Student Services and Amenities Fee

On 11 October 2011, the Australian Parliament passed legislation allowing universities and other higher education providers to charge a fee for student services and amenities of a non-academic nature. The fee may be spent by higher education providers on items such as sporting and recreational activities, employment and career advice, child care, financial advice and food services from 2012.

The Minister for Tertiary Education has made guidelines setting out special requirements for providers with Commonwealth supported students. These are the Student Services, Amenities, Representation and Advocacy Guidelines (‘the Representation Guidelines’).

The existing Administration Guidelines have been amended to include the administrative arrangements for the student services and amenities fee.

Guidelines made under the Act are legislative instruments and must be tabled in Parliament.

Review of Representation Guidelines

On 1 February 2013, the former Minister for Tertiary Education, Senator the Hon Chris Evans announced a review of the Student Services, Amenities, Representation and Advocacy Guidelines (Representation Guidelines), a year after the Student Services and Amenities Fee was introduced.

Read more in the Media Release - New panel to review student support services guidelines.

On 3 May 2013, the Chair of the Review Panel delivered the Report on Review of the Student Services, Amenities, Representation and Advocacy Guidelines to Minister Bird.

Representation Guidelines Final Report |

Response to Recommendations of the Review |

Q & As

Charging and paying the fee

What is the student services and amenities fee?

It is a fee that higher education providers can charge their students for student services and amenities of a non-academic nature, such as sporting and recreational activities, employment and career advice, child care, financial advice and food services, from 2012.

Do providers have to charge a services and amenities fee from 1 January 2012?

No. It is up to each provider to decide if, and when, it will introduce the fee.

Who can be charged a student services and amenities fee?

Any person who is enrolled or seeking to enrol with a higher education provider can be charged a student services and amenities fee from 1 January 2012.

However, only those students who meet the eligibility criteria can access Government assistance and defer the fee through SA-HELP.

Can international students be charged a fee?

There is nothing in the Education Services for Overseas Students Act (ESOS Act) that prohibits a higher education provider from charging international students who are enrolled, or seeking to enrol with the provider, a student services and amenities fee under section 19-37(5) of the Higher Education Support Act 2003 (HESA).

How much can providers charge students?

Higher education providers can charge students a fee of up to $263 per student in 2012. Providers must not charge a student more than this in any given year. This maximum will be indexed each year using the Higher Education Grants Index.

How much can providers charge in 2014?

Higher education providers will be able to charge students a fee of up to $281 per student in 2014.

Students studying on a part-time basis cannot be charged more than 75% of the maximum amount that students studying on a full time basis are charged.

Can the student services and amenities fee be charged at the unit of study level?

It is up to each provider to decide how they wish to charge the fee. However, a provider should only charge a student up to the maximum amount for a calendar year.

Is a student services and amenities fee required to be a whole dollar amount, or can it include cents?

A student services and amenities fee is not required to be a whole dollar amount. However, the fee cannot be more that the maximum amount of $263 per student for 2012. For part-time students the fee cannot be more than 75 % of the amount that the provider charges its full time students.

A part-time student is a student undertaking less than 75 % of the normal full-time study load.

Will all students be charged the same amount?

A provider may charge different amounts for particular categories of students, including a zero amount.

Categories of students can be determined on any basis, including: mode of attendance (i.e. external and internal), type of course (i.e. undergraduate and postgraduate) or equity status (i.e. low SES and indigenous).

Students studying on a part-time basis cannot be charged more than 75 % of the maximum amount that students studying on a full-time basis are charged.

Is GST included in the fee?

The Australian Tax Office (ATO) provides advice on whether GST is payable on student services and amenities fees.  If higher education providers are unsure whether GST should be included in their fee, they should obtain their own advice from the ATO.  For more information on how to apply for a private ruling, visit the ATO website and conduct a search for ‘private rulings’. 

Generally, the fee is GST-free as long as the higher education provider imposes the fee to make facilities available to the general student population.  However, if a higher education provider imposes the fee in order to provide a student with a taxable supply, it will be taxable.

Section 2.5.20 of the Administration Guidelines notes “Any amount of a student services and amenities fee determined by a provider must be a GST inclusive amount, to the extent that any GST is payable by the person required to pay the fee.”  The fee must be GST inclusive in those cases where GST is payable.

For example:

  1. A higher education provider charges students a fee to provide services and amenities for general use by students such as sporting clubs, childcare services and medical services. The fee is GST-free.
  2. A higher education provider charges students a fee and in return provides students with sporting equipment to the value of the fee.  The fee will be taxable and, therefore, is GST-inclusive.

Will students be required to pay the fee even if they do not intend to use any of the services and amenities?

A provider can charge a student a student services and amenities fee regardless of whether the student intends to use any of the service and amenities provided.

When will students need to pay the fee?

Providers will determine a date payable for the student services and amenities fee. This date cannot be earlier than the last day on which a student is able to enrol in a course of study with the provider. This ensures eligible students are able to access a SA-HELP loan.

Providers may set an earlier administrative date for payment of the fee and submission of SA HELP assistance forms.

Requirement that the date payable be no earlier than the last day that a student can enrol with the provider

The requirement that the date payable for the student services and amenities fee be no earlier than the last day that a student is able to enrol with the provider relates to a course of study rather than units of study.

The date payable must be no earlier than the last day (not including late enrolment periods) that a new student would be able to enrol in, for example, a Bachelor of Business or Bachelor of Law for the period to which the fee relates.

The requirement is in place to ensure students are able to access SA-HELP as a student must be enrolled in a course of study to be eligible for SA-HELP.

What if a student cannot afford to pay the fee upfront?

Eligible students who are unable to pay the fee upfront can request assistance from the Commonwealth and defer the fee through a new element of the Higher Education Loan Program (HELP) known as SA HELP.

Eligible students may choose to pay some of the fee upfront and obtain a SA-HELP loan for the remainder or obtain a loan for the full amount of the fee.

The amount of the loan will be added to the student’s accumulated HELP debt. An eligible student will be able to take out a SA-HELP loan even if they do not wish to take out any other HELP loan.

Who is eligible for SA HELP?

Students who are Australian citizens or permanent humanitarian visa holders resident in Australia, enrolled in a course of study or bridging course for overseas-trained professionals will be eligible for SA-HELP.

When do students need to lodge their Request for SA-HELP assistance form?

Students who wish to access Government assistance to defer a student services and amenities fee through SA-HELP will need to complete, sign and return the SA-HELP assistance form to their provider on or before the payment due date.

Providers may set an earlier administrative date for the submission of the form but must advise students of this date.

Can a Request for SA-HELP assistance form apply to fees that are due before the form is submitted?

No. If a student submits a Request for SA-HELP assistance form, it only applies to fees payable on or after the day the form is submitted.

A student must complete, sign and give to their provider a Request for SA-HELP assistance form on or before the payment due date.

Do students need to re-apply for SA-HELP each year?

A student will only be required to apply for SA-HELP assistance once for a course of study at a provider.

If a student changes courses or changes providers, the student will need to re-apply for SA HELP.

If I’m undertaking multiple courses, will I need to complete a Request for SA-HELP Assistance form/ Commonwealth Assistance Form (CAF) for each eligible course?

We suggest that you complete a Request for SA-HELP Assistance form (CAF) for each eligible course. This will ensure that you continue to be eligible for SA-HELP if you withdraw or complete one of the courses prior to a second course. If you only complete one CAF form and then complete/withdraw from that course, you will no longer be eligible for SA-HELP.

Where HEPs have an electronic SA-HELP CAF, can they display the multiple courses of study and allow the student to select all of the courses of study for which a SA-HELP CAF applies?

It is up to each provider to determine how their electronic forms operate. Providers’ electronic SA-HELP CAF could include the capacity to list multiple courses. As many providers already have e-CAFs in place, they are no doubt aware of section 5.5.1 of the Administration Guidelines which provides advice on information given to students by electronic means and section 59 of the Administrative Information for Providers covering requirements for e-forms. In developing the electronic SA-HELP form for students enrolled in multiple courses providers should be mindful that any electronic communication must provide a reliable means of maintaining the integrity of the information as it is presented on the paper form. In addition, providers should also consider any data or reporting requirements.

Will a student’s SA-HELP debt appear as a separate amount on their Commonwealth Assistance Notice (CAN)?

Yes. A student’s CAN will set out the amount of the student services and amenities fee, the day the fee was payable and the amount of the SA-HELP debt in relation to that fee.

Will a student’s SA-HELP debt appear as a separate amount on their annual HELP information statement from the ATO?

No. A student’s SA-HELP debt will become part of their accumulated HELP debt which appears as a single amount on their annual HELP information statement.

If a student is enrolled in more than one course of study will they be charged a student services and amenities fee for each course of study?

This depends on whether a student is enrolled in multiple courses of study at the same time with the same provider or whether the student is enrolled with different providers.

A student can only be charged a services and amenities fee by a provider to a maximum of $263 (in 2012).  If a student is enrolled in more than one course of study at the same time with the same provider, they can only be charged up to the maximum amount.  

However, if a student is enrolled in units of study with more than one provider in the same calendar year, they may be charged a services and amenities fee by each provider. For example, a student who is enrolled in a course of study with one provider (the home provider) but undertaking a unit of study with another provider (the host provider) as a part of that course may be charged a fee by each provider.

To be eligible for SA-HELP a student must be enrolled in a course of study with the provider who is charging the fee. If a student is enrolled in two courses of study with two providers then they are eligible to receive SA-HELP for each fee. However, if the student is enrolled in a course of study with one provider but undertaking units of study with another provider on a cross-institutional or non-award basis then they are only eligible to receive SA-HELP for the provider with which they are enrolled in a course of study.

Providers are responsible for developing their own policies in relation to charging a student services and amenities fee to students undertaking cross-institutional studies.

If a student enrols at one higher education provider but then moves to another can the student be required to pay another student services and amenities fee?

Yes. There is nothing in the Bill or the Guidelines made under section 238-10 of the Higher Education Support Act 2003 that prohibits a provider from charging each student who enrols with the provider a student services and amenities fee. The fee applies regardless of whether that person has paid a fee to another provider for the same period.

An eligible student can access SA-HELP loans for as many fees as the student incurs. There is no limit on the number of SA-HELP loans for eligible students.

Can I obtain a refund of the fee if I have to withdraw from study in special circumstances?

Universities are expected to develop their own policies in relation to the refund of student services and amenities fees.

Providers are not permitted to remit SA-HELP debts incurred by students. Universities are expected to advise students that if they receive a refund due to special circumstances, and it is after the date payable for the SA-HELP loan, the student will have recorded a debt with the ATO.

Spending revenue from the fee

Can fee revenue be used to support a political party?

No. Providers must not allow fee revenue to be used to support political parties, or to support the election of a person to a Commonwealth or State or Territory Parliament or local Government body.

What can providers spend fee revenue on?

A provider that charges a student services and amenities fee will only be able to spend the fee on the provision of the following services:

  • providing food or drink to students on a campus of the higher education provider;
  • supporting a sporting or other recreational activity by students;
  • supporting the administration of a club most of whose members are students;
  • caring for children of students;
  • providing legal services to students;
  • promoting the health or welfare of students;
  • helping students secure accommodation;
  • helping students obtain employment or advice on careers;
  • helping students with their financial affairs;
  • helping students obtain insurance against personal accidents;
  • supporting debating by students;
  • providing libraries and reading rooms (other than those provided for academic purposes) for students;
  • supporting an artistic activity by students;
  • supporting the production and dissemination to students of media whose content is provided by students;
  • helping students develop skills for study, by means other than undertaking courses of study in which they are enrolled;
  • advising on matters arising under the higher education provider’s rules (however described);
  • advocating students’ interests in matters arising under the higher education provider’s rules (however described);
  • giving students information to help them in their orientation; and
  • helping meet the specific needs of overseas students relating to their welfare, accommodation and employment.

Providers can choose to deliver the services and amenities themselves or contract a third party to deliver the services and amenities on the providers’ behalf.

Examples of services the fee can be spent on

Providing food or drink to students on a campus of the higher education provider:

  • Providing subsidies for food outlets on campus.
  • Subsidising or providing barbeques during orientation week.

Supporting a sporting or other recreational activity by students:

  • Subsidising social sporting competitions.
  • Building sporting facilities.
  • Providing funding to sporting organisations to purchase sporting equipment.
  • Subsidising inter-university sport.
  • Subsidising travel to inter-university sporting competitions.

Supporting the administration of a club most of whose members are students:

  • Building or refurbishing rooms for use by clubs and societies.
  • Subsidising travel to inter-university competitions.
  • Providing funding to clubs and societies to allow them to purchase supplies and equipment.

Caring for children of students:

  • Subsidising child care services.
  • Building a child care centre.
  • Refurbishing rooms to be used to provide child care services.
  • Providing parking facilities near the child care centre.

Providing legal services to students:

  • Subsidising or providing legal services.
  • Engaging trained staff to assist students with legal issues.
  • Subsidising the rent for shopfront space on campus.

Promoting the health or welfare of students:

  • Subsidising health services.
  • Subsidising dental services.
  • Providing information materials on health and welfare issues.

Helping students secure accommodation:

  • Providing access to a website or electronic noticeboard where housing vacancies can be advertised.
  • Subsidising accommodation on campus.
  • Engaging staff to assist students who are seeking accommodation.

Helping students obtain employment or advice on careers:

  • Engaging staff to assist students who are seeking employment or advice on careers.
  • Providing an electronic noticeboard where job vacancies can be advertised.
  • Subsidising or providing workshops on interview skills, resumes and writing job applications.
  • Subsidising the rent for shopfront space on campus.

Helping students with their financial affairs:

  • Providing loans and bursaries to students experiencing financial difficulties.
  • Engaging staff to assist students with financial issues.
  • Providing electronic resources about financial management and budgeting.
  • Subsidising workshops on financial management and budgeting.
  • Providing information about financial assistance available to students.

Helping students obtain insurance against personal accidents:

  • Providing electronic resources about insurance.
  • Subsidising insurance policies for students.

Supporting debating by students:

  • Subsidising travel to debating competitions.
  • Subsidising Inter-university debating competitions.
  • Providing rooms or meeting spaces for debating to take place.
  • Building or refurbishing rooms for use by students.

Providing libraries and reading rooms (other than those provided for academic purposes) for students:

  • Providing funding for the purchase of novels and magazines.
  • Building or refurbishing rooms for use as libraries and reading rooms.
  • Providing funding for the purchase of furniture such as couches and tables and chairs.

Supporting an artistic activity by students:

  • Building or refurbishing rehearsal and exhibition spaces.
  • Providing rehearsal and exhibition spaces.
  • Providing funding for the purchase of art supplies such as paint, chalk and sketch pads.
  • Subsidising creative art workshops.
  • Subsidising dance classes.

Supporting the production and dissemination to students of media whose content is provided by students:

  • Building or refurbishing rooms that can be used by students who are involved in the production of student newspapers and magazines.
  • Providing funding for the purchase of supplies.
  • Providing funding for printing of student newspapers and magazines.
  • Providing funding for campus radio.

Helping students develop skills for study, by means other than undertaking courses of study in which they are enrolled:

  • Subsidising essay writing classes.
  • Subsidising workshops on time management, referencing, taking notes, exam revision and argument and debate.
  • Providing access to electronic resources on time management, referencing, taking notes, exam revision and argument and debate.
  • Engaging staff to undertake individual consultations with students about issues.

Advising on matters arising under the higher education provider’s rules:

  • Building or refurbishing rooms that can be used as office space for officers advising on such matters.
  • Providing access to a website that contains information on the provider’s policies and action that can be taken by students and the provider.
  • Subsidising or providing workshops on the provider’s rules and policies.
  • Providing information materials.

Advocating students’ interests in matters arising under the higher education provider’s rules:

  • Engaging staff as advocacy officers.
  • Building or refurbishing rooms that can be used as office space for advocacy officers.
  • Subsidising the rent for shopfront space on campus.
  • Providing funding for administrative supplies.

Giving students information to help them in their orientation:

  • Providing an orientation week.
  • Providing information packs to students at orientation week.
  • Organising social events.
  • Providing a mid-year orientation program.
  • Engaging staff to assist students during orientation.
  • Providing access to a website that contains important orientation information. 

Helping meet the specific needs of overseas students relating to their welfare, accommodation and employment:

  • Providing access to a website that contains relevant information for before and after the students arrive in Australia.
  • Providing language and learning advisers to assist students who have English as a second language with assessment and studying.
  • Engaging staff to assist students to access employment, accommodation, health and welfare services.

Will students have a say in how fee revenue is spent?

The Government is committed to ensuring the consultation universities undertake with students is genuine, and that students have a proper say in how any compulsory student services and amenities fee is spent.

Under the recently released draft Student Services, Amenities, Representation and Advocacy Guidelines (Representation Guidelines), universities will be required to have a formal process of consultation with democratically elected student representatives and representatives from major student organisations at the university regarding the specific uses of proceeds from any compulsory student services and amenities fee.

These consultations must include:

  1. publishing identified priorities for proposed fee expenditure and allowing opportunities to comment on those priorities by students and student associations and organisations; and
  2. meeting with democratically elected student representatives and representatives from major student organisations at the university to consider the priorities for use of fee revenue.

How will the Government monitor expenditure of fee revenue?

Providers will be required to certify, on an annual basis, that they charged student services and amenities fees strictly in accordance with the Higher Education Support Act 2003 and the Administration Guidelines made under the Act.

Providers will also need to confirm that the revenue from the fee was spent strictly in accordance with the Act and the Representation Guidelines made under the Act, and only on allowable services and amenities.

The Department of Industry, Innovation, CLimate Change, Science, Research and Tertiary Education will investigate any allegations of non-compliance.

What if a provider breaches a provision of the Higher Education Support Act 2003?

There are penalties that will apply to universities for breaches of the requirements.

If a provider breaches the requirements of section 19-37 of the Act, the provider’s grant will reduced by over $100 for each Commonwealth supported place provided in the relevant year – this figure is indexed annually.

If a provider breaches other requirements, the Minister can determine that a grant to that university is to be reduced or repaid under section 54-1.

Do providers need to publish a schedule of their student services and amenities fees?

Yes. Providers will need to publish a schedule of fees by 1 January 2012 if they intend to charge a fee for the first half of 2012.

Providers will need to publish a schedule of fees by 1 April if they are charging a fee in the second half of the year and 1 October if they are charging a fee in the first half of the year from 2013.

Can a university carry forward unspent SSAF revenue to forward years?

Yes. Provided that requisite student consultation has taken place and that SSAF revenue is only used for allowable items under the Higher Education Support Act 2003, decisions on the expenditure of SSAF revenue, including the timing of expenditure, are at the discretion of the higher education provider.

What is the process for making a complaint?

Any queries, complaints or concerns should be directed to the SSAF Program Manager by email ssaf@innovation.gov.au.

SA-HELP administration

If a student has incurred a SA fee charge and fully paid the fee, should their record be included in the SA file?

No, providers are only required to report those students who have incurred a SA-HELP debt.

The Student Services Amenities fee applies to a student. Why is a course code included on the SA-HELP file?

The information provided through the SA-HELP file will be used to inform the ATO about the SA-HELP debt that has been incurred by a student(s). To be eligible for SA-HELP a student must:

  • be an Australian citizen or a permanent humanitarian visa holder resident in Australia;
  • be enrolled in a course of study (including bridging study for overseas-trained professionals) with a higher education provider;
  • meet the Tax File Number (TFN) requirements; and
  • complete and sign a Request for SA-HELP assistance form.

As it is part of the eligibility requirements it is therefore essential that a course of study is specified in reference to SA-HELP.

When will the new SA-HELP file submission be due?

SA-HELP can be implemented from 1 January 2012.  The first submission will be due 31 August 2012 for SA debts incurred 1 January – 30 June 2012.  After that, submissions will be due on 31 March (for second half of preceding calendar year) and 31 August (for first half of that calendar year). 

The 2012 timing matrix on HEIMSHELP will be updated to reflect the new reporting requirements.

Voluntary Student Unionism

Voluntary student unionism (VSU) came into effect in July 2006. Under the Higher Education Support Act 2003 higher education providers cannot require:

  • a student to be a member of a student association, union or guild; and/or
  • a person to pay to the provider or any other entity an amount for facilities, amenities or services that are not of an academic nature unless it is for a Student Services and Amenities Fee as specified in the Act.
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