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Source: Tertiary Education Commission

This update includes information about:
Fees free false statutory declarations;
gender reporting options in the Single Data Return (SDR); and
a quick note on Recognised Prior Learning (RPL).
False statutory declarations identified for fees-free
The TEC has laid charges against three individuals for making a false representation for the purpose of receiving, or continuing to receive, free tertiary education from a tertiary education organization (TEO).
The TEC takes false statutory declarations very seriously, and it’s important that TEOs are aware of their obligations when it comes to advising learners about statutory declarations and letting us know if you think a learner’s eligibility status is incorrect. TEOs are a key partner for the TEC in protecting the integrity of the fees-free scheme, and we address below some common misconceptions.
Why do we require learners with an ‘unknown’ eligibility status to submit statutory declarations?We don’t hold sufficient information to determine the fees-free eligibility of all potential learners. The statutory declaration process enables learners with an ‘unknown’ eligibility status to confirm (in front of an authorised witness) that they meet the eligibility criteria.
A statutory declaration is not an application form or an eligibility checkA statutory declaration is a written document that must be completed in front of an authorised witness. The information included on the form must be correct. As such, a learner needs to know that they meet the eligibility criteria before submitting a statutory declaration.
A statutory declaration is not an application to receive fees-free nor a mechanism for checking whether a learner is eligible or not.
Please don’t advise learners who don’t know whether they meet the eligibility criteria, or have further questions about their own circumstances, to submit a statutory declaration. Instead, advise them to contact us (0800 687 775) with any questions regarding the eligibility criteria.
We have a range of responses to false declarationsWe routinely check for potentially false statutory declarations, and take action for every false declaration identified. Where a false statutory declaration is identified, we change the learner’s eligibility status to ‘no’ and, as a result, they become liable to pay for any fees charged to them.
Every false declaration is potentially an offence. All learners who we identify as having submitted a false declaration will receive a caution and, in more serious cases, we will issue a formal warning or lay charges under section 292A of the Education Act 1989 or the Crimes Act 1961.
TEOs have an important role to playTEOs should have their own checks in place to ensure that learners who they are claiming fees-free payments for are genuinely eligible. Our fees-free agreements with TEOs require you to “immediately notify us if you become aware of information that indicates that an eligible student should not have been determined by us to be eligible”.
If you need to submit a list of learners whose eligibility you believe should change, you can do this through the Fees Free TEO Change Eligibility Status template available in Workspace 2.
If it is discovered that a TEO was aware, but did not notify the TEC, of information that demonstrates that a learner should not be eligible (ie: they do not meet the citizenship or residency criteria, or their prior study exceeds 60 credits at level 3 or above), the TEO may be liable for that learner’s fees.
We remind you that the eligibility criteria is on the fees-free website along with up-to-date FAQ’s to provide appropriate guidance to your staff and potential learners.
Gender reporting options in the SDR
As of April 2019, there is now an option in the SDR to report on gender diverse data. We’ve heard from learners who are keen to identify themselves as gender diverse now that this option is available.
We encourage you to make this option available to all learners as soon as it is practical for you to do so.
The gender classifications available in your SDR reporting now are:
F (Female)
M (Male)
D (Diverse)
Recognition of Prior Learning
In recent TEC investigations, we have identified some TEOs claiming funding for recognition of prior learning, which TEC does not fund.
As a reminder, you must not seek funding for recognised prior learning credited to a student. In regards to this condition, you must:
ask a student to specify prior learning they have undertaken,
review the information provided by the student when admitting a student into a programme or qualification, and
retain documents that confirm that the student has demonstrated the required knowledge or skill.
Recognised prior learning does not include repeated learning or training that the applicable quality assurance body requires students to undertake periodically.

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