How to change your course or institution as an international student

As an international student, it’s likely that you did a lot of research before deciding to move to Australia. But what happens if you don’t like your course or institution? You might have enrolled into a course that is too difficult, selected an institution that doesn’t meet your needs or realised that you don’t want to pursue a career in your field of study. If you are in this situation, start by following our steps below.

Book an appointment with a student adviser

Your first step is to book an appointment with your course coordinator or a student adviser. They will explain everything you need to know about changing your course, including your visa requirements and financial obligations (see below). They will also provide you with information about the types of changes you can make to your enrolment — whether this is moving to a different course at your current institution or moving to another education provider. The Department of Immigration and Border Protection has strict policies on course changes by international students, so it is important to get advice from your institution before making any changes to your enrolment. To move to another education provider, you need to have completed at least six months of study at your current institution. If you would like to change your institution before the end of this six-month period, you will need to obtain a ‘Letter of Release’ from your institution. Your student adviser or course coordinator will explain this process to you. 

Consider visa requirements

Your Australian student visa is the most important thing to consider when changing your course. This is because you will need to continue to meet the requirements of the specific student visa you have been granted — whether this is a visa for an English language course, Vocational Education and Training (VET) study or higher education. In addition, if you were granted a streamlined student visa, you will need to continue to study a course at an institution that is eligible for streamlined visa processing. A full list of institutions eligible for streamlined visa processing is available on the Australian Government’s ComLaw website. If you would like to move to an institution that is not eligible for streamlined visa processing, you will need to cancel your current visa and apply for a new non-streamlined visa. You will need to apply for this visa from your home country. A new student visa is also required if you want to study a course at a different qualification level — for example, moving from a bachelor degree to a certificate IV, which is taught in the VET sector.  

Understand your financial obligations

Your Australian institution will set a date each semester that is the final day you can make changes to your enrolment without financial penalty (having to pay fees for a subject or course you did not complete). This is usually called the ‘census date’ and occurs a couple of weeks into each semester. If you make changes to your course after this date, you will pay the full cost of each subject you chose in that semester. If you change your course or subjects before this date, you may receive a partial or full refund.

Select a new course or institution

When selecting a new course or institution, it is important that your new choice meets your needs. If you thought that your course was too difficult, you should make sure that the new course is more suited to your abilities. If you’re thinking about moving to another institution, think about why your current institution isn’t suitable. Are you looking for an institution with a more lively campus culture? Do you want to study in another part of Australia? Or do you want access to a broader range of courses and specialisations? Start your research by speaking to student advisers, course coordinators and current students — they’ll be in the best place to help you through your research process. Once you’ve done your research, it’s time to apply! Contact institutions to discuss your options.


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