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Changes to the ESOS Act – Supplementary Courses

July 29, 2021

A new legislative instrument – the ESOS (Exempt Courses) Instrument 2021 – now exempts specific supplementary courses from the definition of ‘course’ under the ESOS Act. The exempted courses now don’t need CRICOS registration to be offered to international students. 

What is the purpose of this instrument?

This instrument has been put into place with the policy intent to allow overseas students easier access to a range of supplementary courses. This includes hobby and recreational courses, and other short courses which may be required ahead of attending a workplace component approved as part of a substantive qualification or for employment consistent with their student visa requirements. Exempt courses should also be able to be undertaken in addition to students’ full-time main course of study without jeopardising the attendance or progress of the course. 

This aims to enrich student experiences while in Australia, reduce the risk of workplace exploitation, and to provide Australian businesses with a ready workforce. Regulatory burden for providers is also reduced. 


All courses made exempt through this instrument will still be required to comply with Australian domestic legislative and regulatory requirements. Additionally, overseas students won’t be able to apply for student visas based on exempt courses alone. 

Any course which leads to an award/qualification, including certain ‘non-award’ courses, must still be registered on CRICOS. 

Which courses are exempt?

Where a VET course only consists of one or more of the following units of competency, it is exempt from the definition of course. Providers are now able to offer these courses to overseas students without registering them on CRICOS.

Exempt VET Courses: 

The instrument also exempts some courses delivered by higher education providers which do not lead to a qualification recognised under the AQF, such as creative arts, languages other than English, or music. 

Will there be further changes?

The Minister for Education and Youth may consider amending the instrument as student needs change. Amendments could include either adding or removing courses from the definition of ‘course’ under the ESOS Act. DESE will consult providers, industry and regulators when updating or making a new instrument, and the list will be reviewed regularly and amended as needed.  


  1. ITECA – CRICOS Registration Not Always Required
  2. Education Services for Overseas Students (Exempt Courses) Instrument 2021

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