Changing course on a student visa in Australia

Wondering whether you can change course on a student visa? Our guide breaks down everything you need to know about changing programs or universities.

Changing course on a student visa in Australia
Last Updated Wednesday 17th April, 2024

Sometimes, when you arrive at your new city and institution, things just don’t seem right. Maybe the degree you chose is no longer suitable for your dream career or perhaps you’re seeking an entirely new path. What if you are simply not enjoying your studies anymore?

If you’re studying in Australia and no longer feel your course is right for you, that’s okay! International students in Australia have the option to change programs, but there are some things you should keep in mind before making this decision.

When switching to a new city, institution or program, you must ensure that your new program meets your long-term career, education or personal goals better than your original one.

To help you find out more, we’ve answered some of the most frequently asked questions about changing courses on a student visa.

Can I change course?

Yes! As an international student in Australia on a Student visa (subclass 500), you can change course if you feel your current studies are no longer the best option for you.

However, there are a few things to keep in mind when you’re making the decision to change study programs.

Changing to another course at the same institution

As an international student, you can apply to change courses within your institution at any time, no matter how long you have been studying your current course. 

If you wish to change to a course of the same or higher Australian Qualifications Framework (AQF) level, then you don’t even have to apply for a new student visa. 

You won’t even need to update your ImmiAccount, as your education provider will advise the Department of Home Affairs of any changes to your study situation. 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 it has been less than six months since you started your original course, you can still change to a new program, as long as you remain at the same institution. 

You will still need to ensure your course is at the same or higher AQF level, and you won’t need to apply for a new visa unless your old one is already due to expire. 

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, even if you stay with the same education provider. However, some exceptions apply, such as if you’re moving from an AQF level 10 (doctoral/doctorate degree) to an AQF level 9 course (master’s degree).

If you are on a packaged course, for example, completing foundation and university studies together, this might affect your ability to transfer due to the commencement of your principal course.

Can I transfer institutions?

If you have completed six months or more of study and want to change to a course of the same or higher AQF level, you can apply to change institutions. You can usually also get credits at your new institution for subjects you have already completed.

If you are thinking of transferring to a university in Adelaide, visit the website of your chosen institution to check your eligibility for credit transfer.

Can I study at two universities at once?

As part of the conditions of your student visa, you are not allowed to study more than one course at a time (also known as concurrent study) until you have completed at least six months of your primary course. In some cases, you may be able to receive an exemption from this requirement from your education provider. 

After six months, if you wish to study at another institution concurrently, you should contact your original education provider to discuss. They can give you important information and advice on steps you need to take and any changes to your student visa. 

Can I move interstate for university?

If you’re thinking about moving to experience a city with a more balanced lifestyle, like Adelaide, the good news is that you can easily move interstate for university in Australia. The process for transferring is more or less the same as if you were changing institutions.

What is the process for changing universities?

Step 1: Have a chat

Reach out to someone at your current institution, such as an international student advisor, to talk about your situation. An advisor will be able to help you make the best decision for you.

Step 2: Research

If you’re certain that you want to change programs, start researching! Look for the programs or institutions you might want to transfer to, speak to other students studying there, and book in to speak to a student advisor – you want to make sure you have thoroughly explored all your options.

Step 3: Finances

There may be some fees involved in changing courses or institutions, so make sure you consider your financial situation and ensure you can fund this change.

Step 4: Check the transfer policy

Before you enrol in your new course, speak to your current institution about their transfer policy. They will inform you of the specific procedure you need to follow to complete your transfer. Institutions are required to make their transfer policy and procedure details available to students. If you can't find these on your current institution's website, contact them to request a copy of this information.

Step 5: Apply

Now it’s time to apply for your new course. You must have a letter from your new provider confirming that a valid enrolment offer has been made, and you cannot apply for a transfer until you have this. Your current institution can provide more information on how to proceed. Once your application is approved, 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! 

Remember, if you’re planning on changing to a lower or non-AQF course, you will need to apply for a new student visa. Speak to an international student advisor before making this decision.

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

While you may need to provide some documentation before changing institutions, the exact documents you need will depend on your provider and situation. 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. A student advisor can help you understand your provider’s specific transfer policies and processes.

If you have been studying for over six months and are changing to a course of the same or higher AQF level, you do not need to take any action on your visa. Your education provider will inform the Department of Home Affairs, and your ImmiAccount will be updated automatically.

If you are under 18 years of age, a parent or guardian must provide a letter supporting your transfer.

Where can I get advice about my visa?

It can sometimes be challenging to understand the visa rules, especially if your circumstances have changed. We recommend you get in touch with your education agent or registered migration agent to discuss your situation and receive personalised advice.

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, you do not need to obtain approval from your original institution to change provider if you have completed six months or more of study. 

If you have not completed six months of your current course and wish to change institutions, you will need a letter of release from your current institution. Your provider may only consider transfer requests in some cases, such as in the event of a family emergency or serious illness. Additionally, under the ESOS code, your institution can only provide a letter of release in the first six months if:

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

Your institution’s transfer policy will outline circumstances in which early transfers will be considered.

Do I need to pay to change courses or university?

As a student at an Australian education provider, you will need to be aware of the census date. This is the date that your institution finalises your enrolment, and it usually occurs around two or three weeks after the semester begins. If you decide you want to withdraw from your course, it is a good idea to try arranging your transfer before this date to avoid financial penalties. If you change before the census date, you may be eligible for a refund of your study fees.

You will have to pay any fees required for your new course or provider, and there may be application or administration fees required to change programs internally at your current institution. Contact your education provider for more information on transfer fees.

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. In this case, 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.

Will changing courses affect my student loan?

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

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

In general, changing institutions won’t affect your post-study work rights. For example, if you’re applying for a Temporary Graduate visa (subclass 485), you will simply need to meet certain education and visa requirements. 

From 2021, studying and graduating in a regional area, such as Adelaide, means you can apply for a Second Post-Study Work stream visa after your first two-year Temporary Graduate visa is up. This means that graduating in Adelaide may allow you to live and work in Australia for longer. 

What if my transfer request is rejected?

If your institution has rejected your transfer request, you can appeal their decision through their internal appeals and complaints process. If you’re not satisfied with the 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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