Incidental Fees

Fees for goods and services incidental to studies

Under the provisions of the Higher Education Support Act 2003 (HESA), Commonwealth supported students and domestic fee-paying students can usually complete the requirements of their program without additional fees on top of student contribution amounts/tuition fees. Generally, where materials or services are a required part of a program, the University cannot levy fees unless the material or service, or an alternative, is also available free to students.

For example, course materials such as course outlines must be free to students, and access to computers or other online resources must be available to students at no additional charge. For full details see 'Circumstances in which providers must not levy fees', below.

Students can be charged certain fees, including incidental fees, where the material/service is not essential to the student's program of study, or the material/service is an alternate form of one that is provided free of charge.

For example, charges can be levied for lecture notes or audio files of a lecture that is available free to students, and charges can be levied for internet and computer access to material outside course/program requirements and also for graduation ceremonies. For full details see 'Circumstances in which providers may levy fees', below.

Students can also be charged fines or penalties, provided that the charge is levied principally as a disincentive and not in order to raise revenue or cover administrative costs.

Extracts from Department of Education Administrative Information for Providers (AIP)

Circumstances in which providers may levy fees

Chapter 7 of the Higher Education Provider Guidelines states that a provider may charge a student for a good or service related to the provision of their course if one of the following criteria applies:

  • The fee is for a good or service that is not essential to the course of study, for example:
    • Access to internet and computer facilities (except where these are required as part of a course),
    • Printing of notes from the internet or disks,
    • Graduation ceremonies in cases where students are not required to attend the ceremony in order to obtain their award.
  • The fee is for an alternative form of access to a good or service that is an essential component of a course but is otherwise made readily available at no additional charge by the provider, for example:
    • Lecture notes or files, provided that lectures are available to students free of charge,
    • Electronic provision of essential information if the information is also readily available free of charge in another form (eg. in the university library),
    • Reading material, such as anthologies of required readings, provided that these texts are also available free of charge.
  • The fee is for an essential good or service that the student has the choice of acquiring from a supplier other than the provider and is for:
    • Equipment or items that become the physical property of the student and that are not consumed during the course of study, for example:
      • Artwork supplies
      • Fabric for sewing class
      • Musical instruments
      • Protective clothing or footwear
      • Stethoscopes
      • Dance shoes
      • Reference texts
    • Food, transport and accommodation costs associated with the provision of field trips, e.g. meals, snacks, beverages, bus tickets, airfares, hotels, camping.
  • The fee is a fine or penalty, provided that the charge is levied principally as a disincentive and not in order to raise revenue or cover administrative costs, for example:
    • Fines or penalties for late enrolments, late variations to enrolments, late withdrawals from a course, and late payment of charges, student contribution amounts and tuition fees
    • Review of grade if a student has already passed the subject but is seeking to improve their grade
    • A charge for an assessment of prior learning in circumstances where a person has not applied for entry to the institution
    • A bond for equipment that may be forfeited if the equipment is not returned, or is damaged

Circumstances in which providers must not levy fees

Providers must not charge students for a good or service which is required for a course of study unless that good or service, or an alternative to it, is also available to students at no additional charge.

For example,

  • course materials, such as:
    • subject outlines
    • reading lists
    • tutorial or seminar topics and problems
    • assignment and essay questions
    • requirements and guidelines for the presentation of work
    • access to library books, periodicals and manuals
    • clinic, laboratory or workshop materials such as anaesthetics, chemicals, filters, fuel, fertilisers, animal feed or crops used in practical sessions or research
    • access to computers or other online resources
    • recognition of prior learning if the student is enrolled with the provider or the student is applying for enrolment
    • equipment and manuals which a professional in the field would not be required to own, such as:
      • fixtures in a clinic, laboratory or workshop
      • large items of equipment and relevant workshop manuals required for their use
    • admissions services, including application fees (except special admissions tests)
    • examinations or assessments, including practical assessment, for example, which requires the services of musical accompanists
    • reassessment of results where a student has failed an assessment and thereby failed a subject or unit
    • mailing charges associated with distance education
    • course notes provided as part of distance education

Special Admissions Tests

A provider that conducts a special admissions test for judging the suitability of a person seeking admission into a specialist course may charge a fee for this test.

 A special admissions test would be over and above normal admissions services such as enrolling on the basis of an Australian Tertiary Admission Rank (ATAR), for which a provider must not charge a fee, for example:

  • Specialist auditions and interviews such as those conducted by performing arts institutions/faculties,
  • Where special expertise is required to conduct interviews and make recommendations on the suitability of applicants for admission.