3.3.4.20 Austudy & Full-time Tertiary Students

Summary

This topic discusses the following issues relating to Austudy and full-time tertiary students:

  • normal amount of full-time study for tertiary students,
  • 15 hours class contact,
  • what constitutes workload,
  • full-time study during the first 2 weeks of a course, and
  • continuing students.

Full-time tertiary students

Full-time tertiary students (1.1.F.230) are participating in, or intending to enrol in, at least 75% of the normal amount of full-time study for a course for their relevant study period (for example, semester, trimester or year).

The normal amount of full-time study for a course is:

  • if the course is a course of study within the meaning of the Higher Education Support Act 2003 - the equivalent for the period of the standard study-load for a particular period (whether the units being undertaken are semester, trimester or year based) as determined by the institution in accordance with the Administration Guidelines under that Act, or
  • if the course is not such a course and the institution defines an amount of full-time study that a full-time student should typically undertake in respect of the course in the period - the amount so defined, or
  • if the institution does not define an amount of full-time study that a full-time student should typically undertake in respect of the course - an amount equivalent to the average amount of full-time study that a person would have to undertake in the period for the duration of the course in order to complete the course in the minimum amount of time needed to complete it, or
  • if none of the above situations apply, a minimum of 20 hours per week.

Where a course has some form of practical training off campus, if the educational institution gives this component an equivalent full-time study-load weighting, the hours are to be counted in the calculation of study-load. If the institution allocates a different weighting system to the practical placement (such as points, credits or units) then the study-load can be measured against the method meaning that the practical placement will count towards the study-load. If the practical placement is given no weighting at all by the institution, then it cannot contribute towards the study-load.

Assessment of the normal amount of full-time study in a particular study period will depend upon the circumstances of each case and will depend on matters such as how the course is structured and how enrolments are accepted. The length of a study period may differ from case to case, but it is not necessarily limited to a single semester/trimester. A student undertaking study on a trimester or semester basis may be considered to be a full-time student when:

  • the university's normal period of enrolment is a year or equivalent period (whether the units being undertaken are trimester or semester based or annual) and the student maintains an aggregate equivalent full-time study-load (EFTSL) of 75% of a normal amount of full-time study for their course over the year, or
  • the student is enrolled on a trimester or semester basis rather than a full year enrolment and the student maintains an aggregate EFTSL of at least 75% of a normal amount of full-time study for their course over the trimester or semester.

Act reference: SSAct section 569C Full-time students, section 569E Normal amount of full-time study

15 hours class contact

People who are undertaking a substantial study-load but who do NOT fit the normal definition of a full-time tertiary student as described in this topic, can be considered full-time if they do at least 15 contact hours a week.

Explanation: As full-time study is a minimum of 20 contact hours per week, a student needs to do only 15 contact hours per week, that is, 75% of a full-time workload, to qualify as a full-time student under Austudy.

Workload - 15 hours class contact

The following table describes workload activities for the 15 hours contact a week.

Activity Considered as Workload
Formal, regular consultation with supervisors which is a normal requirement of the course. Yes
Non-class work such as:
  • home work, or
  • revision assignments.
No

Act reference: SSAct section 569E Normal amount of full-time study

First 2 weeks of a course

A person is considered to have been undertaking full-time tertiary study from the start of the course if:

  • they are enrolled in the course, and
  • attend study on at least one day in the first 2 weeks of classes.

Explanation: This allows the student time to sort out timetables and other arrangements at the beginning of a course WITHOUT being penalised for not attending full-time for the whole the first 2 weeks. It is aimed at students who take some days to settle into a full-time workload for reasons beyond their control and does NOT have any wider application.

Act reference: SSAct section 569F First fortnight of classes

Continuing students

Continuing students who are moving from one eligible course to another, or who are on vacation from the course they are undertaking, can be regarded as full-time students if they were enrolled in a course and intend to enrol in the same, or another eligible course when enrolments are next accepted. This also applies to students who were studying on a part-time basis in the previous study period and who intend to re-enrol on a full-time basis from the start of the next study period.

Full-time students who discontinued halfway through their studies but intend to commence a new eligible course in the next study period are not considered to be a continuing student and only qualify for payment as a full-time student from the commencement of the new course.

If an overpayment is received, the date of effect is the EARLIER of the following:

  • the start of the course in which the person did NOT enrol and undertake qualifying study, OR
  • the day the person became aware that they would NOT be enrolling in the course.

Example: The date when they received their academic results from a previous course or subject and knew that they would NOT be accepted in the next course or subject.

Example: Aaron has just completed his Arts course and intends to enrol in a Science course when enrolments for next semester open. However, a week before the course is due to begin, Aaron decides that he no longer wants to study. Aaron would continue to be eligible to receive Austudy until the week that he decides that he no longer intends to study, providing he continues to meet all other eligibility requirements.

Honours study

For information on Honours study for Austudy recipients, see 3.3.4.70.

Students unable to undertake full-time study

Students who reduce their study load to less than full-time may continue to receive Austudy as if they were full-time students if they have a reasonable excuse. Matters that are to be considered in deciding whether a person has a reasonable excuse include:

  • not having access to safe, secure and adequate housing, or being in emergency accommodation or a refuge at the time, and
  • the person's language and literacy skills, and a person's drug or alcohol dependency, and
  • unforeseen family or caring responsibilities (including being adversely affected by the death of an immediate or close relative), and
  • being a victim of criminal violence (including domestic and family violence and sexual assault), and
  • certain instances of imprisonment or release from imprisonment.

For the person to remain qualified for Austudy as a student, the person must:

  • intend to return to full-time study once their reasonable excuse circumstances have been resolved, and
  • remain enrolled in their course of study, or registered for the relevant award, regardless of whether they are undertaking any of the course subjects or units during the period.

Example: Joanne is a single parent and commences study in semester 1. Four weeks into the course her child develops an illness and requires hospitalisation. Whilst Joanne intends to continue with her studies she fails to notify that she has temporarily deferred her subjects but remains enrolled in the course. Joanne enrols in semester 2 and it is then identified that she did not undertake full-time study for the entire duration of semester 1. As Joanne deferred due to circumstances beyond her control and always had an intention to continue studies, she can retain payments as a continuing student.

Students unable to undertake full-time study due to health reasons

Students who have a substantial physical, psychiatric or intellectual disability and are not capable of full-time study, may be eligible for a 25% concessional study load in the short or long-term (see 3.3.4.30).

Students who are temporarily incapacitated and unable to undertake any study are not able to continue receiving Austudy, but may qualify for SA instead. SA can only be paid where the student is not undertaking any study. For more information on SA, see 1.2.5.30.

If a person continues their study, but reduces their study load to less than full-time, but does not qualify for a 25% concessional study load and s/he has a reasonable excuse for reducing their study load, the person may continue to receive Austudy in certain circumstances as if they were full-time. Matters that are to be considered in deciding whether a person has a reasonable excuse include:

  • an illness, impairment or condition requiring treatment (whether episodic or unpredictable), and
  • a person's cognitive, neurological, psychiatric, psychological impairment or mental illness, and

For the person to remain qualified for Austudy as a student, the person must:

  • intend to return to full-time study once their reasonable excuse circumstances have been resolved, and
  • remain enrolled in their course of study, or registered for the relevant award, regardless of whether they are undertaking study on a less than full-time basis.

Example: Jamie is involved in a car accident which results in a broken leg, requiring surgery and rehabilitation. He is unable to continue full-time study for that semester, and has to drop down to 2 subjects. He is unable to qualify for the 25% concessional study load as he does not have a substantial disability, and as he is still able to undertake some study, he does not qualify for SA. Jamie may still be able to receive Austudy as if he were full-time student because he has a reasonable excuse for not undertaking full-time study, and intends to return to full-time study in the following semester.

Act reference: SSAct section 569A Undertaking qualifying study, section 569D Concessional study-load students, section 576 Austudy participation failures, section 576A Allowance not payable because of austudy participation failure, section 666 Qualification for SA

Social Security (Reasonable Excuse - Participation Payment Obligations) (DEEWR) Determination 2009 (No. 1)

Policy reference: SS Guide 1.2.5.30 Sickness Allowance (SA) - Description, 3.3.3.70 Austudy Participation Failures

Last reviewed: 20 March 2018