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Sometimes, when you arrive at your new city and institution, things just don’t seem right. The course might not be suitable for your dream career, you may be seeking an entirely new study path, or you may simply not enjoy the course anymore.

If you’ve started studying your course in Australia and don’t feel that it’s the right fit for you – that’s OK!  International students in Australia have the option to change courses, but there are some things to keep in mind before making this decision. When changing to a new city, institution or course, you must ensure that your new plan meets your long-term goals better than the original one, whether these goals relate to future work, education or personal aspirations.

To help you, we’ve answered some frequently asked questions about changing courses on a student visa.

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Can I change course?

Yes! As an international student in Australia on a Student visa (subclass 500), you may be able to change courses if you feel that what you’re currently studying isn’t the best option for you or your career goals.

However, there are a few variables to keep in mind when you’re making the decision to change courses or study programs:

I have been studying my original course for 6 months or more

If you have been studying your original course for six months or more and wish to change to a same or higher level Australian Qualifications Framework (AQF) course at your current institution, then you don’t have to apply for a new student visa. Your education provider will update the Department of Home Affairs with any changes in your study situation – you won’t even need to update your ImmiAccount!  You will only need to apply for a new student visa if your current one is due to expire.

I have been studying my original course for less than 6 months

If you have been studying your original course for less than six months, and want to change courses at your current education provider, the same rules apply as above.

Changing to a lower-level or non-AQF course

If you want to study a lower-level or non-AQF course, you will need to apply for a new student visa.  Exceptions apply if you’re moving from an AQF level 10 course (Doctoral degree) to an AQF 9 course (Masters degree).

Note that if you are on a packaged course (such as Foundation studies and university studies packaged together), it might affect your ability to transfer due to the commencement of your principal course.

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Can I transfer institutions?

If you have completed six months or more of study and want to change to a same or higher-level AQF course, you will be able to change educational institutions. Generally, you will also be able to get course credit at your new institution for subjects already completed.

If you are thinking of transferring to a university in Adelaide, you can check eligibility for credit transfer at the institution you are interested in transferring to.

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Can I study at two universities at once?

When applying for a subclass 500 visa, you only require Confirmation of Enrollment from one education provider. However, upon commencing your studies in Australia, should you want to study at another institution concurrently, you should contact your original institution directly, as it may impact your student visa.

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Can I move interstate for university?

You might be looking for a city that offers a more balanced lifestyle, like Adelaide.  The good news is that you can move interstate for university in Australia. The process will more or less be the same as if you were changing institutions.

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What is the process for changing university?

Step 1 Have a Chat
Chat to someone at your current institution about your situation, such as an international student advisor. An advisor will be able to help you ensure you’re making the best decision for your situation.
Step 2

If you’re certain that you want to change courses, start researching! Look into courses you want to change into, or the institutions you want to transfer to, speak to other students studying that course, and book in to speak to a student advisor – you want to make sure you have thoroughly explored all your options.
Step 3 Finances
Consider your finances. There may be some fees involved in changing courses or institutions, so make sure you will be able to fund this change.
Step 4 Check transfer policy
Speak to your current institution about their transfer policy before enrolling at a new institution. They will give you specific instructions to follow on how to proceed with the transfer.  Note that institutions must make their transfer policy and procedure available to their students.  If you can't find it on your current institution's website, you can request a copy.
Step 5 Apply
Apply for your new course. You must have a letter from another provider confirming that a valid enrolment offer has been made. In other words, you can’t transfer to another institution unless you have an offer from the new institution. Again, speak to your current institution about how to proceed with this. Your education provider will inform the Department of Home Affairs and your ImmiAccount will be updated to reflect your new study situation.
Step 6 Enjoy
Enjoy your new course! Note that if you’re planning on changing to a lower or non-AQF level course, you will need to apply for a new student visa. Speak to an international student advisor before making this decision.

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What documents do I need to change to a new university?

There may be some documentation required before changing institutions – each institution will be different. For example, if you have been studying for less than six months, you will require a formal letter of release from your current institution, as well as any other necessary documents required by the institution’s transfer policy. You should speak to a student advisor, as they will be able to take you through the transfer policies and process.

Regarding your student visa, if you have been studying for over six months and are changing to a same or higher-level AQF course, your education provider will inform the Department of Home Affairs and your ImmiAccount will be updated automatically.

If you are under 18, then a parent or guardian must provide a letter supporting the transfer.

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Where can I get advice about my visa?

Sometimes visas can be complex especially if your circumstances have changed. We recommend you get in touch with your education agent or registered migration agent to discuss your personal situation.

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What are the conditions for obtaining the release approval from my current university?

As outlined by the Education Services for Overseas Students (ESOS) National Code, if you have not completed six months of your current course and wish to change institutions, your current institution can only provide a letter of release if:

  • You have an official letter from another institution stating that they have offered you enrolment
  • You are under the age of 18 and have support from your parent or legal guardian, or the new institution offering you enrolment will take responsibility for your welfare

Ensure you understand your institution’s transfer policy, as this will outline the reasons you may or may not be granted the ability to transfer institutions.

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Do I need to pay to change courses or university?

As a student at an Australian education provider, you will be made aware of the ‘Census Date’ – this is the date that your institution finalises your enrolment. If you decide you want to withdraw from your current course, it might be worth arranging your course change before this date to avoid financial penalties. If you change before the Census Date, you may be eligible for refunds on your study fees.

You will also have to pay any requisite fees at your new institution, and there may even be application fees to change courses internally at your current institution. Contact your education provider for more information on any fees involved with changing courses or institutions.

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Will changing courses affect my student visa?

Your student visa will only be affected if you’re changing to a lower-level or non-AQF course, as you will have to apply for a new student visa.

In all other cases, you will only need to apply for a new student visa if your current one is due to expire.

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If I change courses, will it affect my student loan?

If you have taken out an international student loan, you should contact your loan provider for more details on whether changing courses will impact your student loan.

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Will the change of university impact my post-study work rights?

In general, changing institutions won’t affect your post-study work rights. If you’re applying for a Temporary Graduate visa (subclass 485), for example, you simply need to meet certain education and visa requirements. To check your eligibility, visit the Department of Home Affairs website.

It’s also important to note that from 2021, moving to and graduating in a regional area, such as Adelaide, grants you an extension on the two-year post-study work stream of the subclass 485 visa. This means that after you graduate, you may be able to live and work in Australia for longer. For more information, visit the Department of Home Affairs.

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What if my transfer request is rejected?

If your institution has rejected your transfer request, you will be able to appeal their decision through an internal appeals and complaints process. If you’re not satisfied with that result, you can appeal the decision through your state or territory Ombudsman or the Overseas Student Ombudsman.

The information contained in this article is general in nature only and does not constitute personal advice.  The information has been prepared without taking into account your personal objectives, situation or needs.  StudyAdelaide does not guarantee the accuracy of the information including information provided by third parties.  Individuals must not rely on the information on this website to make decisions.  Read the StudyAdelaide Disclaimer.

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