On 1 January 2018, new legislation regulating the provision of education to international students on student visas came into effect. This legislation is contained in a document commonly referred to as the National Code 2018.
These changes apply to you if you are studying on a student visa, unless you are a student sponsored by AusAID or the Department of Defence (student visa subclass 576).
If you are an international fee-paying student but do not hold a student visa then the following information does not apply to you.
If you are on a student visa (except subclass 576) then the most significant changes for you as an international student are as follows:
Enrolment and Academic Progress
You must be enrolled in a full-time course for the full duration of your student visa.
You are now also expected to complete your course by the end date specified on your COE. For example, a Bachelor of Business degree should be completed in 3 years.
At UTS, this means:
- that you must normally enrol in 24 credit points per semester or equivalent;
- that you can reduce your study load only in special circumstances and only in consultation with your Faculty and UTS International.
FAQs about changes to enrolment and academic progress
Q. How do I know my expected completion date?
A. Your expected completion date is the end date indicated on your Confirmation of Enrolment (CoE).
Q. What if I am unable to complete my course by this date?
A. You will be permitted to extend your CoE (and your student visa) in certain circumstances. These include:
- compassionate or compelling circumstances beyond your control;
- where a formal intervention strategy has been implemented because you have been identified as being at risk of not meeting Academic Progression requirements;
- where you deferred your course or you have taken an approved Leave of Absence.
Q. What if I want to drop a subject for academic or personal reasons?
A. Under certain circumstances this will be possible. UTS International has a formal policy outlining the circumstances in which you will be able to reduce your academic load.
Q. I will be completing my course soon, but will need to extend my visa to do so. I have never been placed on Academic Caution and have not taken Leave of Absence. Will I be able to complete my course?
A. If you will not be able to complete your course on time because of enrolment or course advice that you have previously received from the University, then this will be considered a compelling circumstance and your CoE will be extended to enable you to complete your course. This advice includes the advice - correct until 1 July - that you may enrol in 18 credit points per semester.
Further information about this requirement and how it will be managed by the University will be distributed to students in due course.
Leave of Absence
The conditions attached to your student visa require you to maintain your enrolment at the University for the full duration of your visa.
If you need to take a break from your studies it is possible to apply to UTS for Leave of Absence; however, you are only able to take Leave of Absence and maintain the validity of your student visa under very limited circumstances, for example for medical or compassionate reasons.
If you wish to apply for Leave of Absence you must first contact UTS International on firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone +61 2 9514 1531.
FAQs about changes to leave of absence requirements
Q. What happens when I apply for Leave of Absence?
A. If your leave of absence is approved by your Faculty, UTS International will then assess whether your application for a leave of absence fits the criteria for suspension of study under the National Code 2018. If so, then your leave of absence will be reported to the Department of Home Affairs as a suspension of study and you will normally be able to maintain your student visa.
Q. Can I stay in Australia while on Leave of Absence?
A. Because your student visa conditions require you to be studying while in Australia, you must normally return home while on leave of absence. If a medical condition prevents you from travelling then you may apply to the Department of Home Affairs to remain in Australia for the period of the leave of absence.
Q. Under what circumstances can I apply for Leave of Absence and maintain the validity of my student visa?
A. Under the National Code 2018, UTS is able to approve leave of absence on compassionate or compelling grounds. These generally refer to circumstances which are beyond your control and which have an impact upon your course progress or wellbeing. Each application for a leave of absence will be assessed on its own merits and must be supported by appropriate documentation.
Q. For how long can I take Leave of Absence without my visa being cancelled?
A. You can continue to hold your visa only if you take a leave of absence for 6 months or less. This applies even if your leave of absence is approved on compassionate or compelling grounds. If you apply for leave of absence for longer than 6 months or you do not return from your leave of absence after 6 months then your visa will normally be cancelled.
Q. What are some examples of compassionate or compelling grounds?
A. Examples of acceptable grounds would include, but are not limited to:
- an extended illness which affects your ability to study
- a disaster in your home country requiring your return
- a traumatic experience which affects your ability to study
- where UTS is unable to offer you a subject you require to complete your course until the next semester.
Q. What if my reasons for applying for Leave of Absence are not deemed to be compassionate or compelling under the National Code 2018? Can I still take Leave of Absence from my course? What will happen to my visa?
A. Yes, you can take leave of absence as long as your leave of absence is approved by your Faculty. However, if your reasons for taking leave of absence are not deemed to be compassionate or compelling under the National Code 2018 - as assessed by UTS International - then your Confirmation of Enrolment will be cancelled. The Department of Home Affairs will then assess your visa status and may decide to cancel your visa. In this case you will need to apply for a new visa when you wish to return to your studies.
Q. How do I apply for Leave of Absence?
A. You can apply for leave of absence online, on the UTS student admin website.
Be sure to include all supporting documentation. If you wish to apply for a leave of absence on compassionate or compelling grounds and for less than 6 months, or if you are unsure of your circumstances, you should discuss your application with UTS International.
Transferring to another institution
Under the new legislation, you must obtain permission from UTS if you wish to transfer to another institution within the first 6 months of your principal course*. This permission is recorded on your CoE via PRISMS.
If you wish to apply for Release in order to transfer to another institution prior or within 6 months of commencing your principal course*, you will need to follow this procedure:
- Obtain an offer letter from the new institution. Do not pay any tuition fees or deposit to the new institution at this stage.
- Apply to email@example.com by completing the 'Application for Release' form. Your application must state your reasons for seeking release from UTS. Include a copy of the offer letter from the new institution.
- If your application is in line with the UTS Release Protocol then UTS will grant you release to your new institution.
- Once you have the letter of release you can pay tuition fees or a deposit to your new institution.
Important information about SSVF
UTS is an approved SSVF provider and recruits students into its degree courses under the SSVF arrangements of the Department of Home Affairs. SSVF enables students to obtain their student visa quickly and usually with less documentation required.
International students apply for a single Student visa (subclass 500) regardless of their chosen course of study. When you are granted a visa under SSVF you must continue to maintain enrolment in an eligible course, and continue to have sufficient financial capacity to support your study and stay in Australia.
All Student visa (subclass 500) holders must maintain enrolment at the same level or a higher Australian Qualification Framework (AQF) level for which they were granted a visa, unless they are undertaking a doctoral degree (AQF10) and transfer to a master’s degree (AQF9). Transferring to a lower AQF level course or transferring from an AQF level course to a non-AQF Award course is a breach of the student visa condition and might result in the visa being cancelled.
Students who want to change to a lower level course or non-award course must apply for, and be granted, a new student visa before they change their course. You must take this important information into account when choosing a course and if considering a course change or a move to another provider.
Visit the Department of Home Affairs website (opens an external website) for information about changing your course and meeting the conditions of your student visa, or for more detail about SSVF (opens an external website).
FAQs about changes to requirements for transferring to another institution
Q. What reasons for seeking release would be considered acceptable?
A. The University may grant a release where it is satisfied that one of the following circumstances apply:
- the student had a conditional offer from the University and did not meet its conditions
- continuing the course at the University is not in the student's best academic interest, or
- there are special circumstances in favour of the student moving to another institution.
Special circumstances include, but are not limited to:
- a student’s application for a student visa is rejected;
- the student's government sponsor has provided written support stating that it considers the change to be in the best interests of the student;
- serious illness or misadventure, or other compassionate grounds such as death in the immediate family; and/or
- political, civil or natural events which prevent full payment of fees.
Read more on the complete UTS release protocol.
Q. * What is my principal course?
A. If your student visa covers a package of courses, then your principal course is the final course in your package. The other courses are preliminary courses. For example, you may have been accepted into a Bachelor of Commerce course but been required to complete a 10-week English-language course and a 2-year diploma at INSEARCH before commencing your Bachelor's. In this example your principal course is the Bachelor of Commerce. You would need to be granted release from UTS if you wish to transfer to a different institution at any time prior to completing 6 months of the Bachelor of Commerce.
Q. I have been granted a package of courses, but now want to take my preliminary course at another institution before returning to UTS to study my principal course. Do I need to apply for release even if I am going to return to UTS?
A. Yes. You need to apply for release if you wished to transfer to a different institution at any time prior to completing 6 months of your principal course, even if you plan to return to UTS to study your principal course.
For further information on your student visa conditions and your rights and responsibilities as an international student go to the Australian government protection page.
If you are considering altering your enrolment in any way contact UTS International.