VET Student Loans – Supporting approved VSL providers during extraordinary circumstances

This page provides advice about how the department may be able to support approved VSL providers during extraordinary circumstances such as natural disasters and the measures providers can take to support their students.

You should also refer to specific advice from the government in the jurisdictions in which you operate.

On this page:

Support for providers during natural disasters

We want to alleviate your concerns about payment and data reporting deadlines if you are impacted by a natural disaster such as a flood, bushfire or cyclone. Expected impacts on students may include loss of campus infrastructure or delays or non-commencement of studies.

The department may be able to help in the following ways:

  • providing additional time for submission of student data and payment information, with consideration of cash-flow impacts
  • giving extra time for payment of any provider debts and not charging interest on delayed payments for a reasonable period
  • helping you to reconstruct lost or destroyed records from the data we hold
  • assisting you re-issue any information required
  • adopting a pragmatic approach to identity, citizenship and residency evidentiary requirements for students who no longer have access to these records. In some circumstances a statutory declaration may be appropriate and sufficient.
  • providing additional time for completion of audit or compliance related submissions required by the department.

If you are affected by a natural disaster, when you are able, please email the department at and we can discuss the assistance that may be available to you.

How approved VSL providers can assist students during extraordinary circumstances

We encourage you to consider flexible arrangements where possible, for students impacted by travel restrictions or self-isolation periods. Examples include flexible course delivery, such as through online delivery of courses or additional sessions to make up for days missed by students who are prevented from attending classes.

You may also need to adopt a flexible approach to student attendance. Directly or indirectly affected students may need to exclude themselves from their place of study for a period. You should document all flexible arrangements made on a student-by-student basis. This is particularly important for ensuring that your students are genuine students for VET Student Loans purposes.

You must have a process in place for students to request the cancellation of their debt if, after they started to study, certain ‘special circumstances’ occur that prevent them from completing their unit, part of their course or whole course.

You should ensure that information on how to apply for special circumstances is easily accessible for students on your website. Further information about the requirements for special circumstances and re-crediting a student’s HELP balance is available in section 4.8.15 of the VET Student Loans Provider Manual.

Students diagnosed with COVID-19

A student’s infection with COVID-19 is likely to meet the special circumstances criteria where students who fall ill with the virus are unable to continue and complete study.

Temporary cessation of operations

There may be instances where you are no longer able to offer the course to students, even flexibly. Some examples include, but are not limited to, where:

  • you have had to close your campus
  • staff are no longer available to deliver classes (either face-to-face or online)
  • the nature of the course does not allow for flexible learning options.

The standard course of action where a training provider fails to start a course or unit as scheduled or ceases to provide a course or unit midway through, is for provider default with tuition protection to follow. However, the department understands that these unprecedented circumstances require a response that may allow brief periods of suspension in teaching activities.