The Unique Student Identifier (USI): What does it mean to you?

Mary has a Certificate II in Business Management and a Diploma in International Management, but she had an idea: if she could take just a few more Vocational Education and Training (VET) programs, she might be able to increase her job prospects. However, doing that won’t be a cakewalk – to enrol, she’s going to have to hunt down all of her transcripts, and present all of that information to future employers.

Quite frankly, she doesn’t have the time. She was wondering, is there a better way?

It turns out there is…

Every year an estimated three million Australians participate in some kind of VET program.

Of course, millions of Australians have been doing this for the previous decades but prior to 2014 there was no universal method for VET students like Mary to efficiently and quickly gather together the paperwork needed for credit and program verification.

Back in the old days, each individual would have to manually obtain or locate each individual record, which would obviously translate into a lot of time and money.

That has now changed. Since the start of 2015, all students doing nationally recognised training are required to participate in the Unique Student Identifier (USI) program.

Similar to pretty much every other identifying number out there, a USI is what is referred to as a primary key, a reference number made up of numbers and letters.

Mary doesn’t really care what characters comprise the identifier; all she cares about is how it functions, and for her, it creates a secure online record of her nationally recognised training that she can access anywhere, anytime, and ultimately, forever.

Because the USI is linked to the National Vocational Education and Training (VET) Data Collection, an individual’s nationally recognised qualifications and training undergone anywhere in Australia, even if it was from different training organisations, will be kept all together.

The USI has a number of advantages for students, including:

  • it links a student’s VET achievements;
  • it lets students easily access secure digital transcripts;
  • it gives students more control over their VET information.


For training organisations, there are also benefits:

  • Entities can attain records from a accurate, single online source;
  • Entities, including employers, have immediate access to VET records;
  • Pre-requisites, credit transfers and Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL), can more easily be assessed.


For Australian industry, the USI information means:

  • less time waiting for job applicants to confirm their training qualifications;
  • sharing of training information will be made easier;
  • evidence-based initiatives can ultimately address poor quality training;
  • there will be a greater efficiency in managing interactions with government;
  • streamlined assessment of credit transfers and assessment of funding assistance eligibility


Because the USI initiative provides training records with integrity, the government will be able to to build data allowing industry to target the skills it needs to ensure the future prosperity of Australia, as well as local industry.

Ultimately, it will enable the country to become more competitive in the world economy.

Of course, the real question is, does the USI apply to your business? The short answer is yes. But only if your business is a registered training organisation (RTO).

Typically, vocational programs and university programs are RTOs, but corporate learning programs have not historically been a part of that initiative.

However, things can certainly change, and with the USI in place, that change certainly promises to be lying on the horizon.

What does this mean for your business now? Well, at one level, it would certainly mean creating a data field in your database with enough characters to hold the USI.

Every one of your training programs should, by default, be linked with the USI. One never knows how the law can change in the future, and providing this linkage right now for your students may prove to be a real benefit to them later on.

Of course, any organisation that really wants to be a part of the program could apply for status as a RTO, and if there is enough demand, we may cover that procedure in a future article.

In the meantime, talk to your database administrator now, and make sure that your data fields are updated!

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