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9.8.3 Steps for approving tertiary education

Last amended 
30 August 2018


The steps outlined below are intended to ensure that all relevant information has been captured and considered when approving funding for tertiary education under a vocational rehabilitation program. This is intended to serve as a resource for both DVA rehabilitation coordinators and rehabilitation providers.

A summary of the steps outlined in this section include:

Step 1: Vocational assessment undertaken
Step 2: Supplementary evidence and client statement submitted
Step 3: Consider the evidence and approve where appropriate
Step 4: All parties sign the D9303 Tertiary Education Assistance Form
Step 5: Ongoing management of a client of undertaking tertiary study


Step 1: Vocational assessment

In the first instance, a comprehensive vocational assessment should provide the evidence to determine whether tertiary education is reasonably required for the client to find suitable and sustainable work. This vocational assessment must take into account all of the considerations outlined in section 9.5 of this library. Even where a client expresses a strong preference to pursue a specific tertiary education pathway, it is expected that the vocational assessment will provide objective recommendations for achieving suitable and sustainable employment.


Step 2: Supplementary evidence and client statement submitted

Where tertiary education has been recommended through a comprehensive vocational assessment, and approval for the course of study is being pursued under a vocational rehabilitation program, the following should be made available to the rehabilitation coordinator to assist with their decision making:

Supplementary evidence

  • evidence to demonstrate the course of study is a reasonable option to enable a client to achieve suitable and sustainable work. Where a higher education course is being recommended, there should be specific and justifiable reasons why this qualification is required, over alternative options noted in section 9.8.2 of this library;

  • clear, unbiased medical evidence demonstrating that tertiary study is an appropriate option for the client, and that they have the medical capacity to undertake work in their chosen field at the end of their course. In most cases, it is expected that medical evidence is sourced from the client's treating health practitioner or specialist. In some cases however, particularly where conflicting evidence exists, advice of an Occupational Physician can be helpful;

  • evidence that the client’s capacity for study has been duly considered. This includes:

  • the client's aptitude for, and ability to commit to, the proposed course of study;

  • the client’s capacity to manage both the contact and expected non-contact hours required to successfully complete units;

  • the client's capacity to manage any required training or placements related to the proposed course with consideration of their other life commitments; and

  • the mode of study that is most appropriate for the client (i.e. face-to-face, or distance education delivered online);

  • Other considerations that may be indicative of a person’s capacity for study includes:

  • the level or number of hours of study that is recommended due to the client's health conditions;

  • if there is a discrepancy between capacity for work and capacity for study, a detailed explanation and justification of this discrepancy is required; and

  • any suggestions that the practitioner believes may assist the client in being successful in undertaking study.

Where a client has had tertiary education approved by the ADF, and this course of study will continue post separation from the ADF there are further considerations that must be taken into account before this study will be supported through DVA. Please see section 9.8.4 of this library for further information.

If a Rehabilitation Coordinator is not satisfied with the medical evidence provided, the appropriate course of action depends on the circumstances of the case. However, some options for Rehabilitation Coordinators include:

  • seeking advice from a relevant Departmental Medical Advisor;

  • requesting a supplementary report from the treating practitioner;

  • participate in a case conference with the Rehabilitation Provider and treating practitioner and/or other parties as required. 

For cases which commenced after 29 May 2017, this vocational assessments and medical evidence should be uploaded as an attachment to the client's R&C ISH case. For cases that commenced prior to this date, this evidence should be saved to the client's TRIM folder.

Client Statement

This statement must include the following:

  • Demonstrate that the client understands the requirements of the course (including the number of contact hours, additional study hours to complete course requirements, work placements etc);

  • Demonstrate that the client has realistic expectations of their ability to meet the course requirements including for instance, managing competing demands on their time such as regular medical appointments, or child care commitments, explaining how they plan to balance these demands while meeting the requirements of the course;

    • The rehabilitation provider can assist clients to investigate options for managing their time, as well as any competing demands identified in the client statement. 

  • Explicit acknowledgement that the following requirements apply where a client is expected to be studying full-time and in receipt of incapacity payments at a rate of 100% of their former earnings:

    • the client MUST advise their DVA rehabilitation coordinator or rehabilitation provider within 3 days of any changes to their circumstances which results in them no longer being eligible for the stepped-up rate of incapacity payments. That is, they cease to be studying an approved course full-time.

    • where a client has not met this requirement, any overpayments incurred MUST be repaid to DVA by the client. Further to this, not notifying the Department of a change in circumstances may impact future eligibility for study funding through DVA.


Step 3: Consider the evidence and approve where appropriate

After considering the evidence provided through the Vocational Assessment (step 1) and the supplementary evidence/ client statement (step 2) the Rehabilitation Coordinator should have enough information to make a judgement about whether tertiary education can be approved as an activity on the clients vocational rehabilitation plan.

Where policy advice is required about the appropriateness of a request for tertiary education, rehabilitation coordinators should contact Where a Rehabilitation Coordinator is satisfied that all of the applicable evidence for tertiary education has been gathered and considered, the next step in the process is for the Rehabilitation Coordinator to approve the study as part of the rehabilitation program where appropriate.


Step 4: All parties sign the D9303 Tertiary Education Assistance Form* 

Following the approval of a tertiary education course as an activity on a client’s rehabilitation program, a D9303 Tertiary Education Assistance Agreement Form must be signed by the client, the rehabilitation provider, and the rehabilitation coordinator.

The purpose of this form is to:

  • outline the specifics of the course the client will be undertaking; and

  • explain the role and expectations of the Rehabilitation Coordinator, Rehabilitation Provider and the client throughout the duration of study.

For new cases, once the agreement is signed, the agreement must be uploaded as an attachment to the client's R&C ISH case. For existing cases, the agreement must be saved to the client's TRIM folder.

 * Note: this form is currently under review by the Employment and Rehabilitation Branch. For further information, please contact


Step 5: Ongoing management of a client undertaking tertiary study

All clients undertaking tertiary education as an approved activity under a return to work rehabilitation plan should have an open rehabilitation plan throughout their study, identifying a clear return to work goal. This is necessary as the plan provides the administrative mechanism for the tertiary education fees to be paid.

The plan must be managed by an approved rehabilitation provider, with the skills and experience to provide support and assist the client in a proactive way. The rehabilitation plan must remain open for the duration of the course, and for any additional period required for job seeking at the conclusion of the plan.

The level of involvement of the rehabilitation provider should be discussed and agreed with by the client's DVA Rehabilitation Coordinator. While the level of involvement is determined by the client's individual needs and circumstances, it is expected that at least in the beginning stages of the course the rehabilitation provider will maintain consistent regular contact with the client to assist in ensuring they adjust to the demands of studying, and are meeting their course requirements. It is also expected that the provider will be available to offer support whenever the client requires it. 

DVA’s expectations of the rehabilitation provider are specified in the D9303 Tertiary Education Assistance Agreement Form, which can be found through the DVA forms portal. As stated in this form, DVA expects clients to utilise the support services offered by the university they attend, to assist them in being able to successfully complete their studies. University support services may include, but are not limited to:

  • Academic Support;

  • Administrative and Enrolment support;

  • Child care; and

  • Disability support.

Further information about these services can be found in section 9.8.4 of this library.

Clients who commenced tertiary studies prior to the introduction of the Tertiary Education Assistance Agreement do not need to complete and sign it in order for DVA to continue to support their studies. However, it is expected that wherever possible, clients will utilise support services offered by the university they attend, particularly if they are having difficulties in meeting the academic demands of their course. This is because services offered by the university are often designed to provide support to meet student-specific needs.