As the Product Manager at RTO Software and the Editor of the RTO Success Magazine I have noticed a large number of questions about the USI and quiet alarmingly many RTOs that do not know very much about it.
With this article I hope to help RTOs better understand:
- What is the USI?
- Why the USI is important to students?
- Why the USI is important to RTOs?
- Collecting USIs from your students
- How your Student Management System (SMS) can collect USIs
- Why a Device AUSKey is important for your SMS?
- Why October 2014 is important to all RTOs?
- What do RTOs need to do to be USI ready?
- Important information for CRICOS RTOs and one for all RTOs
What is the USI?
From the 01 January 2015 every student undertaking nationally recognised training in Australia will be required to have a Unique Student Identifier or USI for short. This includes new and continuing students’ in 2015.
It is important for CRICOS registered RTOs to understand that even their Student Visa students’ will require a USI.
A USI is a unique number for a student and is made up of numbers and letters. It is as unique as a Medicare number, Passport number or Drivers Licence number is to a person and it is unique to a student for life.
Why the USI is important to students?
The USI will give student’s access to their USI account, which will allow them to access their training records and results. They will be able to review, send and print out their training results when applying for jobs or further training.
By having a USI it will allow a student’s USI account to be linked to the National Vocational Education and Training (VET) Data Collection allowing a student to see all of their training results from all providers including all completed training units and qualifications.
The USI will make it easier for students to find, collate and authenticate their VET achievements into a single transcript. It will also ensure that students’ VET records are not lost.
Why the USI is important to RTOs?
The USI is a requirement under Commonwealth legislation and conditions of registration for Training Organisations. You must have a valid USI for your students before you issue a student with a Qualification or Statement of Attainment. This applies to:
- New students
- Pre-enrolled students
- Continuing students
- School students completing nationally recognised training
The USI initiative is underpinned by:
- Student Identifiers Bill 2014
- Standards for NVR Registered Training Organisations (RTO) 2014
- Student Identifiers Regulation 2014
The introduction of the USI will link with the new national VET data collection and reporting requirements.
This basically means from January 2015 all RTOs will be required to submit their students’ USI number in their National and State AVETMISS data submissions.
Collecting USIs from your students’
You will not be required to apply for USIs on behalf of your students; however this service is available through the USI Registry and may be the most appropriate option for your business model or only in some circumstances.
There are three methods for collecting USIs for your students’ that are:
- You students can create their own USI and then provide it to you;
- You can create a USI on a student’s behalf OR
- Your Student Management System can create and/or verify a USI on a one to one or bulk basis automatically for you.
How your Student Management System (SMS) can collect USIs
To assist training organisations who wish to continue to use their Student Management System; or SMS for short; for the purposes of AVETMISS reporting and the Student Identifier Act(SI Act) compliance, the USI Registry has developed a Web Services component that enables system to system web services calls between Student Management Systems (SMS) and the USI Registry.
This USI Registry service will allow an authorised Student Management System (SMS) to perform the following actions:
- Create a USI record for a student (individual) and receive an immediate response
- Submit a batch of USI creation requests for processing
- Retrieve the results of a previously submitted batch request
- Verify a USI for a student (individual) and receive an immediate response
- Verify a batch of USIs and receive an immediate response.
Where your Student Management System (SMS) is using the USI Register web service to create and verify USIs for your students, there are some things as an RTO that you MUST have before your Student Management System (SMS) can do this on your behalf. They include:
- Be registered with your Vocational Education and Training Regulator
- Be listed on the www.training.gov.au website. It is important to ensure your details are correct and up to date
- Have an Australian Business Number
- Have a Device AUSkey.
- If you wish to automate your USI creation and verification, have a Student Management System capable of communicating with the USI Registry through the web service.
- Apply to the USI Registrar for access to the Web Services via the USI website.
Why a Device AUSKey is important for your SMS?
Permission for Training Organisations and their individual staff members to access USI functions will be managed using AUSKeys.
An AUSKey is a standard authentication requirement for conducting Business to Government and Government to Government communication over the internet for example communicating with the Australian Taxation Office.
You will need to identify whether or not you have an AUSKey Administrator who can issue your Device AUSKey. If you do not have this then you need to nominate an Administrator within your organisation who will need to set up and activate your AUSKey. The process to obtain an AUSKey is managed by the Australian Business Register (ABR) and should be quick.
IMPORTANT: if an RTO does NOT have an AUSKey and hence cannot create a Device AUSKey, there is no way their Student Management System will be able to communicate on their behalf to create and verify USIs for their students using the USI Register Web Service.
Whereas an RTO that has an AUSKey, they need to create a Device AUSKey and provide this to their Student Management System Provider. Their provider would be able to give them more information on how to provide the Device AUSKey to them and what they will do with it. Basically, your Device AUSKey is a set of files (programming files) that identify your business with the USI Register. These files would need to be inserted into your unique Student Management System database so that when it is using the USI Register Web Service it is sending the Device AUSKey file information.
For more information on how to apply for an AUSKey, please visit www.abr.gov.au. If you have an AUSKey please go to the link below to understand more about a Device AUSKey.
Why October 2014 is important to all RTOs?
From this month, October 2014, all Training Organisations will be able to access the USI Registry (either by logging on or through their SMS) to start creating USIs for their continuing students in 2015.
IMPORTANT: Where a Training Organisation is creating USIs on behalf of their students’ they should have their own business processes in place to be able to prove they have the student’s permission.
What do RTOs need to do to be USI ready?
If you are not ready for the creation and collection of USI then you need to consider and act on the following:
- Find out if your Student Management System (SMS) will be using the USI web service. If it is, understand how it will do this and what you need to do, if anything?
- Make sure your details on training.gov.au are up to date.
- Make sure you have an AUSKey and have created a Device AUSKey and when needed provide it to your SMS Provider in a secure fashion.
- Update your business processes and identify how you can prove you have a student’s permission to create a USI on their behalf.
Important information for CRICOS RTOs and one for all RTOs
I recently did a similar presentation on the USI to our clients for our Student Management System TEAMS and how the USI would work in it. We have many CRICOS RTOs using TEAMS and they had some questions that I was not able at the time to answer. I then had an online web chat with the USI team and below are the questions and answers.
- Many of our CRICOS Training Organisations have a concern that they cannot provide an Australia address when requesting a USI on behalf of a student; as the overseas student would not have an Australian address at the time of the Training Organisation issuing a CoE for an offshore student. Is it mandatory for them to submit an Australian address or can they submit an offshore address as part of the USI request via the SMS web service?
“Serena (USI Team): Students can provide one of three methods of contact:
The student may complete all fields or just the preferred contact method chosen. No matter which option they choose we still need their Country of residence.”
This means that CRICOS Training Organisations clients should really be obtaining at least an email address, if not mobile phone number, as the contact method instead of a mailing address.
If however, you have a student visa student onshore: as you know many student visa student’s move between RTOs onshore; then in this instance, as long as they have a valid Australian local address, you could select Mailing Address as the method of contact.
- For our CRICOS Training Organisations when they issue a CoE a large percentage of the time the student is offshore. The process is that an Offer Letter is issued, the student either approves or declines it. If it is approved they make a payment to the Training Organisation who would then issue a CoE which they need to go and apply for a Student Visa for Australia. At this point, even though the student has paid; and actually even if they are issued a student visa; that they will not show and commence their studies. Does the CRICOS Training Organisation have to issue the USI for a student prior to them commencing their studies with the provider?
Answer: unfortunately this question was not able to be answered in the web chat; it had to be escalated to a higher level. I then received a call from Amy who confirmed to me on the phone that you must issue a USI for a student when offering them a position in a course. This means, and I reiterated this to Amy, that when you are issuing a CoE to an offshore student you must create the USI for them at this point, no matter whether they commence studies in Australia or not.
I then asked if there would be any reconciliation between the number of USIs that a Training Organisation creates against the number of students they are submitting in their national data submissions that could negatively affect them. Amy answered no there is nothing like this.
- The last question was for all RTOs. I gave a scenario where a student already has a USI from previous studies at a different RTO. However, their details such as name, DOB, email address etc change how should an RTO manage this? The answer I got was as follows:
“Serena: The student is able to update their details on http://www.usi.gov.au at any stage. If their details have changed it is their responsibility to organise this update prior to providing this to the RTO.”
As an addition to this question and answer I then asked this question:
Let’s say a student does not do this and they just give the Training Organisation their new details with or without a USI. The training organisation inputs the details the student gives and for some reason a new USI is created (let’s say because the DOB or name is different). Is there a process the student or the Training Organisation; on behalf of the student; can go through to have the two USIs merged, if they identified that the student does already have another USI?
“Serena: If they have two USIs they will need to report this to the USI Office of the Registrar. This can do this through the USI website http://www.usi.gov.au by accessing the Help Centre”.
I hope this has been of assistance to you all and that it has helped clarify any questions you have had.
Please fee free to post any USI questions you may have, in the comments section for this blog, and I will endeavor to assist you where possible.