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. PES & progress rules for tertiary study


This topic applies to PES full-time and concessional study-load students undertaking tertiary study. It describes the following issues relating to PES progress rules for tertiary study:

  • how progress is measured
  • allowable time for full-time and concessional study-load students
  • relevant date, and
  • assessment of continuing qualification.

Progress rules

A student is generally making satisfactory progress if the time they have spent studying at that level is not greater than the allowable time for that course.

Progress of full-time and concessional study-load tertiary students is measured against the minimum amount of time (1.1.M.140) it would normally take a full-time student (1.1.F.230) to complete a course. Study in courses at the same level (1.1.L.40) are all measured against the same allowable time.

Allowable time

Allowable time is measured against the minimum time of the tertiary course CURRENTLY being studied. Time already spent in study at the SAME LEVEL is then deducted from this limit to determine whether the recipient is still undertaking qualifying study.

Recipients can study a second course at the SAME level within the allowable study time rules. That is, they can use any additional time available to them to commence a second course at the same level, BUT will lose qualification once they reach the allowable time for one course.

Allowable time for full-time & 66% concessional study-load students

The following table provides a guide to allowable time for current full-time and 66% concessional study-load students.

If the minimum time to complete the course is … then the recipient is a full-time student for …
one year or less the minimum time of the course.
more than one year AND the subjects are all semester based the minimum time of the course plus half a year.
more than one year AND at least one subject in the current year is year based the minimum time of the course plus one year.

Example: A full-time student who completes a 3-year, semester-based course in 3 years would be entitled to payment for the first semester of a second course. If there were no exceptional circumstances, they would then have reached the allowable study time.

Act reference: SSAct section 1061PI(3) Allowable study time-full-time students and 66% concessional study-load students

Allowable time for 25% concessional study-load students

Different rules for allowable time apply to 25% concessional study-load students. Subject to the exceptions rule at (, the allowable time for a PES recipient who is a 25% concessional study-load tertiary student is twice the normal duration of:

  • the course if it were undertaken full-time, OR
  • a comparable full-time course if the course is only offered part-time.

Act reference: SSAct section 1061PI(4) Allowable study time-25% concessional study-load students

Allowable time - self-paced courses

Allowable time rules for self-paced courses are the same as those for other courses and will depend on whether the student is a current full-time or 25% concessional study-load student.

Date at which progress is measured against allowable study time

The following rules apply to full-time and concessional study-load students.

The date at which a recipient's qualification for PES under the allowable time rule is determined is either:

  • the day the student enrolled in the course, or
  • the first available enrolment date for the course (if they have not yet enrolled).

The following table indicates the date at which progress is measured for different types of tertiary courses.

If the course is … then the relevant date is the …

divided into semester length subjects

start of each semester.

divided into year-long subjects

  • end of a full year's study, OR
  • date that the recipient changes their subject enrolment.

NOT divided into semesters, OR years

Example: Courses of 3 terms, or CBT courses that do not have semester periods.

start of the academic year.

Continuing qualification

The following table describes the rules for continuing qualification for PES for tertiary students.

If at the relevant date a recipient has studied … then they …
EQUAL TO, or LESS THAN the maximum time limit allowed remain qualified for PES.
GREATER THAN the maximum time limit allowed are NOT qualified for further PES payment.

Act reference: SSAct section 1061PI Progress rules-tertiary students

Last reviewed: