The Guides to Social Policy Law is a collection of publications designed to assist decision makers administering social policy law. The information contained in this publication is intended only as a guide to relevant legislation/policy. The information is accurate as at the date listed at the bottom of the page, but may be subject to change. To discuss individual circumstances please contact Services Australia. YA study-load - full-time tertiary students

Extent of study required

Full-time study (1.1.F.230) for tertiary students includes students who start late in their course, but who are enrolled in, and undertake study in respect of the course on at least one day up to, and including, the Friday in the second week of classes. Students who start later than this would only be treated as full-time students from the date they start undertaking full-time study in their course.

Generally the length of the study units undertaken determine a particular study period, i.e. semester or year long units.

Assessment of the normal amount of full-time study in a particular 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. However, 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 base or annual) and the student maintains an aggregate equivalent full-time study-load (EFTSL) of 75% of a normal amount 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.

Measuring the normal amount of full-time study

A student intending to enrol in, or undertake at least 75% of the normal amount of full-time study for a course for any given period is deemed as a full-time tertiary student.

For a course of study offered by a higher education provider under the Higher Education Support Act 2003, the normal amount of full-time study for that period is determined by the higher education provider under the Administration Guidelines under that Act.

If the course is not such a course, the normal amount of full-time study is the amount the institution defines as the amount of full-time study that a full-time student should typically undertake in respect of the course in the period. If the institution does not define such an amount, the amount of full-time study is 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. Otherwise, the normal amount of full-time study is on average 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 EFTSL 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.

Act reference: SSAct section 541B Undertaking full-time study

Policy reference: SS Guide YA full-time students, 1.1.F.230 Full-time study (YA, Austudy, PES)

Study-load for flexible study

A study period for flexible study can be aggregated over different courses and different institutions undertaken during the ‘same study period’. The application of aggregation is on the basis that individual courses undertaken are contributing towards a single qualification. 
The ‘same study period’ length can vary and is determined on a case-by-case basis, based on factors including the period over which institutions accept student enrolments, how the course is structured/organised and when results are released.

The following table describes tertiary study-load as it applies to various types of flexible study.

Type of study Full-time study-load description
Self-paced courses (1.1.S.80)

The average study-load for a student who completes the course content over the normal full-time duration.

Example: The normal full-time duration for a course requires a student to undertake one module/unit a month for 16 months, or 4 units every 4 months. A student would be considered full-time if they studied 75% of a full-time load, or 3 units every 4 months.

CBT/open learning

CBT/open learning students have the flexibility to structure their own study. The primary consideration for YA is that the student is:

  • formally enrolled as a full-time student, AND
  • considered by their institution to be undertaking, on average, a full-time study-load over a term/semester.

Example: A Certificate in Fashion course may normally require 24 hours per week of instruction. A CBT/open learning student may structure their study so that less study is done in some weeks, but more in others.

University level units at OUA

Generally, university level units offered by OUA have a credit weighting of one-eighth (0.125) of a normal full-time annual study-load for single units or one-quarter (0.25) for double units.

To qualify as a full-time student, a person MUST register in, and study, at least 2 single or one double open learning unit in any 13 week study period.

OUA TAFE modules A person who studies OUA TAFE modules for a minimum of 160 hours in a study period, will be a full-time student for YA purposes even if their study-load does not fit any of the other full-time criteria.
OTEN courses

To receive YA while studying through OTEN, students must be enrolled in an approved course and be undertaking an equivalent full-time study load (EFTSL). OTEN will generally only enrol students in 1 or 2 units at a time and the units are measured in hours.

OTEN considers students to be full-time if they are doing 16 hours of coursework a week.

Example: If students are enrolled in 1 unit that normally takes 48 hours of coursework to complete, they are expected to finish the unit within 3 weeks of starting it:

  • 48 hours ÷ 16 hours = 3 weeks.

OTEN provides a flexible course model which encourages students to complete courses at their own pace with no penalty for not completing work. However, if they are receiving YA, they should complete their study in the normal time it takes to complete the course. In the example above, students would be expected to have finished their unit within 3 weeks and have started the next unit.

Concurrent open learning and conventional study

If a person enrols in a single course that combines conventional study and ALSO open learning, then eligibility is assessed for EACH form of study, and they are a full-time student if the normal study-load requirement is met in EITHER form of study.

If an institution accepts open learning study as part of the person's primary course, the amount of work in both forms of study CAN be COMBINED. A single university level unit of open learning is equal to one-eighth of a full-time annual study-load.

Course end date

The course end date for full-time tertiary students, who do not intend to re-enrol at the available opportunity is deemed to be the day on which their last exam is taken.

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