Flexible Funding – support for Indigenous student success

Recent amendments to the Higher Education Support Act 2003 will support the new Indigenous Student Success Program commencing 1 January 2017.

The Higher Education Support Legislation Amendment (2016 Measures No. 1) Act 2016 (Cth) was proclaimed in late November 2016 and establishes a new framework for the administration and funding of support programs for Indigenous students. Guidelines for the Indigenous Student Success Program were issued in early 2017.

The objective of the Program is to improve Indigenous student retention and completion rates by giving universities more flexibility. This means that the University will continue to be able offer a range of support services but will be able to better target those services to the actual needs of current and future Indigenous undergraduates and post-graduates. The new Program does this by combining the existing funding programs into one.

Under the Indigenous Student Success Program, new grant guidelines will be developed to:

  • Simplify the way grants are provided by setting a standardised allocation formula
  • Allow flexibility in the funding support provided for Indigenous students, including by
    • awarding scholarships
    • providing academic support, such as supplementary tuition
    • providing pastoral care
    • fostering culturally-safe learning environments
  • Reduce administrative obligations on universities.

As a first step to implementing the new Program, the amending Act inserted a new Part (Part 2-2A) to the Higher Education Support Act 2003 (HESA) to:

  • establish the eligibility of higher education providers for grants and the purpose of the grants
  • authorise Indigenous Student Assistance Grants Guidelines to be developed that set out conditions of award and the value of grants
  • allow the Minister to approve grants outside these Guidelines and to set maximum payments for grants
  • provide a mechanism allowing unspent grant funds to be rolled over to the next year
  • treat Indigenous scholarships awarded under this Program in the same way as other scholarships under the HESA (that is, for social security purposes and determining eligibility for other student assistance).
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