Australian Government - Australian Education International

National Code Part D, Standard 13

Deferment, suspension or cancellation of study during enrolment

 

Explanatory guide for Standard 13

On this page:

 

Registered providers may only enable students to defer or temporarily suspend their studies, including granting a leave of absence, during the course through formal agreement in certain limited circumstances.

The standard also addresses cancellation of enrolment and requirements relating to notification through PRISMS should a student’s enrolment be deferred, suspended or cancelled. It covers student access to complaints’ and appeals’ mechanisms if a provider initiates a suspension or cancellation of enrolment against a student’s wishes.

 

Key requirements for all sectors

 

  • Providers must have documented procedures for assessing, approving and recording a deferment or suspension of study. (This relates to Standard 2.1 f., which requires that students must be informed prior to enrolment of the grounds on which their enrolment may be deferred, suspended or cancelled.)
  • Providers must inform the student that deferment, suspension or cancellation of enrolment may affect his or her student visa.
  • Should a provider initiate the suspension or cancellation of a student’s enrolment, it must notify the student of its intention and allow the student 20 working days to access the provider’s internal complaints and appeals process, unless extenuating circumstances relating to the welfare of the student apply.
  • If the student appeals the decision to defer, suspend or cancel his or her studies, the provider must not notify the Department of Education of a change to the enrolment status until the internal complaints and appeals process is completed.
  • Providers inform the Department of Education, via Provider Registration and International Student Management System (PRISMS) when a student’s enrolment is deferred, suspended or cancelled.
  • This standard allows providers to grant deferral of commencement of studies or suspension of studies for students who request such a change to their enrolment status on the grounds of compassionate or compelling circumstances.
  • The standard also allows providers to defer or temporarily suspend the enrolment of students due to misbehaviour of the students. Misbehaviour of students can also be grounds for cancellation of studies as long as the student was informed of this prior to enrolment. (See Standard 2.1 f.)

 

Terminology

 

  • To defer or suspend enrolment means to temporarily put studies on hold (adjourn, delay, postpone). Providers do this by notifying the Department of Education, through Provider Registration and International Student Management System (PRISMS) of the deferment or suspension of enrolment. A student may request a temporary deferment or suspension to his or her enrolment on the grounds of compassionate or compelling circumstances. A provider may also initiate suspension of a student’s enrolment due to misbehaviour of the student.

It is important to note the meanings of the terms for this context – suspension of enrolment is not necessarily due to misbehaviour – suspension of enrolment may also be initiated by the student.

What this standard involves:

This standard allows for three different outcomes for the student’s Confirmation of Enrolment (CoE):

  • The provider notifies the Department of Education through PRISMS that it is deferring or suspending a student’s enrolment for a period without affecting the end date of the CoE. In this case there is no change to the CoE or the student’s enrolment status on PRISMS i.e. the student’s CoE status will still be listed as ‘studying’. However, the notice of deferment or suspension will be recorded in PRISMS and sent on to the Department of Immigration and Border Protection (DIBP). This information will be kept for future reference.
  • The provider notifies the Department of Education through PRISMS that it is deferring or suspending a student’s enrolment for a period which will affect the end date of the CoE. In such situations, PRISMS will cancel the original CoE, and immediately offer the provider the opportunity to create a new CoE with a more appropriate end date. If the provider does not know when the student will return, it can choose not to create a new CoE at that point, but to wait until the student has notified the provider of the intended date of return before creating the new CoE.
  • The provider notifies the Department of Education through PRISMS that it wishes to permanently cancel (terminate) the student’s enrolment. Once this process is complete, the student’s CoE status will be listed as ‘cancelled’.

 

 13.1 The registered provider must have in place documented procedures for assessing, approving and recording a deferment of the commencement of study or suspension of study for the student, including keeping documentary evidence on the student’s file of the assessment of the application.

 

 

  • The assessment of whether to defer commencement of study or suspend study for the student must be made in accordance with the provider’s documented procedures for assessing and approving such changes to enrolment. 
  • Providers will need to keep documentary evidence on the student’s file of the assessment of the student’s application for deferment or suspension. Similarly, should a provider suspend a student’s enrolment due to misbehaviour, documentary evidence of this decision should be kept. (Grounds for suspension or cancellation of a student’s enrolment will have been provided to the student prior to enrolment, as this is required under Standard 2.1 f.)

 13.2 The registered provider can only defer or temporarily suspend the enrolment of the student on the grounds of:
   a.

compassionate or compelling circumstances (for example, illness where a medical certificate states that the student is unable to attend classes); or

   b.

misbehaviour by the student.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  
  • Students may apply to the provider for deferment or suspension of their studies if they have good reason for doing so (compassionate or compelling circumstances). The provider may choose to grant or decline any student’s request for deferment or suspension of studies, in accordance with its documented procedures for assessing such requests.
  • Compassionate or compelling circumstances are generally those beyond the control of the student and which have an impact upon the student’s course progress or wellbeing. These could include, but are not limited to:
    • serious illness or injury, where a medical certificate states that the student was unable to attend classes
    • bereavement of close family members such as parents or grandparents (Where possible a death certificate should be provided)
    • major political upheaval or natural disaster in the home country requiring emergency travel and this has impacted on the student’s studies; or
    • a traumatic experience which could include:
      • involvement in, or witnessing of a serious accident; or
      • witnessing or being the victim of a serious crime, and this has impacted on the student (these cases should be supported by police or psychologists’ reports)
    • where the registered provider was unable to offer a pre-requisite unit; or
    • inability to begin studying on the course commencement date due to delay in receiving a student visa.

Please note that the above are only some of examples of what may be considered compassionate or compelling circumstances. Providers are asked to use their professional judgement and to assess each case on its individual merits. When determining whether compassionate or compelling circumstances exist, providers should consider documentary evidence provided to support the claim, and should keep copies of these documents in the student’s file.

  • The provider may choose to temporarily suspend a student’s enrolment if it deems the student’s behaviour to be unacceptable for an educational setting. [Students will know what behaviour is acceptable/unacceptable as the provider will have informed them before enrolment about grounds on which their enrolment may be suspended or cancelled (see Standard 2.1 f).] For information about what happens when a provider chooses to suspend a student’s enrolment, please see 13.3, 13.4 and Common Questions and Answers 6–9.
  • Regardless of whether the suspension of enrolment is the result of a student request for suspension or provider-imposed suspension of enrolment due to misbehaviour, the period of suspension of enrolment (as entered in PRISMS) should not be included in attendance monitoring calculations. See Standard 11 for further information about monitoring attendance.

 

13.3  The registered provider must:
   a. inform the student that deferring, suspending or cancelling his or her enrolment may affect his or her student visa; and
   b. notify the Secretary of DEEWR via PRISMS as required under section 19 of the ESOS Act where the student’s enrolment is deferred, temporarily suspended or cancelled.

 

  • Regardless of the reasons for notifying the Department of Education of a change of enrolment status, (i.e. due to student request, misbehaviour or for other reasons) providers need to inform the student that deferment, suspension or cancellation of enrolment may affect his or her student visa.
  • DIBP will consider all the information available and if they decide to consider cancellation, DIBP will send a Notice of Intention to Consider Cancellation (NOICC) prior to a decision being made to cancel the students visa.  Students will be given an opportunity to respond to the NOICC and explain their situation.  The student does not need to contact DIBP.
  • Providers must notify the Department of Education through PRISMS of deferment, suspension and cancellation of enrolment. The information entered into PRISMS will be electronically transferred to DIBP. 
  • Please see Section 19 of the Education Services for Overseas Students (ESOS) Act and ESOS Regulations 3.03 for further information about the circumstances under which registered providers must give information about accepted students to the Secretary of the Department of Education.

13.4

The registered provider must inform the student of its intention to suspend or cancel the student’s enrolment where the suspension or cancellation is not initiated by the student and notify the student that he or she has 20 working days to access the registered provider’s internal complaints and appeals process as per Standard 8.1. If the student accesses the registered provider’s internal complaints and appeals process, suspension or cancellation of the student’s enrolment under this standard cannot take effect until the internal process is completed, unless extenuating circumstances relating to the welfare of the student apply.

  • Standard 13.4 addresses action to be taken if the provider initiates suspension or cancellation of the student’s enrolment without such action being requested by the student.
  • If the provider initiates suspension or cancellation of a student’s enrolment, the provider will inform the student of its intention to notify the Department of Education of the change of enrolment status. The provider will inform the student that he or she has 20 working days in which to access the provider’s internal complaints and appeals process. To ‘access’ the appeals process means to ‘initiate’ or ‘start’ the process – there is no expectation that the process must be completed within 20 working days. However, standard 8.1 e. requires that the process must commence within 10 days of the formal lodgement of the complaint or appeal.
  • If the student chooses to access the provider’s appeals process, the provider maintains the student’s enrolment until the internal appeals process is completed (and has supported the provider’s intention to suspend or cancel the student’s enrolment). To ‘maintain the student’s enrolment’ means the provider does not notify the Department of Education of any change to the student’s enrolment status through PRISMS.
  • The student may choose to access an external appeals process as per the provider’s policy, but the provider does not have to wait for the outcome of an external appeal before notifying the Department of Education of the change to the student’s enrolment status. 
  • ‘Extenuating circumstances’ relating to the welfare of the student may include, but are not limited to the following. The student:
    • refuses to maintain approved care arrangements (only for students under 18 years of age);
    • is missing;
    • has medical concerns, severe depression or psychological issues which lead the provider to fear for the student’s wellbeing;
    • has engaged or threatens to engage in behaviour that is reasonably believed to endanger the student or others; or
    • is at risk of committing a criminal offence.

Any claim of extenuating circumstances will need to be supported by appropriate evidence.

 

Note:

  • Standard 13 does not require providers to continue providing learning opportunities throughout the 20 working days or any subsequent period of appeal. Each provider must decide whether it will continue to provide learning opportunities throughout the 20 working days and any appeals process. For example, some providers may decide to exclude a student from attending classes, but continue to provide work to complete outside of the classroom environment. When formulating policy and procedures relating to suspension and cancellation of enrolment, providers should consider the following:
    • To deny students learning opportunities throughout the 20 working days and appeals process may disadvantage the students in their subsequent studies should the appeals process find in their favour. If students have missed a few weeks of studies, it may be difficult for them to catch up on this work; and
    • There may be obligations under state/territory legislation or the relevant designated authority’s guidelines in relation to providing work to complete while excluded from class. Providers should make themselves aware of these requirements, especially in relation to students under the age of 18

Compliance tips

For a provider to show it is complying with Standard 13, it may need some of the following as evidence:

  • documented procedures for assessing, approving and recording a deferment of the commencement of study or suspension of study
  • documentary evidence on students’ files of the assessment of applications for deferment or suspension of enrolment
  • a copy of the information given to students prior to enrolment which states the grounds on which students’ enrolment may be deferred, suspended or cancelled
  • a copy of the provider’s documented complaints and appeals processes (see Standard 8) and an indication of how students would access such a document (for example, show a link to the website)
  • evidence that the provider has informed affected students that deferring, suspending or cancelling their enrolment may affect their student visas (providers may find it easiest to demonstrate this through a letter or form given to students applying for a deferment or suspension); and
  • evidence of appropriate notification (through PRISMS) of changes to enrolment status.

 

Common questions and answers

Please note: The principles in the examples below can be applied to all sectors.

Changes to a student's enrolment

 

Q 1  

How do providers notify the Department of Education of changes of a student’s enrolment status?

A

Providers notify the Department of Education of any changes to enrolment status through PRISMS. After 1 July, PRISMS will guide providers through the process of notifying changes of enrolment status.

 

Q 2

If a student who has not completed his or her course does not return to studies after a break, should the provider cancel the student’s enrolment? Is this situation covered by ‘student notified cessation of studies’ or will the provider have to notify the student of its intention to cancel the enrolment and wait 20 working days for an appeal?

A

By not re-enrolling, the student has ‘inactively’ advised you that that they will not be continuing their studies. The provider should notify the Department of Education through PRISMS of ‘student notified cessation of studies’ by going to the Student Course Variation screen, and choosing ‘Termination prior to completing the course’. The ‘termination reason’ will be ‘Student notified cessation of studies’. The provider may wish to enter a comment such as ‘Student did not return’ or ‘Student did not re-enrol’.

This variation report will set the status of the CoE to ‘Cancelled’. There is no requirement to send a Notice of Intention to report letter and observe the associated appeals requirements, OR to notify the student of your intention to cancel their studies as this action is not against the student’s will. 

 

Q 3

If a provider wishes to cancel a student’s enrolment due to non-payment of fees, does the provider have to notify the student of the intention to cancel enrolment and allow the student 20 working days to access the appeals process?

A

Yes. If a provider wishes to cancel a student’s enrolment and the cancellation was not requested by the student, it must inform the student of its intention and allow the student 20 working days in which to access the provider’s complaints and appeals process (regardless of the reason for cancellation).

 

Q 4

Does a provider who suspends or cancels a student’s enrolment have to refund course fees to the student affected?

A

It will depend on the circumstances of the suspension or cancellation. Students should read their written agreement to see the terms and conditions for refunds. 

 

Q 5

Pre July 2007, students could take a break from study to return home by notifying cessation of studies and then re-enrolling in the course when they chose to return. The visa was subject to cancellation and the student had to apply for a new visa to return. What happens now?

A

When a student notifies cessation of studies, the student must leave Australia, obtain enrolment in an alternative course or apply for a different visa within 28 days of cessation. If a student chooses to leave Australia, the student’s visa will be subject to cancellation. A student who has left Australia and wishes to return to his or her studies must apply for a new student visa.
If there are compassionate or compelling reasons for suspending a student’s enrolment, it is preferable for the provider to suspend the student’s enrolment through PRISMS (rather than notifying cessation of studies), as this gives a clearer picture of the student’s situation and intentions in relation to his or her student visa. Further, this will not result in cancellation of the student's visa, allowing the student to return to Australia at the end of the period of suspension to continue studying.

 

Q 6  

If a student wishes to defer commencement of studies, but there are no compassionate or compelling reasons for granting a deferment, how does the provider record the revised start date on PRISMS?

A

If there are no compassionate or compelling grounds for deferring commencement, the provider’s options depend on the CoE status.

   If the CoE is at ‘Approved’, the provider has two options:

  1. Choose ‘Non-commencement of studies’ as the reason for the Student Course Variation (SCV). This option records non-commencement of studies as the reason for variation and allows providers to enter a reason for the non-commencement.
    or
  2. Choose ‘Change to CoE details’ as the reason for the SCV. PRISMS will give the provider the opportunity to view and overwrite the information on the existing CoE – in this case the provider will be changing the course start date.

For either of these options, when the provider clicks the ‘Approve CoE’ button, the new CoE is created (initially at ‘Approved’ status) and the old CoE is automatically cancelled. However, the status of the new CoE may be updated depending upon the information keyed in – it may be updated to studying if an onshore CoE and the course start date has passed.

If the CoE status is ‘Visa granted’, the provider needs to complete a non-commencement SCV and then create a new CoE for the student due to visa requirements. (While the option of 'Student requests change to existing enrolment' is available in the drop down menu, the provider should not choose this option as the system will just send the provider back to select the deferment option.)

If the CoE status is ‘Studying’ and there has been a period of study, the student is not requesting a deferment of commencement, but rather a suspension of enrolment. If this is the case, the student must apply to the provider for a suspension of enrolment. If there are no compassionate or compelling reasons for granting a suspension of enrolment, see Q5.

 

Retrospective suspension or deferment

 

Q 7 

Can a provider defer enrolment of a student who has already returned home due to medically required/assessed information?

A

Providers should not authorise and report a deferment or suspension retrospectively unless there are unusual circumstances where it may be required. For example, if a student has a car accident on holiday overseas and does not turn up at the beginning of the semester, a retrospective deferment may be justified if the student was unable to contact the provider following the accident.

Similarly, if the student was required to return home at short notice for urgent medical attention (before requesting a suspension of studies), the provider could grant a suspension of studies retrospectively, that is, when the student returns to study and requests this suspension.

Please note: If a provider monitors attendance, the provider is required under Standard 11.4 to contact and counsel students who have been absent for more than five consecutive days without approval or where the student is at risk of not attending for at least 80 per cent of the scheduled course contact hours. Therefore, providers monitoring attendance will soon know if a student has stopped attending class.

 

Deferring commencement

 

Q 8

How much information should a provider supply if notifying the Department of Education of a deferment of commencement of studies, suspension of enrolment or cancellation of enrolment?

A

PRISMS will provide options which guide providers through the process. If providers fill out all of the fields, they will have provided the minimum information required. While Section 19 of the ESOS Act 2000 requires that providers notify the Secretary of the Department of Education of any changes to a student’s enrolment, this information is electronically transferred to DIBP.

DIBP asks that providers give as much relevant information as possible. If the provider’s notification contains appropriate information, this enables DIBP to make informed decisions without having to contact the provider and/or the student for further information.

Q 9  

Is a student with a letter of offer entitled to defer for compassionate or compelling circumstances? What happens if the student has accepted the offer and has been issued a CoE?

A

If the student has not yet accepted the offer of enrolment, Standard 13 does not apply. Once a student is enrolled with a provider, if there are no compassionate or compelling grounds for deferring commencement, the provider's options depend on the CoE status.
  
On PRISMS, if the CoE is at 'Approved', the provider has two options:

  • Choose 'Non-commencement of studies' as the reason for the Student Course Variation (SCV). This option records non-commencement of studies as the reason for variation and allows providers to enter a reason for the non-commencement

OR

  • Choose 'Change to CoE details' as the reason for the SCV. PRISMS will give the provider the opportunity to view and overwrite the information on the existing CoE - in this case the provider will be changing the course start date. 


For either of these options, when the provider clicks the 'Approve CoE' button, the new CoE is created (initially at 'Approved' status) and the old CoE is automatically cancelled. However, the status of the new CoE may be updated depending upon the information keyed in – it may be updated to ‘studying’ if an onshore CoE and the course start date has passed.

If the CoE status is 'Visa Granted', the provider needs to complete a non-commencement SCV and then create a new CoE for the student due to visa requirements. The provider cannot choose 'Student requests change to existing enrolment' and then change the course start date – if it does, the provider will be sent back to select the deferment option.

If the CoE status is 'Studying' – and there has been a period of study – the provider cannot select non commencement, so must select 'Student requests change to existing enrolment'.

Q 10

Can a provider allow a student to defer commencement of studies?

A

Yes, as long as the provider refers to, and makes its decision in accordance with, its documented procedures for assessing, approving and recording a deferment of the commencement of study for the student.

Please note that PRISMS processes for CoEs with ‘Approved’ and ‘Visa granted’ status will differ.

  • If the student has been granted a visa on this CoE (the status of the CoE is ‘Visa granted’), providers may enter a deferment of commencement of enrolment through PRISMS. If the period of deferment is short and will not affect the end date of the CoE, the deferment will be recorded on PRISMS as a period of deferment. However, if the period of deferment is so long that it will affect the end date of the CoE, the effect of the deferment will be to cancel the student’s CoE. PRISMS will then offer the provider the chance to create a new CoE for the student with revised start and end dates. The deferment will be recorded in PRISMS.
  • If a visa has not yet been granted for the CoE (CoE status is ‘Approved’), the provider must advise the Department of Education through PRISMS that the student has not commenced studies (‘non-commencement of studies’). PRISMS will cancel the CoE and immediately give the provider the option to create a new CoE for the student (with the revised starting date). The non-commencement of studies notification will be recorded in PRISMS.

To find out more about what happens when a student (with a student visa) requests to defer commencement of studies, please see example below.

 

Student requests a deferment to commencement of studies

Maria is due to start studying her first semester of her Bachelor of Education at the University of the South on 28 February. She has her student visa and has booked a flight to Australia to arrive on 24 February. On 22 February she trips over her suitcase, breaking both arms.

As Maria will require medical treatment for the next eight weeks, she contacts the university and asks for a deferred commencement to her studies. The university cancels Maria’s current COE through PRISMS and gives her a new offer of place for Semester 2. The university also tells Maria that to defer commencement of studies may impact upon her visa and advises Maria to contact DIBP to discuss the impact of this change to her enrolment.

Note:

  • If a student has not yet commenced studies and requests a deferment to commencement of studies, the provider must assess the student’s request in accordance with its own policies. In this case, the university considered Maria’s situation as ‘compassionate or compelling circumstances’, and so allowed her to defer commencement of studies.
  • If a student who has a visa has not yet started studying and requests a deferment to commencement of studies, the provider must notify the Department of Education of the deferment through PRISMS. PRISMS will guide the provider through the process.
  • Maria’s end date will be affected (she has deferred by one semester, and will not be able to finish by the original end date) so when the university notifies the Department of Education of this through PRISMS, her CoE will be cancelled. PRISMS will then provide the university the opportunity of creating a new CoE for her.  
  • The effect on the CoE would be different if Maria was only deferring her studies by a few days or weeks, and she and the university agreed that she could catch up on missed studies and still finish by the original proposed end date (end date not affected). In this case, the university would notify the Department of Education of the deferment through PRISMS, but the CoE would not be affected (the student would remain listed as ‘Studying’). The record of deferment will be sent to DIBP and also remain in PRISMS for future reference.
  • The university acted appropriately in telling Maria that the change to her enrolment status may affect her student visa. It was also good practice to refer Maria to DIBP for further information.
  • The National Code 2007 does not prevent the provider from addressing a deferment of enrolment by cancelling the original CoE and issuing a new CoE for the revised starting date. However, if there are compassionate or compelling reasons for granting a deferment, providers can notify the Department of Education of a deferment of enrolment. By addressing the deferment in this way, students will be able to maintain their student visas, whereas if a provider simply cancels the student’s enrolement, it may impact their student visa.

 

Temporary suspension of studies

 

Q 11

What happens if a student requests a temporary suspension of studies?

A

When a student asks to temporarily suspend his or her studies, the provider refers to, and makes its decision in accordance with, its documented procedures for assessing, approving and recording suspension of study for the student. The effect on the student’s CoE varies according to whether the CoE end date will be affected by the suspension of studies.

To find out more about what happens when a student requests to temporarily suspend his or her studies, please see the example below.

 

Suspending studies on compassionate grounds

Arun is studying the Advanced Diploma of E-Accounting at Seaford TAFE. Five weeks into the semester, he is hit by a car, breaking his left leg and cracking one of his vertebrae. The discomfort from his back injury prevents Arun from sitting for more than 20 minutes at a time, and makes it hard for him to concentrate when reading. Arun’s orthopaedic specialist believes eight weeks’ rest should lead to a full recovery for Arun, and that he will be well enough to resume his studies at the start of the next semester. The specialist issues a medical certificate stating that Arun will be unfit to attend classes or travel for the next eight weeks.

Arun informs the TAFE of his medical condition, shows the TAFE his medical certificate and requests a suspension of studies so he may resume his studies the following semester. While there are 10 weeks plus the exam period remaining in this semester, the TAFE realises it would be unreasonable to expect Arun to catch up on the work missed while unwell. Prior to granting Arun the suspension of studies he has requested, the TAFE tells Arun that the suspension may affect his student visa and advises him to contact DIAC for further information. As Arun still wishes to proceed with the suspension of enrolment, the TAFE grants Arun the suspension requested and tells him he can resume his studies next semester. The TAFE then informs DEEWR through PRISMS of its decision to allow Arun to suspend his studies on the grounds of compassionate or compelling circumstances.

 

Note:

  • Arun has supplied appropriate evidence to support his request for suspension (i.e. medical certificate stating that he is unable to attend classes for a specified period).
  • Prior to granting Arun the suspension of enrolment requested, the TAFE did as required under 13.3 a. and informed Arun that suspending his enrolment may have an impact upon his student visa. The TAFE also suggested Arun contact DIAC to discuss his situation. While this is not required under the National Code, it demonstrates good practice.
  • The TAFE has granted Arun a suspension of enrolment in accordance with its documented procedures for assessing, approving and recording a deferment of the commencement of study or suspension of study for the student. Arun has been granted a suspension on compassionate grounds.
  • When determining how long is acceptable for suspension of studies, providers should consider whether it would be reasonable to expect a student to be able to catch up in the study period/s for which the suspension is requested. In Arun’s case, the suspension period granted (the TAFE allowed more time than the eight weeks listed in the medical certificate) shows the TAFE’s consideration of the impact of Arun’s injury upon his education – the TAFE recognised that he was unlikely to have a successful educational outcome in this study period having missed so many classes.
  • As Arun was suspending his enrolment for a semester and would be unable to catch up on the work missed, Arun and the TAFE agreed that his course end date would be affected. The TAFE let DEEWR know about the suspension of enrolment through PRISMS. As the TAFE knew Arun’s expected date of return, when prompted by PRISMS to create a new CoE, it was able to do so. If Arun had requested a shorter suspension and his end date was not affected, the TAFE would still need to notify DEEWR of the suspension, but would not be required to issue a new CoE, as his existing CoE would cover him for the duration of his course. 
  • When a student’s enrolment is suspended for compassionate or compelling circumstances, there must be supporting evidence entered into PRISMS.
  • Regardless of the reason for the suspension, periods of suspension of enrolment (as entered in PRISMS), are not included in attendance calculations.

Q 12

Can a student request a temporary suspension of enrolment if the units are unavailable?

A

Yes. The student may request a suspension of enrolment due to unavailability of units, as this could be considered a compelling reason for suspending enrolment. Before granting such a request, the provider must inform the student that suspending his or her enrolment may affect his or her visa.

When students fail prerequisite units, this can lead to a shortage of relevant units for which the student is eligible to enrol. Under the National Code 2001, the requirement for students to be enrolled on a full-time basis often resulted in students who had failed prerequisite units being obliged to enrol in units/subjects which did not contribute to their course in order to maintain full-time enrolment.

Where a severe shortage of relevant units occurred, some providers may have allowed affected students to cancel their enrolment and re-apply for admission in a study period in which the necessary prerequisite units were on offer. This allowed the students to avoid undertaking and paying fees for units of little relevance to them. However, when providers notified student cessation of studies through PRISMS, the students’ visas were cancelled. While the provider may have been happy for the students to return, there was no guarantee that the students would be able to get another visa in order to return to their studies.

The National Code 2007 does not include a requirement for students to be enrolled in a full-time study load, but rather to enrol in a load which will allow them to complete their studies within the normal duration of the course. This avoids the situation in which students are forced to undertake unnecessary units. When a student requests suspension of enrolment under Standard 13, the provider notifies the Department of Education through PRISMS and DIBP receives electronic notification of the change to enrolment status. As the student’s course end date is likely to be affected by the suspension (unless the student can ‘catch up’) the student will need to apply for a new visa before the current visa expires.

 

Suspending enrolment due to unavailability of units (compelling grounds)

Paulo has enrolled in an undergraduate science degree at the University of the North and is focusing upon physics. The structure of the course is such that the majority of second and third year units build upon the mathematics foundations laid in the first year, and list Mathematics1a and Mathematics 1b as prerequisite units. The University offers Mathematics 1a in the first semester and Mathematics 1b in the second semester of each year. Paulo struggled with Mathematics 1b in the second semester of his first year, and did not pass the unit. As a result, there was only one unit available in the first semester of his second year for which he had the prerequisite unit.

Paulo understood that a reduced study load would result in either an extension to the time required for him to complete the course or the need to catch up units throughout the course. Aware that accommodation and food-related costs would be the same whether he was studying a normal load or just the one unit for which he could enrol, Paulo considered his options.

He decided that returning to his home country for the first semester of the second year and then resuming studies in the second semester (when he could take Mathematics 1b again) would be better for him emotionally and financially. So he requested a suspension of enrolment for one semester.

The University of the North had included ‘unavailability of units’ as a valid reason for granting suspension of enrolment in its policy on deferring, suspending or cancelling enrolment, and so granted Paulo’s request. The university notified the Department of Education via PRISMS of the suspension of Paulo’s enrolment and, when asked to list the reason, chose ‘compassionate or compelling circumstances’ from the drop down menu. The university also entered ‘unavailability of units’ in the optional comments field.

 
Note:

Information provided to students prior to enrolment should make it clear to students if the course is structured in such a way that may lead to unavailability of units should they fail prerequisite units. Unavailability of units would be a considered ‘compelling’ reason for deferring the students’ enrolment.

Student misbehaviour

 

Q 13  

Can a provider temporarily suspend an international student’s enrolment on PRISMS due to misbehaviour of the student?

A

Yes, but the provider is not required to do so. The provider may choose to suspend a student’s enrolment as long as it does so in accordance with its documented procedures. The provider will have advised students prior to enrolment of the grounds on which their enrolment may be suspended or cancelled (see 2.1 f.).

Please note that the periods of suspension of enrolment (as entered in PRISMS) must not be included in attendance calculations for attendance monitoring and reporting purposes.

Q 14

If a student is being temporarily excluded from attending classes due to misbehaviour, should the provider suspend the student’s enrolment for that period?

A

Standard 13.2 allows providers to suspend the student’s enrolment due to misbehaviour, but does not require providers to do so. Providers may find suspending enrolment is a good option for long periods of exclusion from class, but a less attractive option for addressing short periods of exclusion.

To suspend a student’s enrolment, the provider must notify the Department of Education through PRISMS of the period of suspension. Standard 13.4 requires that if the provider initiates the period of suspension (i.e. the student did not request the suspension) the provider must notify the student of its intention to suspend the student’s enrolment and allow the student 20 working days in which to initiate an appeal against that intention. If the student chooses to appeal against the intention to suspend enrolment, the appeals process may take some time. The provider must not suspend the enrolment until either the 20 working days have passed without the student initiating an appeal or the appeals process has been completed and supports the provider’s intention (unless extenuating circumstances apply). As this process can be time consuming, providers may decide it is only worthwhile if the student is being excluded from class for a significant period of time (for example, a study period).

Q 15

Are there any special matters to consider when excluding an under 18 student?

A

If the student is under 18 and the provider has accepted responsibility for approving care arrangements, that responsibility is not affected by the period of exclusion from class. For further information about providers’ responsibilities for care of students under the age of 18, please see Standard 5 – Younger overseas students.

Providers excluding overseas students from class should apply the same duty of care considerations as they would for domestic students. If unsure of what is required, please contact designated authority and/or the relevant education system office (where applicable) for guidance about relevant policies and state/territory legislation.

When an under-18-year-old student is excluded from class, good practice would be to contact the student’s guardian/s and/or parent/s to inform them of the situation and invite their assistance in addressing the behaviour that led to the exclusion.

Q 16

What impact will a period of exclusion from class for misbehaviour have on attendance calculations?

A

Providers (whose policies allow exclusion from class) must decide how they want to count periods of exclusion from class for attendance monitoring and reporting purposes.

If a provider chooses not to suspend the student’s enrolment during the period of exclusion from class, the provider has two alternatives:

Record the period of exclusion from class as absence, and include this absence in attendance monitoring calculations (potentially putting a student with marginal attendance in danger of being reported for unsatisfactory attendance);
or

Record the period of exclusion from class as ‘exclusion from class’ and NOT count this period in attendance calculations. This option is only available to Providers which clearly state in their attendance policies (see Standard 11) that this is the way they will address periods of exclusion from class.

Some education systems’ discipline policies may distinguish between what is required for a short and long period of exclusion from classes. When formulating policies and procedures relating to exclusion from class, providers should consider relevant state/territory legislation and, where appropriate, policies for the education system within which they operate.

Q 17

Can a provider cancel a student’s enrolment due to the student’s misbehaviour?

A

Yes, as long as long as misbehaviour was listed as a grounds for cancelling a student’s enrolment and made clear to the student prior to formalising the student’s enrolment (see 2.1 f.).

Please note that cancelling a student’s enrolment requires different steps (on PRISMS) to deferring or suspending a student’s enrolment.
 

 

Complaints and appeals

 

Q 18   

Can students access any complaints and appeals processes if the provider initiates a cancellation of enrolment?

A

Under Standard 13.4 the student has 20 working days to access the provider’s internal complaints and appeals processes. If the student chooses to appeal, the provider should not notify the Department of Education of any change to the student’s enrolment unless and until the decision to cancel the student’s enrolment has been confirmed.

Standard 13.4 requires providers to wait until the internal appeals process is completed before notifying the Department of Education of the cancellation of enrolment. The provider is not required to wait for the outcome of any external appeals process before notifying the Department of Education of the cancellation of the student’s enrolment.

 

Cancelling a student’s enrolment due to misbehaviour of the student

Madhavi was studying at Kookaburra College and was caught cheating in her exams for a second time. She was warned after the first offence that, if caught cheating again, she would be excluded from the college in accordance with the college’s policy. Cheating in exams was one of the grounds for cancellation of enrolment listed in the information Madhavi received prior to formalising her enrolment. 

The college sent Madhavi a letter notifying her of its intention to cancel her enrolment. The letter made it clear that if she wished to access the college’s internal complaints and appeals process, she must do so within 20 working days’ and provided her with information about how to access this process.

Upon receipt of the college’s notification of intention to cancel her enrolment, Madhavi contacted the college and initiated an appeal against the college’s intention to cancel her enrolment.

 

Note:

  • Madhavi’s CoE status will remain as ‘Studying’ until the Department of Education has been notified through PRISMS that her enrolment was cancelled for disciplinary reasons. This means she should continue to attend scheduled classes throughout this time, and the college should continue to monitor her progress and attendance, where required. 
  • If Madhavi had not accessed the college’s complaints and appeals process within 20 working days of the notification of intent to cancel her enrolment, the college would have been obliged to notify the Department of Education through PRISMS that it had cancelled her enrolment. 
  • Some students may decide they do not wish to initiate the complaints and appeals process and may inform the provider of this decision. Despite this, the provider should still wait the full 20 working days before notifying the Department of Education of the change to the student’s enrolment status. Otherwise, if the student changes his or her mind within the 20 working day period, there may be grounds for further appeal.
  • As Madhavi chose to access the college’s complaints and appeals process, the college must consider her appeal in accordance with its documented complaints and appeals process. There are two possible outcomes to the appeal:
    1. The college decides that her enrolment (CoE) will NOT be cancelled, in which case there is no need to notify the Department of Education of any change of enrolment status through PRISMS, and her CoE status will remain as ‘Studying’.
    2. The college decides that her enrolment (CoE) WILL be cancelled, in which case the college notifies the Department of Education of the cancellation of Madhavi’s enrolment through PRISMS, and her CoE status will change to ‘Cancelled’.
  • If the student accesses the provider’s internal complaints and appeals process to appeal against the provider’s decision to cancel the student’s enrolment due to misbehaviour, the cancellation of the student’s enrolment (CoE) cannot take effect until the internal process is completed, unless extenuating circumstances relating to the welfare of the student apply. The provider is not required to wait for the outcome of any external appeals process.

Q 19   

If a student’s behaviour or actions seriously breach a provider’s code of conduct for students and the discipline policy includes such behaviour as grounds for immediate ‘expulsion’, is the student still entitled to an appeal?

 A

Standard 13.4 requires the provider to inform a student of its intention to cancel the student’s enrolment and to notify the student that he or she has 20 working days to access the registered provider’s internal complaints and appeals process as per Standard 8.1. The standard also requires that if the student has accessed the provider’s internal appeals process, the provider does not suspend or cancel the student’s enrolment until the internal process is completed, unless extenuating circumstances relating to the welfare of the student apply.

Even if the provider’s policies make it clear to students that certain behaviours are grounds for immediate expulsion, this does not remove the student’s right to access the appeals process. However, while the student has the right to access the appeals process, the National Code does not require that the student’s enrolment be maintained throughout the appeal if extenuating circumstances relating to the welfare of the student apply. 

Q20

Can a provider suspend or cancel a student’s enrolment before the internal appeals process is complete if extenuating circumstances relating to the welfare of the student or others apply?

A

Yes. In cases where the provider has reason for concern for the welfare of the student or those with whom the student may come into contact, the provider can cancel the student’s enrolment prior to completion of the appeals process.

The ‘extenuating circumstances’ option was included to cover situations where a student’s behaviour has led providers to fear for the safety and wellbeing of the student and/or people the student may encounter. In this case, the provider may cancel the student’s enrolment without having to wait for the outcome of the internal appeals process. However, the student can still appeal from his or her Australian residence or home country.

Once the provider notifies the Department of Education of the cancellation of a student’s enrolment through PRISMS, the student has 28 days in which to find alternative enrolment or to return to his or her home country. If the student secures enrolment with another provider within the 28 days, the student may commence studies with the new provider. If the student does not secure alternative enrolment or return home within 28 days, the student’s visa may be cancelled. 

Under the National Code 2007, the student has the right to appeal with the cancelling provider if he or she wishes to do so, whether still in Australia or in the home country. Regardless of location, the student may appeal against the cancellation, subject to any time limits in the provider’s appeals policy. Please note that whether or not extenuating circumstances apply, the provider must notify the student of its intention to cancel the student’s enrolment prior to notifying the Department of Education through PRISMS of the cancellation.

If a provider notifies the Department of Education through PRISMS that it is cancelling of a student’s enrolment for disciplinary reasons, the student has chosen to access the appeals process but the appeals process has not been completed, PRISMS will ask the provider if extenuating circumstances apply. If the provider chooses ‘Yes’, a dialogue box will pop up containing the following text:

  • ‘You are reminded that even though you may report now because extenuating circumstances exist this student must still be given the opportunity to appeal your decision to suspend or cancel the enrolment.’

If the provider then clicks ‘OK’, a free text box will appear so providers can enter the details of the extenuating circumstances.

Note: if a student believes the provider’s determination of ‘extenuating circumstances’ is inaccurate, the student should contact the Department of Education through the ESOS helpline 02 6240 5069.

Q21

If a student who has made an unsuccessful appeal against the provider’s decision to cancel his or her enrolment decides to access an external appeals process, what happens?

A

If a student accesses a provider’s internal complaints and appeals process and is unsuccessful in the appeal against the provider’s intention to cancel the student’s enrolment, the provider must notify the Department of Education of the cancellation of the student’s enrolment. The provider is not required to await the outcome of any external appeals process.

Once the provider notifies the Department of Education of the suspension or cancellation of a student’s enrolment, the student has 28 days to leave Australia, to show DIBP a new CoE or to provide DIBP with evidence that he or she has accessed an external appeals process. Therefore, any student wishing to access an external appeals process must contact DIBP and provide evidence of having accessed an external appeals process within 28 days of the provider notifying the Department of Education of the cancellation of enrolment. DIBP will then consider the student’s individual circumstances and whether to cancel or maintain the student’s visa.

 

Privacy

 

Q22  

If a student’s enrolment with Provider A has been cancelled, and the student has applied for enrolment with Provider B, how much information about the student (and circumstances behind the cancellation) can Provider A give to Provider B?

A

When considering passing on personal information about a student, providers must be mindful of requirements under both Commonwealth and state/territory legislation. Requirements may differ between states/territories and sectors. If in doubt about privacy requirements, providers should contact their designated authority and/or education system head office, where applicable, for advice.

Note for schools:

Schools are required under the Australian Government’s Schools Assistance (Learning Together – Achievement Through Choice and Opportunity) Act 2004 to use the Interstate Student Data Transfer Note (ISDTN) when students enrol from an interstate school. Schools are required to use the ISDTN in accordance with the protocols jointly developed and agreed by the Australian Government, State and Territory Education Authorities, the Independent and Catholic education sectors through the Council of Australian Governments (COAG).

 

Visas and welfare*

* Please note the answers below were provided by the Department of Immigration and Border Protection (DIBP). If you have further questions, please contact your local DIBP office.

 

Q23  

What happens to a student’s visa if the student’s enrolment is cancelled?

A

Once the provider notifies the Department of Education (and therefore DIBP) through PRISMS of the cancellation of the student’s enrolment, the student will have 28 days to enrol in an alternative course (in order to satisfy student visa condition 8202) or to return to his or her home country. A breach of student visa condition 8202 may result in cancellation of the student’s visa.

The notification of the cancellation of the student’s enrolment does not generate a letter from the provider or DIBP. Students should be aware of the requirement under student visa condition 8202 to maintain enrolment in a registered course.  It is good practice for providers to advise students of their option to enrol with another provider in order to continue to satisfy condition 8202.

Q24

If a student has been granted a student visa but has informed the provider that he or she is unable to commence studying on the expected course start date for compassionate or compelling reasons, does the provider need to notify the Department of Education of a deferment of commencement of studies?

A

Prior to the expected commencement date of a course, if a student has a student visa, the status on PRISMS will be ‘Visa Granted’. On the expected course commencement date, the student’s status on PRISMS automatically changes to ‘Studying’, and will remain as ‘Studying’ unless the provider notifies through PRISMS that this is incorrect.

If a student is unable to start on the expected course commencement date for compassionate or compelling reasons; the provider has agreed to the student’s request for a later starting day; and the end date of the course will not be affected; there is no need for the provider to defer the commencement of enrolment. Please see the Regulation 3.02 of the Education Services for Overseas Students Regulations 2001 for further information.

However, if a student is going to start so late that his or her end date will be affected, the provider should notify the Department of Education of a deferment of commencement of enrolment through PRISMS.

 

Q25

What happens to a student’s visa when the student is granted suspension of enrolment and the end date of the course is affected?

A

If the students enrolment is suspended DIBP may investigate the suspension and depending on circumstances may cancel the student visa.  If the visa is not cancelled and the student cannot complete the course within the period covered by the visa, they must apply for a new one before their existing visa expires.

 

Q26

If a student’s enrolment is suspended on PRISMS due to misbehaviour, what impact will this have on the student’s visa and on future visa requests?

A

The student will need to continue to meet condition 8202 and therefore should enrol in a registered course of study.  If the student is not enrolled in a registered course the visa may be cancelled and it may impact on future visa applications.

 

Q27

What impact will cancellation of a student’s enrolment due to misbehaviour have on future visa grants?

A

Under student visa condition 8202, students must maintain enrolment in a registered course. If a student’s enrolment has been cancelled, for whatever reason, the student must seek enrolment with a new education provider as soon as possible or the student visa may be subject to cancellation. If the misbehaviour leads to a criminal conviction, there may be grounds for cancellation of the visa under character requirements.

 

Q28

If a student’s enrolment is being suspended or cancelled due to misbehaviour of a criminal nature, what should the provider tell DIBP?

A

In the first instance, the provider should inform the police of any suspected or alleged criminal activity. To assist DIBP, the provider should give as much information as possible regarding any criminal activity when it suspends or cancels the enrolment of the student. DIBP officers can then initiate any visa related action as required.

 

Q29

As providers are required to maintain care arrangements until a student ‘leaves Australia’ how will the provider know the student has left the country (as opposed to just being unable to be contacted)?

A

Privacy legislation prevents DIBP from telling the provider whether the student has left Australia or is still in Australia. If providers suspect any under-18-year-old student for whom they have approved care arrangements has not left Australia as required, the providers should notify their local DIBP office of their concerns.

 

Q30

If an under-18 student (whose welfare arrangements are approved by his or her education provider) leaves Australia as a result of the cancellation of enrolment for misbehaviour and then returns to Australia within 28 days, is the education provider still responsible for approving the student’s welfare arrangements?

A

No. If the provider has notified the Department of Education of the cancellation of enrolment through PRISMS and advised that it no longer approves of the welfare arrangements, the student would generally not be able to travel back to Australia unless the student can demonstrate that he or she has enrolment with another provider and has adequate welfare arrangements. Failure to maintain enrolment is a breach of student visa condition 8202. Failure to maintain adequate welfare arrangements is a breach of student visa condition 8532.
If the student was to return to Australia within a short period to seek enrolment in another institution, the original education provider would no longer be responsible for approving welfare arrangements.

 

Q31 

Can DIBP stop student guardian visa holders from leaving Australia without the student/s for whom they are responsible?

A

Student Guardian visa holders are required under condition 8537 to remain in Australia and provide adequate welfare arrangements for the student. If a Student Guardian departs Australia without putting in place alternative adequate welfare arrangements for the student, the Student Guardian visa may be cancelled.

 

Compassionate or compelling circumstances 

 

Q32 

What happens if a student returns early from a period of suspension granted on compassionate grounds?

A

The processes to be followed would depend on how the suspension was entered into PRISMS.

If the period of suspension did not affect the end date of the course, the student’s CoE would not have been cancelled. In this case, the initial notification of suspension was for information only, so the provider would go into the Student Course Variation screen and modify the dates of the suspension.

If the period of suspension affected the end date of the course, when the provider originally notified the Department of Education of the suspension through PRISMS, the provider would have been given the option to create a new CoE for the student. If the provider was confident of the date of the student’s return, the provider would have created a new CoE. If that student then decided to return to studies earlier than the date of the new CoE, the student would need to contact the provider and request a CoE with the earlier starting date. The provider would need to consider how the student’s early return would impact upon the student’s studies and, if happy to accept the student earlier than originally planned, would need to cancel the existing CoE and create a new one with the earlier starting date.

If the provider was not confident of the return date for the student when initially notifying the Department of Education of the suspension, the provider would have declined the offer to issue a new CoE for the student at that time. In this case, the provider would simply issue the new CoE to the student when the student wanted to return.

If the student travels offshore during the suspension period and intends to return to study before the time originally specified, the provider should contact DIBP about the new return date and the student should carry evidence of course commencement, otherwise the student may be refused entry at the airport.

In addition to the requirements above, the under 18 year old student must ensure he or she has appropriate welfare arrangements in place for when he or she returns.

 

Q33

Is there an official definition of "Compassionate or Compelling circumstances"
(i.e. related to Standard 13: Deferment, suspension or cancellation of study during enrolment)?

A

Compassionate or compelling circumstances are generally those beyond the control of the student and which affect the student's course progress or wellbeing. For examples and further guidance, please see the dot points under 13.2 in the Explanatory Guide to the National Code 2007, Standard 13.

 

Connections

 

 

Information

For further information about this Standard, please visit the Australian Education International, Department of Education and Department of Immigration and Border Protection websites.