Distance and online education for tertiary and secondary students

If you are a distance education student you need to be studying an approved course at an approved institution.

You may be a distance education student if you do not study on campus or have face to face classes.

Distance education courses are normally delivered online, by correspondence, or both. These courses may be studied through, but not limited to:

  • the Open Training and Education Network (OTEN)
  • Open Universities Australia (OUA)
  • an Australian university
  • TAFE
  • a private provider, or
  • a secondary school

Eligibility

The eligibility requirements for student payments are the same whether you study through distance education or on campus. You must be doing a full time study load to get Youth Allowance, Austudy or ABSTUDY Living Allowance.

Study loads

Each institution measures study loads in a different way. You need to check your institution's website or handbook to find out what they consider to be a full time study load. Study loads for distance education courses are generally measured by either a unit weighting or the total hours specified for your course.

Example 1 – institution uses total hours

Lily’s institution has informed her the course she is studying requires 200 hours to complete. A full time study load at her institution is 20 hours per week. Therefore, her course would generally take 10 weeks to complete if she is studying a full time study load: 200 ÷ 20 = 10.

Lily must study at least 75% of the required study load, which is 15 hours a week, in order to receive Youth Allowance, Austudy or ABSTUDY Living Allowance.

If Lily requires more than 10 weeks to complete her course, she will need to meet the allowable time rules for Youth Allowance or Austudy, or reasonable time rules for ABSTUDY. Read more about allowable time for studying while receiving Youth Allowance or allowable time while receiving Austudy. To find out more about reasonable time while receiving ABSTUDY, call us on FreecallTM 1800 132 317.

Lily’s student payment is based on the hours the institution has stated it normally takes to complete the course - not how many hours she actually spends studying.

Example 2 – institution uses a credit point weightings system

If your institution uses a credit point weightings system, you need to work out if your units add up to a full time study load.

Nick’s institution considers 500 credit points as a full time study load for a semester. Nick is required to study a minimum of 375 credit points in a semester to meet the 75% study load requirement to receive his student payment.

In semester 1, Nick is studying 3 units. Two of these units have a weighting of 120 credit points each and 1 unit has a weighting of 100 credit points.

(2 x 120) + (1 x 100) = 340 credit points

As this is less than the minimum requirement of 375 credit points, Nick does not meet the 75% study load requirement for student payments. It is important Nick tells us about this change as soon as possible to avoid a debt and having to pay the money back. There may be another payment available for Nick. He should check our Payment Finder.

Submission of assignments

Some distance education institutions require you to submit a certain number of assignments within a set period to meet your course requirements. You need to make satisfactory progress through your course, as determined by your institution, to keep your student payment.

Many distance education courses are self paced. However, to keep your student payment, you must show you are progressing through your course in a satisfactory timeframe. We will check with your institution to see if you have submitted your assignments.

Example

Tom is enrolled in a course that has 10 assignments to be completed over 40 weeks. He is required to submit an assignment every 4 weeks. Tom is receiving a student payment from us. After 12 weeks of study, Tom has not submitted any assignments.

To avoid a debt, Tom needs to contact us as soon as he decides he is withdrawing or is unlikely to complete his course in the required timeframe. Tom may need to pay back the student payment he received from us.

Open Training and Education Network (OTEN)

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

OTEN considers you to be full time if you are doing 16 hours of course work per week.

For example, if you enrol in 1 unit that normally takes 48 hours of course work to complete, you 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 you are receiving Youth Allowance, Austudy or ABSTUDY Living Allowance, you should complete your study in the normal time it takes to complete the course. In the example above, you would be expected to have finished your unit within 3 weeks and have started the next unit.

If you think you are unable to progress through your course and finish all the units in the required timeframe, you need to contact us as soon as possible to avoid a debt. There may be another payment available for you. Check our Payment Finder.

Open Universities Australia (OUA)

Undergraduate level courses at OUA generally have a full time study load of 2 subjects per study period or session. Single units normally have a credit weighting of 0.125 equivalent full time study load (EFTSL). Double units normally have a credit weighting of 0.250 EFTSL. To receive a student payment while attending OUA, you must be enrolled in an approved course and be undertaking at least 2 single or 1 double open learning units in any 13 week study period.

Example 1

John is doing a bachelor course through OUA and wants to receive Austudy. John has enrolled in 2 study periods and is studying 0.250 EFTSL in each study period. John is considered to be a full time student for Austudy for the 2 study periods.

Example 2

Alice is receiving Youth Allowance and is doing a bachelor course through OUA. Alice enrolled in 2 single open learning units with a combined credit weighting of 0.250 EFTSL in a single study period. Alice decides half way through the study period to stop studying 1 of the units and her study load reduces to 0.125 EFTSL. Alice has no exceptional circumstances preventing her from completing the unit. Alice needs to tell us about this change or she may need to pay back her Youth Allowance.

Distance education while overseas

If you travel overseas while studying by distance education, and are not required to do part of your course overseas, your student payment will stop. Read more about payments while outside Australia.

Change of circumstances

You need to tell us if you change the number of hours or units you are studying, as it may affect your payment. If you stop studying, you will need to tell us within 14 days to avoid a debt.

Use your Centrelink online account through myGov or the Express Plus Centrelink mobile app to update your study details.

Find out how to update your study details myGov.

Page last updated: 3 August 2016

This information was printed Saturday 3 December 2016 from humanservices.gov.au/customer/enablers/distance-and-online-education-tertiary-and-secondary-students It may not include all of the relevant information on this topic. Please consider any relevant site notices at humanservices.gov.au/siteinformation when using this material.