Tertiary Admission

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Applying to University

The majority of tertiary applicants apply through the Universities Admissions Centre (UAC). UAC is the tertiary admissions centre for NSW and ACT universities, and handles a variety of applicants, both Year 12 and non-Year 12. Some institutions offer alternative entry schemes.

In addition to processing applications, UAC also releases UAIs on behalf of the Technical Committee for Scaling. UAC does not determine how the offers are made--it only releases them on behalf of the universities which it represents, and any further questions regarding offers should be sent to the concerned university.

The UAI

The majority of undergraduate courses select applicants on the basis of their UAI, but some courses, e.g. creative and performing arts courses, will assess applicants' abilities on some of the following criteria:

  • UAI
  • Questionnaires
  • External tests such as STAT/RET and UMAT
  • Performance in relevant subjects
  • Auditions
  • Portfolios
  • Interviews, etc.

(The exact criteria used differ from course to course: check the UAC guide or the university website for more information.)

Cut-offs

The UAI requirement for a course is published as a cut-off - that is, the lowest UAI that would receive an offer to the course. So if the cut-off for a course is 91.05, everyone whose UAI was 91.05 or above who applied for the course will receive an offer.

The cut-off is calculated by a system of supply and demand. If there are 20 places in a course, the 20 applicants with the highest UAIs will receive offers, and the lowest UAI of those 20 becomes the cut-off. Universities will sometimes manipulate the cut-offs a bit, particularly in courses where they can afford to be a bit flexible about how many people they admit. This is one of the reasons that a cut-off can stay stable on a round number for years on end. (For instance, the cut-off for the Bachelor of Arts at the University of Sydney has been precisely 83.00 for several years. This is not pure coincidence.)

This bears repeating: cut-offs are determined by supply and demand. They are a reflection of how many people applied to the course, how high the UAIs of the applicants were, and (primarily) how many places the university made available in the course. They are not a reflection of how hard the course is, how valuable the course is, how likely you are to get a job from the course, the general worth of the course, and so on.

Alternative Entry Schemes

Some institutions offer alternative pathways to tertiary study. For more information see UAC's Alternative Entry Guide or contact the institution.

Non-Year 12 Applicants

Most non-Year 12 applicants will either be mature-age (over 21 in most cases) or enrolled in a tertiary course and wishing to transfer. For transfers, applicants will usually be assessed on both their UAI and their tertiary performance. There are usually special mature-age entry schemes available for mature-age applicants who have not done any university study and who either didn't do very well in their HSCs or completed their HSC a long time before the present. Contact the relevant institution/faculty for more information.

Paying for uni

Since the 1980s almost all students at Australian universities have been required to contribute towards the cost of their education. These contributions are paid under HECS (the Higher Education Contribution Scheme). More recently, under the Howard government, full-fee places have been introduced. Students in full-fee places pay more for their education, in return for having the entry requirements (in practice, the UAI cut-off) reduced. When you fill out your uni application you will have to select a payment mode for each course you list. You will receive an offer to the highest-preferenced CSP course you are eligible for AND the highest-preferenced DFEE course you are eligible for.

HECS/CSP places

The majority of uni students are in a Commonwealth-supported place (CSP). This means that they pay fees (formally known as their 'student contribution') at a cheaper rate than full-fee students. The exact fee varies depending on the type of course. The approximate student contribution for a full-time student in 2007 was:

  • Education, Nursing: $3998
  • Arts, Humanities, Psychology: $4996
  • Economics/Commerce, Agriculture, Engineering, Architecture, Health, Science: $8333
  • Law, Dentistry, Medicine, Veterinary Science: $8333

Note 1: These figures are approximate and are adjusted for inflation each year. Technically each university has the freedom to set its own fees, but in practice almost all universities set their fees at the maximum allowed under law. Those maximums are the figures set out above.

Note 2: The Howard government's 2007 Budget moved Economics and Commerce courses to the top ($8333) band for students commencing those courses from 2008 onwards.

Am I eligible for a Commonwealth-supported place?

You are allowed to apply for a Commonwealth-supported place if you are at least one of the following:

  • an Australian citizen
  • an Australian permanent resident
  • a New Zealand citizen

Paying your HECS fees

If you are an Australian citizen OR an Australian permanent resident on a humanitarian visa

You have a choice. You may:

  • Pay all of your student contribution up front. You will receive a discount of 20%; or
  • Pay some of your student contribution up front and defer the rest to HECS-HELP. If you pay $500 or more you will receive a discount of 20%; or
  • Defer all of your student contribution to HECS-HELP.

Most students defer all of their student contribution to HECS-HELP, but (if you can afford it) paying at least some of the contribution up front will allow you to take advantage of the discount and hence reduce your debt later in life. You can switch between the options at will: so one year you might defer your whole contribution, another you might have some spare cash and decide to pay some or all of your contribution up front.

If you defer some or all of your contribution to HECS-HELP, the Tax Office will keep track of how much you owe the government. You will begin to pay it back once you begin earning over a certain amount. The Tax Office will inform you each year of the minimum amount you have to pay. HECS-HELP debts are indexed to inflation each year.

Note: If you wish to defer some or all of your contribution to HECS-HELP you will need a tax file number (TFN) to supply to your university on enrolment day. This is so that the Tax Office can link your HECS-HELP debt to the rest of your taxes. You will not be allowed to defer contributions if you do not supply a TFN. If you don't have one already, it's best to get it nice and early so you're not rushing around trying to get one two days before enrolment. Check the Tax Office site or talk to your school. (The Tax Office has a schools program, in which schools provide their students with a simple form to fill out and then forward the forms to the Tax Office. This benefits you because the school vouches for your identity, so you don't have to bother with collating the documents necessary to prove that you are who you say you are.)

If you are a New Zealand citizen OR an Australian permanent resident on a non-humanitarian visa

You do not have access to HECS-HELP and must pay your full student contribution up front at the beginning of each semester. You do not receive a discount.

Domestic full-fee/DFEE places

Full-fee students pay more in exchange for lower UAI cut-offs. A DFEE place may be worth considering if you don't think you will get the UAI for a Commonwealth-supported place, but keep in mind the financial burden it may impose on you and/or your family.

The DFEE fees vary from course to course and from uni to uni. Check the university web sites for more details.

Am I eligible for a DFEE place?

You are allowed to apply for a DFEE place if you are at least one of the following:

  • an Australian citizen
  • an Australian permanent resident
  • a New Zealand citizen

Paying your DFEE fees

If you are an Australian citizen OR an Australian permanent resident on a humanitarian visa

You have a choice. You may:

  • Pay all of your fees up front. You will not receive a discount; or
  • Pay some of your fees up front and defer the rest to FEE-HELP. You will not receive a discount; or
  • Defer all of your fees to FEE-HELP.

If you defer some or all of your fees to FEE-HELP, the Tax Office will keep track of how much you owe the government. You will begin to pay it back once you begin earning over a certain amount per annum. The Tax Office will inform you each year of the minimum amount you you have to pay. FEE-HELP debts are indexed to inflation each year.

Unlike HECS-HELP, there is a maximum amount you can 'borrow' over your lifetime through FEE-HELP. In 2007 the maximum was $80000, or $100000 for students studying dentistry, medicine or veterinary science. The amount is indexed each year.

Also, there is a 'loan fee' of 20% on fees deferred to FEE-HELP. This means that if you defer $10000 in fees to FEE-HELP, for example, $2000 (20% of $10000) will be added to your debt, giving you a total of $12000. However, the loan fee does not contribute to your lifetime maximum FEE-HELP - so in our example, only $10000 would be counted towards your lifetime maximum.

Note: If you wish to defer some or all of your contribution to FEE-HELP you will need a tax file number (TFN) to supply to your university on enrolment day. This is so that the Tax Office can link your FEE-HELP debt to the rest of your taxes. You will not be allowed to defer fees if you do not supply a TFN. If you don't have one already, it's best to get it nice and early so you're not rushing around trying to get one two days before enrolment. Check the Tax Office site or talk to your school. (The Tax Office has a schools program, in which schools provide their students with a simple form to fill out and then forward the forms to the Tax Office. This benefits you because the school vouches for your identity, so you don't have to bother with collating the documents necessary to prove that you are who you say you are.)

If you are a New Zealand citizen OR an Australian permanent resident on a non-humanitarian visa

You do not have access to FEE-HELP and must pay your full fees up front at the beginning of each semester. You do not receive a discount.