avenues available to have your debt cancelled if you successfully completed your unit of study.

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I have a debt I know nothing about. What do I do?

Before 1 January 2016

You will need to lodge a formal complaint with your provider. To check the name of the provider that reported your debt, you will need to log into the myUniAssist portal using your Commonwealth Higher Education Student Support Number (CHESSN).

If you don’t have your CHESSN, you can submit an email enquiry via the Student HELP Loans Enquiry form to request your CHESSN. The Department of Education and Training will then be able to email your CHESSN to you.

However, if you incurred a VET FEE-HELP debt in the past because you were subjected to the offer of inducements, cold-calling, or other unacceptable behaviour by a provider or its agent (or someone else who said they were representing the provider or the Australian Government), or you are dissatisfied with the provider’s response to your request to remove a debt if you never enrolled, you can contact the department with your concerns via the Student HELP Loans Enquiry form.

New protections for students from 1 January 2016

If you experienced unacceptable conduct by your provider (or its agent) that resulted in you incurring a debt on or after 1 January 2016, follow this link to find out more.

IMPORTANT NOTE: The new provisions apply only to the activities of approved VET FEE‑HELP providers or their agents that occurred on or after 1 January 2016.

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