Distance and online education

If you study by distance education, you need to do an approved course with an approved education provider.

Distance education and eligibility

You may be a distance education student if you don't study on campus or have face to face classes.

Distance education courses are online, by correspondence, or both. You can study these courses through any of the following:

  • TAFE Digital
  • Open Universities Australia
  • an Australian university
  • TAFE
  • a private provider
  • a secondary school.

Eligibility for student payments is the same whether you study through distance education or on campus. You must have a full time study load to get Youth Allowance, Austudy or ABSTUDY Living Allowance.

Study loads

Each education provider measures study loads differently. Check their website or handbook to find what they consider a full time study load. To get Youth Allowance, Austudy or ABSTUDY Living Allowance, you must study at least 75% of the full time study load. If you study part time, you may get ABSTUDY Incidentals Allowance.

Example 1 - total hours

Lily’s education provider told her the course she’s studying takes 200 hours to complete. A full time study load at her provider is 20 hours per week. That means, her course takes 10 weeks with a full time study load: 200 ÷ 20 = 10.

We assess Lily’s student payment on these hours - not how many hours she actually spends studying.

Lily has to study at least 15 hours a week. She must reach the 75% of the full time study load rule to get a payment.

If Lily needs more than 10 weeks to complete her course, she’ll need to meet the allowable time rules.

Read about:

If she gets ABSTUDY, she’ll need to meet the reasonable time rules.

Example 2 - credit point weightings system

Nick’s education provider uses a credit point weighting system. This means Nick needs to work out if his units add up to a full time study load.

Nick’s provider considers 500 credit points as a full time study load for a semester. Nick has to study at least 375 credit points to reach the 75% study load rule to get a payment.

In semester 1, Nick is studying 3 units. 2 of these units have a weighting of 120 credit points each. The third unit has a weighting of 100 credit points.

120 + 120 + 100 = 340 credit points.

This is less than 375 credit points, Nick doesn’t meet the 75% study load rule. Nick must tell us about this as soon as possible to avoid a debt. There may be another payment for Nick. He should check our Payment and Service Finder.

Submission of assignments

Some education providers need you to submit a certain number of assignments within a set period.

Many distance education courses are self-paced. But, to keep your student payment, you must show you’re progressing through your course in a satisfactory timeframe. We may check with your education provider to see if you submit your assignments.


Tom has to complete 10 assignments over 40 weeks for his course. He needs to submit one every 4 weeks. Tom gets a student payment from us. After 12 weeks of study, Tom didn’t submit any assignments.

To avoid a debt, Tom needs to update his study details online or call us on the Youth and Students line. He should do this once he decides he’s withdrawing or is unlikely to complete his course in the timeframe. Tom may need to pay back the student payment he got from us.

TAFE Digital, formerly Open Training and Education Network or OTEN

To get Youth Allowance, Austudy or ABSTUDY Living Allowance while studying through TAFE Digital, you must both:

TAFE Digital assesses the length of a course based on the hours you enrol in.


Rowena is full time with TAFE Digital and does 16 hours of course work per week.

Rowena has enrolled in 48 hours of study.

48 hours ÷ 16 hours = 3 weeks.

This means Rowena needs to complete the study within 3 weeks. She’ll need to enrol in more hours to keep her payment after that.

Your payment may stop if you don’t complete your study in the time it takes to do it full time.

Open Universities Australia (OUA)

OUA have many different types of courses. Generally courses at OUA have a full time study load of 2 subjects per study period or session. Single subjects normally have a credit weighting of 0.125 equivalent full time study load (EFTSL).

Some OUA courses have 4 study periods of 13 weeks. If this is your course, you must do at least 2 single or 1 double subject in any study period. This should be 0.250 EFTSL.

If you’re studying an OUA course which has 2 normal semesters, you must be studying at least 0.750 EFTSL. You must be studying full time to get your payment.

Example 1

John is doing a bachelor course through OUA and wants to get Austudy. John enrols in 2 study periods and is studying 0.250 EFTSL in each study period. John is a full time student for Austudy for the 2 study periods.

Example 2

Alice is getting Youth Allowance and doing a bachelor course through OUA. Alice enrolled in 2 single open learning units. They had a combined credit weighting of 0.250 EFTSL, in a single study period. Alice decides half way through the study period to stop studying 1 of the units. Her study load reduces to 0.125 EFTSL. Alice has no special circumstances stopping her from completing the unit. Alice needs to tell us about this change or she may need to pay back her Youth Allowance.

Example 3

Ben is getting Youth Allowance and doing a bachelor course through OUA. The course only has 2 normal semesters for Ben to enrol in. This is different to some other courses which have 4 study periods. To keep getting Youth Allowance Ben needs to either study:

  • 0.375 EFTSL in each study period
  • 0.750 EFTSL if he enrols for the whole year, at the start of the year.
Page last updated: 16 June 2022.
QC 29356