The Office of the Commonwealth Ombudsman investigates complaints about problems that VET FEE-HELP or VET Student Loans students have with their provider in Australia. Our services are free, independent and impartial—we do not take sides.

Before you make a complaint

You should try to resolve the complaint with your provider before contacting us. Click here to read more about what to do before making a complaint.

Read this factsheet to see how to make a complaint with your provider and with our Office.

Factsheets

Definitions

Provider: a VET Student Loans or VET FEE-HELP approved education provider. Also known as a:

  • VET Loan Assistance approved provider, or
  • VET Loan Assistance approved Registered Training Organisation.

Student: people who are:

  • studying
  • have studied
  • people who may have never studied, yet have signed up for a course with a VET loan.

Videos

How can the Commonwealth Ombudsman help you?

We can only help students who are studying or have studied a:

  • diploma
  • advanced diploma
  • graduate certificate
  • graduate diploma course
  • 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 also help people who believe they:

  • may have a VET FEE-HELP or VET Student Loans debt they should not have
  • 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 by filling out a Permission for someone else to act on my behalf form.

What is the role of the VET Student Loans function?

The VET Student Loans function was created to manage and investigate complaints about the VET FEE-HELP and VET Student Loans programs.

We focus on investigating and resolving disputes between students and providers.

We are responsible for:

  • investigating complaints, making recommendations, and reporting on providers delivering education and training services under both VET Student Loans and VET FEE-HELP programs
  • providing best practice complaint-handling advice and training to providers
  • reporting on trends and issues identified in the VET sector
  • working with industry to develop a Code of Practice.

If required, it is within the powers of the VET Student Loans Ombudsman to compel providers to meetings. We can also make recommendations to other Commonwealth agencies in relation to systemic issues about providers’ practices uncovered through our investigations.

We cannot override a provider’s decision or compel a provider to put in place our recommendations.

If a provider does not act on our recommendation, we can report this to the:

  • Minister
  • Secretary of the Department of Education and Training, or

disclose this information to other bodies.

What do I do if my provider has closed down and I cannot follow a complaints process?

If your provider has closed, this factsheet will help you understand what to expect and what to do if your VET FEE-HELP or VET Student Loans provider closes or discontinues your course.

How does the Commonwealth Ombudsman investigate a complaint?

We investigate in an independent and impartial way. We do not advocate for the student or the provider. Complaint investigations are conducted in private and are usually informal.

When a complaint is received, we assess the complaint and decide if it is an issue we can investigate. In some cases, we may decide not to investigate a complaint. This might be because:

  • the student has not complained to the provider first, or
  • another organisation is better able to deal with the complaint.

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

If we decide to investigate a complaint, we will ask the provider about the problem. We may request relevant information, such as student records, from the provider.

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.

Click here to read more about our complaint timeframes.

What happens at the end of an investigation?

At the end of an investigation we may decide the provider has acted reasonably. We will advise the student and the provider of this decision.

In other cases, we may  decide the provider didn’t take appropriate action or the action appears to have been:

  • contrary to law
  • unreasonable, unjust, oppressive or improperly discriminatory, or
  • otherwise, in all the circumstances, wrong.

Where this happens, we may recommend that a provider remedy the problem by:

  • apologising to the student
  • changing or reconsidering their decision
  • providing better information to the student, or
  • improving their policies or procedures.

We give providers an opportunity to comment on any recommendations we make.

In all investigation cases, we will keep the provider and the student updated on the progress of the investigation.

Will the information you give us 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.

You can view our Privacy Statement here.

Do providers have to use the VET Student Loans Ombudsman?

Yes, VET Student Loans approved providers are members of the VET Student Loans Ombudsman, as the external dispute resolution scheme, as stated in the VET Student Loans Act 2016 section 25(2)(h).

We recommend VET Student Loans approved providers also give students information on accessing our services if they are not satisfied with the provider’s decision or response to their complaints.

Providers can choose to take part in the development of the industry Code of Practice with our Office. They can also take part in our workshops on best practice complaint-handling.

We can supply providers with information flyers and links to videos. Please contact VET.studentloans@ombudsman.gov.au if you would like to receive this information.

Are the results of our investigations made public?

Results of individual complaint and external appeal investigations are not generally made public.

We publish quarterly updates and an annual report, which include information such as:

  • numbers and types of complaints received by our Office
  • complaint trends
  • numbers of complaints transferred to other complaint-handling bodies.

To the best of our ability we will remove individual names from updates/reports, and shorten such updates/reports, to limit the disclosure of personal information.