You may face unexpected circumstances that change your study plans when studying in Australia. Whether it may be discovering a new area of interest, reassessing personal, academic or career goals, or not thriving in an initial area of interest, your study plans can be altered to align with your future aspirations.  

However, before you decide to make any significant changes to your studying plan, it is important to consider your circumstances and explore all your options. There are potential opportunities when seeking alternative solutions that best accommodate your personal, work, or academic circumstances change. Notably, any changes to your academic may influence the visa requirements and conditions, especially international students under the subclass 500 visa. 

Started a course and feel like it is not for you?

You may want to change, end, or start your course because you did not do enough research to begin with and have realised that the course you have chosen is not what you expected. When looking for an entirely new study pathway, it is important to understand your new course requirements and information to help your decisions. Additionally, there are academic advice on your course pathways that will help you understand what this change will mean for you.  

Discontinuing a program  

When you are planning to withdraw from your current studies, you will have to discontinue your course. This action will end your current enrolment and remove you from any enrolled units in that institution. If you cancel your program enrolment after the census date, you will not be refunded your fees, unless under special circumstances for missing the cancellation deadline. Rather, you can face financial and academic penalties that you should be aware of after the census date. Additionally, you are required to notify the Department of Home Affairs (DHA) within 31 days of you discontinuing your studies. This will affect your electronic Confirmation of Enrolment (eCoE) and ability to stay in Australia – further assistance can be provided with DHA within 28 days to arrange an alternative visa or return to your home country.  

Changing Courses  

1. Changing to same or higher-level AQF

When you have been studying at your original course for more than six months and wish to change to a same or higher-level Australian Qualifications Framework (AQF) course at your current institution, you do NOT have to apply for a new study visa.  

Note: The only time you will need to apply for a new student visa is when your current visa is due to expire. The same rules apply if you have been studying your original course for less than 6 months. 

2. Changing to a lower-level or non-AQF course

The circumstances will be different if you plan to change to a lower-level or non-AQF course. The change can affect your subclass 500 visa requirements and visa status. In the course of action, you will need to apply for a new student visa that best accommodates your new course.  

Changing Universities or Colleges 

1. If you plan to change universities or colleges

If the university or college you are planning to change to within the same state or interstate, that is not a problem. It will be the same procedure as if you were changing institutions. You can move interstate for university or college in Australia to experience the different lifestyle, culture, and people that best suits your personal and academic aspirations. Hence, you can change to the same degree you’ve been studying or a new degree that best suits your interests. Please contact us to assist your new course or institution. 

2. Changing your studying program

If you are considering changing your studying program to another program, for example, a bachelor’s degree to a Diploma. Contact the Department of Home Affairs for additional information on how it may affect your visa status ( You can also seek the institution for additional help.  

3. What is the process for changing universities?

If you are planning to accept another offer from another university in the first 6 months of discontinuing your enrolment during your current enrolment, you are required to get a letter release. Additionally, specific universities need prerequisites for the course you are planning to study and is outlined accordingly to the course requirements.  

  • Step 1: Research the best situation  

If you want to change institutions before completing the first six months of your main course of study, you must contact your current institution for permission. You will require a letter of offer from the new institution to apply for the letter of release from your current situation. There is additional information you can find on the universities websites and can you further seek academic advice from an Academic Advisor in your faculty or school.  

  • Step 2: Finances  

There may be additional fees involved in changing courses or institutions. Hence, it is critical that you consider the additional charges and make sure you can fund this change.  

  • Step 3: Check credit transfer policy  

Additionally, when changing universities for the same course, you could potentially be eligible for course credits at your new institutions for the subjects you have already completed. You can check your eligibility for credit transfer at the institution you are interested in transferring to.  

  • Step 4: Correspondence to application 

If successfully accepted into the institution, you will follow the academic calendar teaching schedule, which defines the key and census dates. Further, you will start your new institution with either the same or different living arrangements – please refer to ‘The International Student Guide to Renting in Australia (’ for further information. However, if you are under 18, then a parent and/or guardian must provide a letter supporting the transfer.  

Visa Requirements and Conditions

The Subclass 500 visa requires the students to be studying full-time, whether it is internally and/or externally via online. One of the requirements when applying for the subclass 500 student visa is that you must be enrolled as a full-time student, which is a minimum of 24 credit points per semester/trimester. By enrolling into a full-time study load, students are unable you study part-time and study less than 4 units. 

Other circumstances that affect your study plan

Late Completion of a Program  

If you will not complete your program by the end date of your electronic Confirmation of Enrolment (eCoE), you will need to apply for a new eCoE to renew your visa.  

Early Completion of a Program  

If you fast-tracked your degree, started additional and continued your studies during the summer period/semester, you can be eligible for an earlier completion and graduation. If you complete your program one semester/trimester before the end date of your Confirmation of Enrolment (CoE) or earlier, the Department of Home Affairs will be notified of your early completion. Notably, you will not be allowed to remain in Australia on your student visa without studying once you have completed your program, unless you apply for a new visa after the completion of your degree. 

Taking a break from university

Need to take a break from your studies as an international student?  

If you feel stressed, overwhelmed, and need time off, especially when you find it difficult to prioritise university and meet the academic demands and pressures, you can consider taking a break from your studies. Consider the possible outcomes and find the best solution that helps you balance your academic and personal commitments, even if that means putting your education on hold.  

1. Reduced enrolment load  

If you are looking to study in a reduced study load or drop a unit of study after the last day to add by before census, you will need to follow the process to apply for reduced study load.  

To be eligible, you will need to outline your compassionate or compelling reasons, which includes but are not limited to are:  

  • A severe injury and/or illness
  • Death of a close family member
  • Childcare/maternity reason
  • Major political upheaval or natural disaster in your home country that has impacted your studies
  • A traumatic experience, which could include:
    • Involvement in, or witnessing a serious accident
    • Witnessing or being the victim of a serious crime that has impacted you (these cases should be supported by the police or psychologist report)
    • If your faculty or school is unable to offer any other units of study because of the structure of your program
    • If you are currently on the progression register and an academic adviser from your faculty or school recommends your study load, be reduced to make sure you successfully complete your remaining units of study. In this case, your faculty or school may implement a formal intervention strategy.

You should apply for a reduced study load as early as possible. If you apply for a reduced study load to drop a unit after last day to add but before the census date, you will be withdrawn from your selected units without financial or academic penalty. Thus, you should continue attending classes for the unit(s) you have applied to withdraw from until your reduced study load request has been approved. We also encourage you to discuss with an academic adviser for advice about how reducing your study load may impact your enrolment and course progression.  

2. Leave of absence  

You may be able to take a leave of absence or defer from your studies. Notably, student visa holders have additional requirements and limitations when applying for suspension.  

For international students, you can take leave for a maximum of 6 months 

If you wish to take leave for more than six months, we recommend that you speak to an international student adviser. Majority of the time, each university will defer according to its program – if you want to suspend your course for longer than one year, you application will be forwarded to the relevant associate dean for approval. However, it is important that you seek academic advice from your faculty, institution, or course director before you suspend, to help understand how this may impact your studies.