Commonwealth supported places

A Commonwealth supported place (CSP) is a place in a course at a university where the Australian government covers part of the cost of a student's studies. 

The best way of describing how CSPs work through Open Universities Australia (OUA) is by comparing them with other ways of studying online. And unless you've done it before, you're probably not familiar with the ins and outs of online study. So here's a quick run-down of the main ways you can study at undergraduate level through OUA.

Taking open entry units

No matter how you study with OUA, you always take units. By successfully completing a number of units - often 24 in the case of a bachelor's degree - you become eligible to graduate with a full qualification. 

Some courses we offer are made up entirely of open entry units. An open entry unit has no academic hurdles in front of it (except, in some cases, the completion of a unit in the earlier stage of a course). In other words, to enrol in that unit, students don't need to worry about any academic criteria such as secondary school scores, previously completed university units or grade point averages.

You can study these courses without applying to be accepted into the course.

If you want to defer your fee payment for an open entry unit by taking a government loan, you can do so using the scheme known as FEE-HELP (so long as you meet citizenship requirements).

Applying for a course

Application courses are courses that you must (or that we strongly encourage you) to apply for. All CSP courses are application courses. 

To apply for these courses, you must meet some academic entry requirements.

Students can defer payment for application courses using a government loan scheme (so long as they meet citizenship requirements).

Applying for a CSP

For many undergraduate courses, eligible students can choose to apply for a CSP. Studying as a CSP student is different - and in many cases more advantageous - for several reasons. You can read about them in the sections below. 

You need to apply to study as a CSP student, and there are academic entry requirements for each CSP course. For instance, in most cases, if you've completed at least four undergraduate units through OUA you'll be eligible to study a CSP course online. (There are some exceptions and citizenship criteria also apply - see the Am I eligible? section below.)

Most CSP students can defer their fees using the government loan scheme called HECS-HELP, which is a little bit different to FEE-HELP. You can read more about the difference between the two schemes in the CSP benefits section below.

To be eligible for a CSP, you must be:

  • An Australian citizen residing in Australia for all or part of your studies


  • A New Zealand citizen who will be residing in Australia for the duration of your studies


  • The holder of a permanent visa who will be residing in Australia for the duration of your studies


  • Able to meet the university course admission criteria (find out what they are by clicking on the courses in the What can I study? section below)

To learn more about CSP eligibility requirements, as well as the process for applying for HECS-HELP, read the official information booklet on the Study Assist website.

You can 'save up' your FEE-HELP

One of the main differences between FEE-HELP and HECS-HELP is that FEE-HELP has a strict borrowing limit.

What's this got to do with CSPs?

Well, the first thing to keep in mind is that all CSPs offered through OUA are for undergraduate courses.

Second, most postgraduate courses don't offer CSPs (whether you study them online or not), meaning that eligible students can only defer payments using FEE-HELP.

For now you might only be thinking about undergraduate study (a bachelor's degree, for example), but later you might want to go and do postgraduate study. By doing an undergraduate course as a CSP student, you can leave your FEE-HELP quota untouched (borrowing using HECS-HELP instead) and 'save up' for a postgraduate course down the track.

You're on the path to a degree

As a CSP student, you're not only enrolled in a full course, you're officially enrolled as a student at the university that offers it. You're on a clear path towards a degree, while still getting the flexibility of electives and optional units.

As an open entry student you can work towards (and graduate with) a degree, but you're not technically enrolled in a course.

No registration fee*

If you study units through OUA and intend to work towards a full degree, you'll need to inform the university that provides the course of that. This is called registering and usually comes with a fee (the fee is different depending on which university you're studying with).

However, as a CSP student, you are automatically registered for the course*, which means no registration process and no registration fee.

NOTE: Some, but not all, universities will charge an annual or biannual student services and amenities fee to CSP students.

*With the exception of Griffith University courses. Students must register their intention to study with Griffith after being accepted into a CSP.

OUA offers the following CSP courses:

Curtin University

Griffith University

La Trobe University

Macquarie University

Murdoch University

Swinburne University of Technology

University of South Australia

*These courses are all part of OUA Pathways. OUA Pathways recommends the best units to start your studies, even if you're not sure which course you want to do. Each pathway includes four units based on your area of interest, plus the option to study preparatory units for free.

Once you complete your recommended path you'll be able to choose from a range of courses in your area of interest. Plus, each of the units you complete through OUA Pathways can also be credited towards your chosen course.

**This course is part of OUA Pathways. Upon completion of the Humanities Pathway, Macquarie University still need to approve the application to meet the required academic eligibility.

^This course is part of OUA Pathways. Upon completion of the relevant pathway, students are still required to meet the GPA requirement of the course for CSP academic eligibility.

Find out when applications for a CSP place in the next Study Period close at our Key dates page.


Once you've decided to set off on an adventure with OUA, we'll make sure you're ready for the online study experience.

In most cases, at the 'Ready' stage you'll be taking open entry units.

If you know you want to study, but you're not sure where to start, our Pathways program could be just what you're looking for.

We'll get you involved in our online Orientation program, set you up with some preparatory units (if you haven't studied for a while or need to dust off your study skills), give you a chance to meet fellow OUA students online and in person if you'd like to.


Once you're underway, you'll have our full network of free support services at your disposal:

  • Unsure about your enrolment? Get in touch with one of our Student Advisors.
  • Wondering how best to balance study with your work, your family or your social life? Contact a Student Coach.
  • Need some extra help with assignments? Access Smarthinking, the online tutoring support service, available all day, every day.

There are all sorts of milestones we'll celebrate with you along the way, but the first really big one will be completing four units. Once you've done that, you're at the "Go!" stage.


After four units you'll be right into the swing of online study. Here's where CSP comes in.

If you're working towards a qualification that's available as a CSP course, in most cases, four OUA units is the main entry requirements. Once you've completed four units successfully, you're ready to apply. 

Before you apply

  1. To check if CSP is available for your course, check the course details page.
  2. Read the eligibility criteria for admission, including the Commonwealth information booklet, Information for Commonwealth supported students and HECS HELP.


Apply for the course by going to the application section on the course details page.

You can get to the course details page from the What can I study? section on this page (above).

If you're successful

  1. If your application is approved, you'll be emailed a Letter of Offer, which you can accept from My Study Centre.
  2. Once you have accepted your offer, you will be emailed a Letter of Admittance, including your provider university Student ID which you will need to complete your Request for Commonwealth support and HECS-HELP form. Please note, this is a different ID number from your existing OUA ID.

Choosing your units

  1. Choose your units from the Course units tab on the course details page, and add them to your Study Cart. Then follow the prompts. 
  2. On the unit enrolment payment page, assign HECS-HELP as your payment method. For administrative purposes, you will need to assign HECS-HELP as your payment method even if you are planning to pay your student contribution amount upfront. If you pay part of your student contribution upfront, you may be eligible for a discount on the amount paid (please note this is subject to change. Please refer to Study Assist for more information).
  3. Once you have chosen your units and assigned your payment method, you can then proceed to complete the Request for Commonwealth support and HECS-HELP form before the Close of Enrolment for your chosen Study Period. You will need your Tax File Number (TFN) to complete the form. 

Finalising your enrolment

  1. Once you have completed the above steps, you will receive an invoice from your course provider. For some universities, this invoice will be available within the university student portal. This will include instructions on how to pay for your student services and amenities fee (SSAF) if applicable. 
  2. If you've chosen to pay for part of your fees upfront, you will need to complete this payment before the Census Date of your Study Period.
  3. Once the Request for Commonwealth support and HECS-HELP form has been lodged, you will be fully enrolled in your units! 
  4. You will then receive a welcome email from your provider, including login details for your student portal, by the first week of your Study Period. Don't forget to check your course provider student portal for any SSAF payment requirements.

If you're not successful

If your application is unsuccessful, contact a Student Advisor on 1300 363 652 to discuss the other study options available to you.