Frequently Asked Questions – Students

The Office of the Commonwealth Ombudsman handles complaints about VET Student Loans and VET FEE-HELP.

You can contact us on our website or by calling 1300 362 072.

Definitions:

Provider – a VET Student Loans or VET FEE-HELP approved provider. Also known as a VET Loan Assistance approved provider, or VET Loan Assistance approved Registered Training Organisation (RTO).

Student – people who are studying, have studied and people who may have never studied, yet have been signed up for a course with a VET loan.

What is an Ombudsman?

An Ombudsman is a person who helps people who have problems with Australian businesses and government agencies. There are different Ombudsman for different businesses and parts of government.

If the Ombudsman finds that a business or government agency has done the wrong thing or treated someone unfairly, they can recommend a remedy. That remedy might be, an apology, better information, a new decision, or a refund.

What is the VET Student Loans program?

The VET Student Loans program commenced on 1 January 2017, replacing the VET FEE-HELP scheme. This is a new student loans program, to give eligible students access to quality higher level vocational education and training (VET) qualifications including certain diplomas, advanced diplomas, graduate certificates or graduate diploma courses. This program particularly assists those students who could not otherwise afford to pay for their training upfront.

For more information, including information for students who wish to access the program, go to the Department of Education and Training’s website.

Who can we help?

Our services are free, independent and impartial—we do not take sides.

It is important to note that ’students’ includes people who are studying, have studied and people who may have never studied, yet have been signed up for a diploma, advanced diploma, graduate certificate or graduate diploma course.

We can only help students studying a diploma, advanced diploma, graduate certificate or graduate diploma course, and who have accessed the VET FEE-HELP or the VET Student Loans programs to cover the cost of their studies, in full or in part.

We can help people who believe they may have a VET FEE-HELP or VET Student Loans debt they should not have, as well as help students who feel they have been treated unfairly by their VET FEE-HELP or VET Student Loan approved provider (provider).

Family or friends can raise a concern about a VET FEE-HELP or VET Student Loans provider on a student’s behalf. Please fill out a Permission for someone else to act on my behalf form.

What can we help with?

We investigate complaints about problems that VET FEE-HELP or VET Student Loans students have with their provider in Australia.

What if I have a complaint about a TAFE or Community College?

You are able to lodge a complaint with us about public or private VET Student Loans or VET FEE-HELP providers. You are required to follow your provider’s internal complaints process and if you are still unhappy with the result, you can and should contact us.

What do I do if my provider has closed down and I can't follow a complaints process?

If your provider has closed and you are unable to follow their internal complaints process, please contact us and we can let you know how to lodge your complaint.

What can I complain about?

You can complain about your provider if you believe they may not have treated you fairly or have made an incorrect decision.

Who is a VET Student Loans or VET FEE-HELP Student?

A VET FEE-HELP student is someone who studied a diploma, advanced diploma, graduate certificate or graduate diploma course with a VET FEE-HELP approved provider and signed up to a VET FEE-HELP loan to cover the costs of their studies, in part or in full. This may include people who unintentionally signed up to a course and are unaware they have a VET student loan debt.

A VET Student Loans student is someone who has studied or is studying a diploma, advanced diploma, graduate certificate or graduate diploma course with a VET Student Loans approved provider and signed up to a VET Student Loan to cover the costs of their studies, in part or in full.

Can somebody else contact the Ombudsman for me?

Yes. You may want someone else, like a friend or family member, to contact our Office for you. You will need to give them your permission by signing a Permission for someone else to act on my behalf form.

Do I have to give my name when making a complaint?

No. You can tell us about a problem without giving us your name and contact details—this is called an anonymous complaint.

We will still try to look into your complaint, but we may not be able to contact you to tell you what happened. And depending on what the problem is, we may not be able to investigate it without knowing who is experiencing the problem.

How will we investigate your complaint?

When you contact us about a problem, we will carefully consider if we can help you. In some cases, the Ombudsman may decide not to investigate a complaint. This might be because:

  • you have not complained to your provider first, or
  • another organisation is better able to help you.

If we decide not to investigate, we will tell you why and let you know what to do next.

If we do investigate your complaint, we will contact your provider to ask them about what happened. When we receive all the information we need, we will decide whether your provider has followed their rules, policies, and procedures correctly and treated you fairly. We will tell you what we have decided and why.

How long will it take to investigate my complaint?

The time it takes to investigate a complaint varies. Some problems are simple to resolve while others are more complex and take longer to investigate. We will keep you and your provider informed about the progress of your complaint.

What can the Ombudsman do to fix my problem?

If we find that your provider has made a mistake or acted unfairly, we can for example, recommend your provider:

  • apologises
  • changes or reconsiders a decision
  • provides better information, or
  • improves a policy or procedure.

If required, the Ombudsman can make recommendations to other Commonwealth agencies in relation to systemic issues about your provider’s practices uncovered through the investigation.

Will the information I give to the Ombudsman be kept private?

To investigate a problem, we will usually need to give some information about the complaint to the provider to find out what has happened. This will include your name and a description of your complaint, unless you have asked us not to provide specific information.

We will treat your information with privacy and respect, and collect, store, use and disclose your personal information only in accordance with Australian privacy laws.