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Tribunal: Deputy President P Britten-Jones

The applicant was enrolled in an Advanced Diploma of Aviation course at the Bruce Hartwig Flying School (the School) and had received assistance to pay course fees under the FEE-HELP scheme. The School managed the scheme on behalf of the Department of Education and Training (the Department). When the applicant was unable to complete his Diploma, he applied to the School to have his FEE-HELP debt re-credited. The School refused the application. An internal review affirmed the decision and the applicant sought a review of the decision from the Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT).

The applicant claimed that there were ‘special circumstances’[1] that applied and as such his FEE-HELP debt should have been re-credited. The FEE-HELP debt could be re-credited if the applicant was affected by circumstances outside his control. The applicant also must not have suffered the full impact of those circumstances until after the last date he could drop out of the course without penalty (census date) and it must have been impracticable for him to complete the requirements of the course.  

The applicant commenced studying in December 2013. The census date was 24 February 2014.

The applicant claimed when the School was taken over by new owners on 23 April 2015, circumstances arose relating to the poor delivery of the course and management by the course provider.

The AAT considered evidence from the parties and found the School failed to deliver significant parts of the Diploma course making it impracticable for the applicant to complete his requirements on time. The change in the School’s ownership had led to a set of ‘special circumstances’ beyond the applicant’s control and the full impact had not been experienced until after the census date.

The AAT set aside the decision and substituted a decision that the applicant’s VET FEE-HELP balance be re-credited.

Read the full decision here on AustLII.


[1] Section 104.30 of Higher Education Act 2003