student handbook


Admission to our courses

The minimum age we accept for course enrolments is 16 years of age at the time the course commences, unless the course specifically has pre-requisites with a higher age limit.

We do not accept enrolments from any student where the completion of part or all of the course is required as part of a higher school certificate. We believe that students should concentrate on their schooling first, then their vocation once school is complete. We’ll still be here!

We do not accept enrolments from students still studying at school into any Certificate III or higher programs without permission granted by the Academic or Managing Director. Acceptance is purely based on the merit of the student and our decision on whether to accept an enrolment from a student is final.

All student’s suitability for study with us is based upon them meeting the course pre-requisites and, where appropriate, their academic ability and potential to succeed at their chosen course.

We do not consider age when assessing academic suitability for a course and recognise that underage applicants (aged 16 to 18yrs) can be academically qualified to successfully complete their chosen course.

However, we do have a duty of care to ensure that the parents/legal guardians and underage students understand and are aware of some important components of what it means to be studying in an adult education course as an underage student.

It is a requirement of enrolment that the parent or guardian of any student who is under the age of 18 years confirms their acceptance of our policies for underage students (see below) and requirements of studying in an adult learning environment as set out in this document, by signing and returning a signed ‘Consent Form for Students who are Under 18’  with their enrolment.


All of our courses are delivered as an adult learning program. Therefore all students, regardless of age, are expected to act as adults and to assume adult level of responsibility for their studies and actions. Students are expected to have the necessary skills to study independently but also alongside people from a wide variety of ages and backgrounds and with differing levels of opinions about animal welfare standards and ethics.

Enrolments are offered on the understanding that VNS treats all students as independent, mature individuals and students who are under the age of 18 years will be treated in the same way.

A few key differences pertinent to studying adult education courses compared to school programs, particularly relevant for under 18s are:

  1. All students are expected to be independent, self-directed learners.
  2. We don’t take rolls or monitor progress through the materials at a certain pace.
  3. It’s up to the student to set their own study schedule and know when their assessments should be handed in and complete the required learning prior to performing the assessment.
  4. There are no set schedules that must be adhered to, although we provide suggested schedules.
  5. Students are not given homework tasks but are expected to prepare for and follow up on assessments and learning activities themselves.
  6. Students won’t get reminders about deadlines, for example when assessments are due.
  7. Academic support is available through our Student Assist channels and all students are encouraged but it is up to the student to make use of these opportunities. We won’t chase students like a teacher would when something hasn’t been handed in.
  8. Learning activities and events are sometimes held outside normal business hours.
  9. Potentially distressing content, such as euthanasia, graphics depicting wounds, reproduction, and emergency scenarios may be included in course material.


As per our policy below.


Courses may involve compulsory placement in a functioning workplace. VNS and the businesses offering placement opportunities are not able to take any additional responsibility for a student who is under the age of 18 years in relation to such activities.

Unless indicated otherwise, by signing the ‘Consent Form for Students who are Under 18’, the parent/guardian gives consent for the student to take part in these activities on that basis. However, regardless of parental consent we may still determine that some activities are not suitable for underage students to attend.


Studying animal care and veterinary nursing can include confronting course material and topics such as euthanasia, post mortems, ethics, animal welfare, graphic images of wounds and animals that may be suffering.


We require parents or guardians to act as guarantors and to honour all obligations under any contracts with VNS that the student enters into prior to his or her 18th birthday. By signing the ‘Consent Form for Students who are Under 18’, the parent agrees to this. Failure to pay debts due to VNS or our RTO partners could result in studies being suspended.


Regardless of age, parents and guardians do not have “as of right” access to written or verbal information relating to the underage student’s academic progress or other related matters. To ensure that VNS can meet its duty of care to the underage student, the ‘Consent Form for Students who are Under 18’ requires both the underage student and their parent/guardian to consent to the release of personal information about the student.

This enables us to communicate with the parent/guardian in any circumstances where the personal affairs or course progress of the student needs to be discussed or addressed.


Emergency contact details must be provided for students under the age of 18 years and such students and/or their parents are required to supply this information as part of the enrolment process.


In rare instances, consent for emergency medical treatment may be required before parents or guardians can be contacted. VNS therefore requires parents to give their consent that, in the case of such an emergency, a senior staff member of VNS has parental permission to act on medical advice and do what is in the best interests of the underage student. By signing the ‘Consent Form for Students who are Under 18’, the student’s parents or guardians indicate their consent to act in this way.


For the purpose of this Policy ‘Underage student’ is defined as a student enrolled or enrolling in a course with VNS who is or will be under 18 years of age on commencement of their course, which includes any pre-teaching orientation or other activity.

Enrolment and admission

VNS welcomes applications from students of all ages, including those who are between the ages of 16 and 18.

All applications are considered on meeting the eligibility criteria set in the training and assessment strategy and where appropriate, the respective merits of the student.

VNS may grant places to underage students where:

  1. The student is a minimum of 16 years old on the day their selected intake commences.
  2. The student meets course eligibility requirements.
  3. A Nurse Educator has determined that the student is academically able to successfully complete the relevant course.
  4. A completed ‘Consent Form for Students who are Under 18’ signed by the parent or guardian has been received prior to the student’s enrolment being accepted.
  5. The course of study is not used towards a high school certificate of education.

VNS offers an adult learning environment

All colleges operated by VNS offer students an adult learning environment and treats all students, regardless of age, as mature, independent individuals.

All students (including underage students) are expected to act as adults, behave in an appropriate adult manner and abide by all VNS policies, RTO policies where they apply to the students enrolment, and legislation.

VNS will provide information to parents/guardians and underage students explaining the expectations of undertaking study in an adult learning environment as part of our student handbook. Refer to the Under-18 – Information for Parents and Guardians section above.

Parental responsibility

VNS is not able to take on the usual rights, responsibilities and authority that parents/guardians have in relation to a child, and it will not act in the place of parents/guardians in relation to students who are under the age of 18 years.

Support for underage students

VNS recognises that underage students may have an additional need for support and require the appropriate involvement of their parent/legal guardian as part of this support.

Support for underage students is as follows:

  1. VNS will assign a staff member as the key contact point between VNS, the student and their parents/guardian and subject to the privacy section of this policy, to put in place a mutually agreed communication strategy.
  2. The assigned staff member will consult with the relevant Program Co-Coordinator or Academic Director on the communication strategy and confirm the role of VNS staff.
  3. The age and maturity of the student will impact on the level of support needed. As a minimum for students under 17 years of age the assigned staff member:
    • will communicate directly with the student weekly for the first four weeks of their intake and then every four weeks thereafter to check on the student’s successful transition into adult learning
    • be available to respond to queries from the student and their parents/guardian with the limits of Privacy requirements.
    • This additional support is provided to students under 17 years of age will be provided until the student is satisfactorily acclimatised to adult education after consultation with the student and the parent/guardian or once the student reaches the age of 17.
  4. Any member of staff can facilitate access to support services including academic skills, research and referencing skills support once made aware of the particular needs of the underage student.
  5. Students aged 17 will be treated as independent, mature individuals. Students who are aged 17 will not be provided with additional support, service or welfare monitoring unless specifically requested by the parent/guardian or student and agreed to by VNS.

Student protection and wellbeing

If any staff member is concerned about the wellbeing of an underage student, they must raise these concerns with the Academic or Managing Director to instigate an appropriate intervention. In the case of significant concerns for the wellbeing of an underage student, the Academic or Managing Director can make a report to the relevant external authorities, including the Police and/or Child Protection Services in the student’s state of residence.

In cases of a medical emergency (for example, where emergency medical treatment is required for the underage student), action may need to be taken in the best interests of the student before parents or guardians can be contacted. In such cases, parents are deemed (by virtue of having signed the Consent Form for Students who are Under 18) to permit the Academic or Managing Director (acting in accordance with medical advice, as appropriate) to do whatever is necessary in the student’s best interests.


The normal relationship between VNS and the student has contractual elements. Where contracts are required, for example for tuition fees or payment plans, VNS requires parent or legal guardian to act as guarantors and to honour all obligations under any contracts with VNS that the student enters into prior to her or his 18th birthday.


VNS complies with the Privacy and Data Protection Act 2014 (Vic), the Health Records Act 2001 (Vic), and the Privacy policy in relation to all students’ personal information, such as for example their academic progress and related matters. It is our usual policy to communicate with students and not with the parents/guardians. This approach will also apply to students who are under the age of 18 years, unless consented by the student or unless there was an imminent risk to the safety and wellbeing of the student.

Placement and External Activities

As part of their programs of study, students may be required (or offered the opportunity) to attend placement or other external activities. VNS is not able to make any special arrangements for underage students in this regard. That being the case the parent or guardian gives consent for the student to take part in these activities by signing the ‘Consent Form for Students who are Under 18’ on commencement of their course.

Working with Children Checks

Working with Children Checks will be required in accordance with relevant VNS Policies and the Child Wellbeing and Safety Amendment (Child Safe Standards) Act 2015. As a minimum, staff assigned to support students under of this Policy will be required to hold a working with children check.

VNS cannot guarantee, and does not expect, that staff in workplaces utilised by students for placement will hold a current Working with Children Check. Parents/guardians should make their own enquiries over any concerns with the workplace direct and advise VNS of any concerns prior to the student attending placement.


All underage students undertaking placement as part of a nationally recognised training program are covered by the RTO of enrolment’s insurance policies.

Information Management

The assigned staff member will record the agreed communication strategy and subsequent routine interactions with the student and parent/guardian utilising the Student Management System.