Appendix D: Annual Report of the Student Identifiers Registrar
The Unique Student Identifier (USI) is a reference number made up of 10 numbers and letters. Since 1 January 2015, all students undertaking nationally recognised vocational education and training (VET) have required a USI. As at 30 June 2019, over 9.9 million USIs have been created.
The USI service provides students with a secure online record of all of their recognised training and qualifications gained in Australia since 2015.
Additionally, the USI service provides students with the ability to:
view and download their training records as an authenticated VET transcript
manage which training providers can view their authenticated VET transcript
manage which training providers can view and/or update their details in their USI account
self-manage their personal details for continuity of service.
The USI allows the national VET data collections to be used to streamline administration of entitlement programs. It supports recognition of prior learning and improves quality indicators, including completion rate measurements.
To ensure a student’s authenticated VET transcript reflects training activity correctly, registered training organisations (RTOs) verify the USIs collected from students. RTOs verified 4,548,813 USIs in 2018–19. More broadly, in 2018–19, 571,242 authenticated VET transcripts were viewed online.
A statutorily appointed Student Identifiers Registrar oversees the USI initiative.
The Student Identifiers Act 2014 sets out the registrar’s primary functions, which consist of assigning and verifying student identifiers, resolving USI-related problems and providing access to authenticated VET transcripts or extracts of VET transcripts.
The legislative framework includes the Act, the Student Identifiers Regulation 2014, the Student Identifiers (Exemptions) Instrument 2018 and the Student Identifiers (VET Admission Bodies) Instrument 2015. The Standards for Registered Training Organisations (RTOs) 2015—administered by the Australian Skills Quality Authority (the national VET regulator)—include Unique Student Identifier requirements for RTOs.
Ms Janette Dines commenced her appointment as Student Identifiers Registrar on 15 April 2019, following the end of Mr Jason Coutts’ term. Ms Dines’ appointment coincided with the relocation of the USI Office from Canberra to Adelaide, as part of the Government’s decentralisation agenda announced in the 2018–19 Budget.
During 2018–19, the registrar convened quarterly meetings of a working group comprising representatives from the Commonwealth, state and territory training authorities and the National Centre for Vocational Education Research (NCVER). The registrar uses this group to provide advice and elicit feedback on current and future operations. Since her appointment in April, Ms Dines has commenced a program of visits to USI stakeholders across the country.
The USI Office supports the Student Identifiers Registrar. In accordance with the Act, the Secretary of the Department of Education made available the staff necessary to assist the registrar.
The USI Office comprises three key areas of operations: information technology; operational policy and procedures; and stakeholder communications and business operations, incorporating a contact centre for provision of direct support for students, RTOs and other stakeholders.
In 2018–19, the Student Identifiers Registrar and USI Office focused on enhancing the online user experience for students, RTOs and other stakeholders; and quality and timeliness of availability of training activity records for the USI transcript service. Significant planning occurred to ensure that the relocation of the USI Office and its services from Canberra to Adelaide did not disrupt services to stakeholders.
Highlights of USI operations during 2018–19 include the following:
Development commenced on an improved USI website to enhance usability and online self-service, and to streamline high volumes of transactions.
The review of the implementation of the USI initiative was completed, with receipt of the final report in September 2018. This operational review confirmed the initiative’s successful implementation and identified non-critical areas for improvement.
Relocation of the USI Office to Adelaide from Canberra, announced in the 2018–19 Budget as part of the Government’s decentralisation agenda, was completed seamlessly. The Adelaide office opened on 15 April 2019 and the Canberra office ceased operations on 28 June 2019. Service continuity was a high priority during the transition, with operations transferring from Canberra to Adelaide in a staged process, ensuring no interruption to USI creation, verification and transcript service functions.
The USI Office and the Department of Education completed a digital identity pilot that allows individuals to use a single digital identity to access multiple government online services. The Digital Transformation Agency, which is overseeing the project, invited the USI Office to participate in the pilot program.
The USI Office assisted the department with proposed legislative amendments to enable student-controlled, online access to authenticated VET transcripts for third parties, such as authorised employers and licensing bodies.
The Government announced in the 2019–20 Budget the extension of the USI initiative from vocational education and training to all higher education and school sectors. The USI Office assisted the department in its scoping of this future work.
Support for individuals
The USI Registry System provides easy online access for students to create a USI themselves, or with parental or other assistance, and for RTOs to create a USI with the individual’s permission. To reduce administrative effort for RTOs, students can create their USI and access their account online using digital devices including desktops, smartphones and tablets.
Phone, email and online help requests are available through the USI Contact Centre to support and assist individuals and RTOs experiencing issues with creation or verification of USIs. However, the USI Registry System is designed to support stakeholder self-service, and the self-service functions are used for most USI transactions.
USIs can be created using a range of specified alternative forms of identification. Under these arrangements, 12,819 USIs were assigned in 2018–19, representing less than 1 per cent of total USIs assigned during the reporting year. Using standard identity documents, students created 88.4 per cent of USIs in 2018–19.
The significant increase in self-service transactions in 2017–18 was sustained during 2018–19, with an average of 68 self-service transactions completed for each contact centre-assisted transaction, as illustrated in Figure D.1.
The USI Contact Centre managed 202,509 client contacts—phone, email and electronic help requests—between 1 July 2018 and 30 June 2019, an increase of 3.7 per cent from 195,327 in the previous year.
Improved USI reporting
With increased popularity of the USI transcript service and the number of authenticated VET transcript views growing, the USI Office communicated regularly with RTOs to emphasise the importance of reporting and accuracy of training activity data submissions to the national VET data collections.
The rate of inclusion of USIs in training activity data is improving each year. Indications for 2018–19 data submitted directly to NCVER and via state and territory training authorities by RTOs show that the average USI reporting rate across all jurisdictions is above 97 per cent, a further improvement on previous years. We will continue our efforts to encourage timely and accurate reporting to maximise the benefit of the USI transcript service.
The USI transcript update tool, developed and administered by NCVER, allows RTOs to amend incorrect information and add omitted training activity data. In 2018–19, 417 RTOs used the tool to amend transcript data they had previously reported to the national VET data collections for 22,375 students. There was also a 24.5 per cent increase in the number of RTOs (335) using the tool during 2018–19.
Communications materials and activities
USI communication and education activities continued to reinforce and support RTOs in their timely and accurate data contributions, as well as their privacy obligations. Mechanisms include regular bulletins, fact sheets, attending national conferences, hosting webinars, and communication via industry associations.
Protecting personal information
The Student Identifiers Act 2014 requires the registrar to take reasonable steps to protect a student’s personal information from misuse, interference or loss, and from unauthorised access, modification or disclosure. Under the Act, the Australian Information Commissioner has functions additional to those mandated under the Privacy Act 1988 to help ensure the protection of personal information collected and held by the Student Identifiers Registrar.
No confirmed breaches under the Notifiable Data Breaches scheme were received by the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner (OAIC) or by the USI Office in 2018–19.
The USI Office referred two matters relating to data handling practices in two RTOs to the OAIC. The OAIC determined that neither were ‘eligible data breaches’ in line with the Notifiable Data Breaches scheme.
During 2018–19, the USI Office:
received and referred to the OAIC three privacy-related complaints. The OAIC investigations resulted in one RTO being cautioned against locating a USI without an individual’s permission, and two RTOs undertaking to improve business practices in relation to USI privacy provisions.
notified the OAIC of two separate incidents involving two RTOs who modified USI passwords of 77 individual students without authority. Both RTOs instituted remedial action, including a commitment to provide staff with additional privacy training.
The OAIC hosted a webinar to discuss the key findings from a privacy assessment of five RTOs.
Assisting research, policy development and program administration
In 2018–19, the Student Identifiers Registrar authorised use of USI data to support delivery of the 2018 National Student Outcomes Survey administered by NCVER.
Figures D.2 and D.3 show the USI Office’s performance in providing an accessible, user-friendly and accurate USI Registry System in 2018–19. Figure D.4 shows the USI Office’s performance in providing access to authenticated VET transcripts in 2018–19.
Outlook for 2019–20
The USI Office will focus on the following priorities in 2019–20:
Final user experience testing will be conducted with stakeholder groups prior to the launch of the new USI website.
Subject to legislative changes to the Student Identifiers Act 2014, the USI Office will expand online access to a student’s authenticated VET transcript to third parties (such as employers and licensing bodies), with the permissions set by the student. Building and delivering enhancements to the USI Registry System will expand the range of transcript services available to students.
The USI Office will work in conjunction with the Australian Taxation Office to implement the new authentication and authorisation services under the Digital Identity Program (‘GovPass’). The USI Office will develop the USI Registry System solution and will onboard approximately 4,500 RTOs to the AusKey replacement solution to ensure seamless and continued access to USI services.
The expansion of the USI to the higher education sector was announced in the 2019–20 Budget, with a proposed implementation date of 1 January 2021. Subject to legislative changes to the Student Identifiers Act 2014, the USI Office will complete required enhancements to the USI Registry System to accommodate higher education students and providers.