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. Assessing tertiary study-load for Austudy - full-time students


This topic describes the following issues that relate to assessment of tertiary study-load for Austudy:

  • what makes a full-time study-load (1.1.F.230)
  • study-load when the person is enrolled in more than one course
  • study-load when the person is enrolled at more than one institution, and
  • study-load for flexible study.

Full-time study-load

For tertiary students to be in full-time study they must be enrolled in and undertaking, or intending to enrol in at least 75% of the normal amount of full-time study.

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 and there are Commonwealth supported students (within the meaning of that Act) enrolled in the course, the amount of full-time study for the course
  • 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 neither of the above applies, 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.

In some cases it may also be appropriate to regard the normal amount of full-time study as an average of 20 hours per week taken over the duration of the period for which the person is enrolled in the course.

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

Policy reference: SS Guide Austudy & full-time tertiary students

Study in more than one course

The following table describes tertiary study-load when a person is enrolled in more than one course.

If a person … then …
is enrolled in an additional unit/s or subject/s ABOVE the minimum requirements of an approved course (1.1.A.210), and these are recognised by the institution as part of that course the unit or subject is included when determining full-time study-load.
is studying units or subjects UNRELATED to an approved course the units or subjects are NOT considered part of full-time study-load.
is studying an approved combined course for Austudy purposes study-load is measured against the normal amount of full-time study for the combined course.
is given credit for subjects, units or points completed earlier these do NOT count as study-load.
  • is accepted by an institution as a non-degree student in the first year or semester, AND
  • on successful completion is guaranteed course enrolment, AND
  • completed study is credited to their degree study

this study counts as study-load.

is studying a combination of an approved course and an unapproved course

Example: If a student is studying an unapproved VET course that is required to be completed as part of an approved Bachelor course, the units or subjects in the unapproved VET course cannot be counted towards a full-time study load.

the units or subjects in the unapproved course are NOT considered part of a full-time study-load.

Enrolment at more than one institution

A person MAY study at more than one institution and continue to be a full-time tertiary student for Austudy, however:

  • they MUST study at least 75% of a normal full-time study-load in AT LEAST ONE course, AND
  • studies through a second institution CAN be counted for study-load purposes ONLY if
    • the subjects are recorded as enrolment in the approved course, by the first institution, OR
    • the person provides evidence that the subjects will be counted towards the approved course on completion (see example), AND
  • they CANNOT add together workloads in UNRELATED subjects which do NOT form part of an approved course, AND
  • both institutions MUST be approved for Austudy purposes.

Example: A statement from the main institution that the results will be recognised towards the person's main course.

Study-load for flexible study

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 Austudy 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.

Type of study Full-time study-load description
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 Austudy purposes even if their study-load does not fit any of the other full-time criteria.
OTEN courses

To receive Austudy 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 Austudy, 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.

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