Frequently asked questions on this page:
Registered providers assess requests from students for a transfer between registered providers prior to the student completing six months of his or her principal course of study in accordance with their documented procedures.
This standard restricts providers from enrolling transferring students prior to the student completing six months of his or her principal course of study, except for the circumstances outlined in the standard. Providers, from whom a student is seeking to transfer, are responsible for assessing the students request for transfer within the restricted period. It is expected that the student's request will be granted where the transfer will not be to the detriment of the student.
After the first six months of the principal course no restrictions apply.
The receiving registered provider must not knowingly enrol the student wishing to transfer from another registered provider’s course prior to the student completing six months of his or her principal course of study except where:
the original registered provider has ceased to be registered or the course in which the student is enrolled has ceased to be registered
the original registered provider has provided a written letter of release
the original registered provider has had a sanction imposed on its registration by the Australian Government or state or territory government that prevents the student from continuing his or her principal course; or
any government sponsor of the student considers the change to be in the student’s best interest and has provided written support for that change.
The registered provider must have and implement its documented student transfer request assessment policy and procedure, which is available to staff and students. The policy must specify:
the circumstances in which a transfer will be granted
the circumstances the registered provider considers as providing reasonable grounds for refusing the student’s request, including when a transfer can be considered detrimental to the student; and
a reasonable timeframe for assessing and replying to the student’s transfer request having regard to the restricted period.
Policies which apply blanket rules such as no requests for letters of release will be granted are not compliant. Policies that only enable transfers in a very limited set of circumstances, acting effectively as a blanket rule that no requests will be granted, are also not compliant.
Compliance activity will be concerned with ensuring that a provider’s policies, processes and their implementation uphold the intent of the standard by considering requests fairly and applying their best efforts.
The registered provider must grant a letter of release only where the student has:
provided a letter from another registered provider confirming that a valid enrolment offer has been made; and
where the student is under 18
the registered provider has written confirmation that the student’s parent or legal guardian supports the transfer; and
where the student is not being cared for in Australia by a parent or suitable nominated relative, the valid enrolment offer also confirms that the registered provider will accept that responsibility for approving the student’s accommodation, support and general welfare arrangements as per Standard 5 (younger students).
A letter of release, if granted, must be issued at no cost to the student and must advise the student of the need to contact DIAC to seek advice on whether a new student visa is required.
Where the registered provider does not grant a letter of release, the student must be provided with written reasons for refusing the request and must be informed of his or her right to appeal the registered provider’s decision in accordance with Standard 8 (Complaints and appeals).
The registered provider must maintain records of all requests from students for a letter of release and the assessment of, and decision regarding, the request on the student’s file.
For a provider to show it is complying with Standard 7, it may need some of the following as evidence:
Please note: The principles in the examples below can be applied to all sectors.
What does the reference to “six months” in Standard 7 mean?
The requirement in Standard 7.1 refers to a period of six months. This means completion of six calendar months of the principal course of study from the date that the student commences the course.
A provider’s policy on transfer between providers should support the intent of Standard 7 which recognises overseas students as consumers and supports them to exercise choice, while acknowledging that they may also be a group that requires support to transition to study in Australia. As such, the impact on a student of refusing a request should be one factor taken into consideration. For example if the semester begins in February and ends in June, a student who cannot transfer until the end of July may miss enrolment cut offs for other institutions. An institution may adopt a policy that allows all transfers after the end of a semester.
Why is six months the minimum study period before a student is allowed to transfer to another provider?
The independent evaluation of the ESOS Act 2000 recommended the 12 month restriction that applied to the principal course of study be reduced to six months. It also recommended the 12 month period be transferred from a condition on a student’s visa to a requirement on the provider through the ESOS legislation.
Following consultation with the international education industry, the restriction was reduced to six months and included in the National Code 2007. Six months is seen as a reasonable compromise between giving overseas students a choice as consumers while acknowledging they are a group that may require support to transition to study in Australia.
When calculating the six month restriction period, what is used as the starting date (when the visa was issued, the date the student arrives in the country or the course start date)?
The start date for calculating the period is when the student starts the course.
If a student suspends enrolment in his or her studies before completing six months of his or her principal course, how is the six months calculated?
Where a student has had a break from his or her studies due to a deferment or suspension, the break is not counted for the purposes of determining if the student has completed six months of his or her principal course.
Can I issue a student with a CoE prior to the six month period ending if the CoE starts after the six month period?
Yes because the CoE start date is after the six month period ends Standard 7 does not apply. For example, if a student started his or her principal course in February but wanted to move to a course that started in September, this would be acceptable even if the COE for the September course was issued in June.
If a student is not satisfied with their education provider can he or she transfer after six months?
Yes, a student can transfer without restriction after he or she has completed six months of the principal course.
Can I issue a COE to a student who does not have a letter of release if the student is going to use that COE to apply for a new visa?
No. Under Standard 7, providers must not knowingly enrol a student wanting to transfer from another provider’s course prior to that student completing six months of their principal course.
The only circumstances in which a provider may issue a student with a COE during the restricted period are if:
How does Standard 7 apply to a student enrolled in a package of courses, but who has not started his or her principal course?
A student must not transfer from his or her original provider's course before completing six months of his or her principal course of study. As the principal course of study is the highest qualification (normally the last course) covered by the student’s visa, Standard 7 also applies to all courses of study prior to the student’s principal course.
The student needs to ask for a letter of release from the provider of the course the student wants to transfer from. If the transfer will affect the start dates of any subsequent courses covered by the visa, the student needs to obtain letters of release for those courses or gain the providers’ agreement to delay the start of those subsequent courses.
It is important for providers to advise students that changes to their preliminary courses may have ramifications for their admission to their principal course (e.g. if a preliminary course is a prerequisite).
Jenny is enrolled in a package of courses comprising
Jenny's principal course is the Bachelor’s degree as this is the last and the highest qualification covered by her visa.
Jenny seeks a transfer from Provider A to a different English Language course with Provider X. Provider A assesses Jenny’s request against its transfer policy and provides her with a letter of release. Jenny does not need to get a letter of release from Provider B or C, as her transfer does not affect the start date of these courses.
While studying with Provider X, Jenny discovers an alternative two-year programme in the VET sector with Provider Y. As Jenny has not completed six months of her principal course, Provider Y needs to see a letter of release in order to enrol Jenny in its course. As Provider Y's course covers the period of the foundation programme and then part of the Bachelor programme, Jenny needs to request a letter of release from both Provider B and Provider C. Alternatively, Provider C can decide to defer the start date of the Bachelor programme for Jenny. If the proposed change to the student’s course/s does not affect the start date of the principal course, then Provider C would not need to consider the letter of release request.
If a student is enrolled in a package of courses but the provider of the first course in the package is not aware of the other courses in the package, how will the provider know what restrictions apply to the student?
If the student transfers from a principal course to a new course, PRISMS assists to identify the student’s new course as the student’s principal course. If another provider tries to enrol the student PRISMS will often alert the provider that the student has not completed six months of his or her principal course.
If a student transfers from a preceding course in a package of courses, PRISMS will normally flag the course leading to the highest qualification as the principal course and the warning will apply to this course.
Does Standard 7 apply to each visa a student might obtain, even if the visa is granted onshore following a transfer from another course?
Standard 7 applies to all current valid student visas, regardless of whether the visa was granted onshore or offshore, if it is the student's first visa or a subsequent visa.
What are some examples of what would be reasonable grounds for granting or refusing a request for a letter of release?
For examples of what would and would not be appropriate grounds for granting a letter of release, please see below.
Letat had commenced her principal course at the Southern Institute of Studies, a small provider that offers only three courses for international students. Letat found that the Certificate IV course was far too difficult and was causing frustration and unhappiness for her.
Letat’s friend informed her that a Certificate III course was available with a neighbouring CRICOS provider and Letat obtained a letter of offer from the neighbouring provider. Letat completed an application to transfer from the Southern Institute of Studies. As the institute recognised that its courses were too difficult for Letat, her application for transfer was approved.
Seventeen-year-old Jose was studying a Diploma in Visual Arts at the Central College of the Arts in Adelaide, and was living with his 23-year-old brother who was a resident of Australia. Two months into Jose’s course, his brother was given a promotion, and told that his new job was located in Brisbane.
Jose sought to study in Brisbane because he did not have alternative living arrangements and wanted to remain with his brother. Jose investigated a provider in Brisbane at which he could continue to study for the same qualification. He received an offer of enrolment from the Brisbane provider and applied to Central College for a transfer.
Realising the significance to Jose of transferring to Brisbane, Central College approved the application for transfer.
Peter is a university graduate who has enrolled in the Master' of Professional Accounting at Accounting University. After three weeks he applies for a release to transfer to a Diploma in Accounting with another provider in the vocational education and training (VET) sector.
The University Transfer Policy specifies that where students apply to transfer to another sector (e.g. to English Language Intensive Course for Overseas Students (ELICOS) or VET) or another level (e.g. Master's to Bachelor's course) the student must discuss the request with a university course advisor. The policy states that the course advisor will make a recommendation based on an assessment of what is in the student’s best interests, whether there are compassionate and compelling circumstances, and whether the student is likely to succeed in his or her present course.
Following a discussion with Peter, the course advisor finds out that the VET course Peter wishes to transfer to will not enable him to achieve his career goals. So in this case, the course advisor recommends that a release not be granted but that Peter’s academic progress be monitored closely through the first semester. The course advisor believes Peter is capable, with effort, of succeeding in the Master's course, and advises him to access a structured study support programme. The university does not grant a release at this time and negotiates with Peter to revisit the issue after four weeks to determine if he still wants to transfer after accessing the support services available. If Peter decides to seek a transfer after this period, he will still be able to enrol with the other provider in a timely manner. This was taken into consideration by the university when it decided not to grant a release and when negotiating to revisit the issue after four weeks.
The University informs Peter of the decision, together with the reasons, and informs him also of his right to appeal in accordance with the university’s processes.
Imelda is studying English for Academic Purposes (EAP) at the International Language Academy as her principal course and intends to proceed to a VET or higher education course at the end of her English course. EAP provides specific preparation for further study in English. The EAP course at the academy is recognised by several higher education and VET institutions as satisfying their English language entry requirements.
Imelda then becomes aware of another ELICOS College specialising in General English where the tuition fees are considerably lower and the assessment tasks are believed to be less onerous. She obtains an offer of enrolment and applies for a release from the academy.
The academy’s transfer request policy states that a release will be granted only where the transfer will not be to the detriment of the student or their future studies. In this case the Director of Studies refuses the release on the grounds that the intended course will not provide adequate preparation for further study, nor be recognised by higher education or VET providers as satisfying their entry requirements. A transfer would be detrimental to Imelda’s future study plans.
The academy informs the student of the decision in writing, together with the reasons, and informs her also of her right to appeal in accordance with the academy’s processes.
What should I do if my student wants to leave my course and enrol with a provider that in my view:
Standard 7.2 requires providers to have a policy that specifies the circumstances that the provider considers as reasonable
grounds for refusing the student’s request. The policy should support the intent of Standard 7 which recognises overseas students as consumers and supports them to exercise choice, while acknowledging that they may also be a group that requires support to transition to study in Australia.
When determining the contents of their policies, providers should consider if adequate weight is given to the student as a consumer. Providers should also consider the circumstances in which it may be reasonable to refuse a transfer request based on the provider’s opinion of the student’s best interests and the receiving course or provider. Where a provider makes such judgments, the provider should ensure the reasons are adequately supported by evidence and conveyed to the student.
What are the provider’s obligations to the student if his or her request for transfer is refused?
Under Standard 7.5, the student must be provided with written reasons for refusing the request and informed of his or her right to appeal the provider’s decision in accordance with the provider’s complaints and appeals process.
What detail is needed for the written reasons for refusing a student’s request for a letter of release?
The written reasons for refusing a request should reflect the decision making process for the student’s individual circumstances and be detailed enough to enable the student to make an informed decision as to whether to appeal the decision.
If a student has a letter of offer from a second provider, does the original provider have to automatically grant a letter of release?
No. The request for transfer must be assessed against the provider’s transfer request policy.
Which provider needs to issue the letter of release?
For transfers from any of the student’s original courses (the courses the student’s visa was issued for), the letter of release needs to be from the affected provider. For transfers from any of the student’s original courses (the courses the student’s visa was issued
for), the letter of release needs to be from the affected provider. The affected provider is the provider the student is seeking to transfer from. If a transfer will impact on the start date of another of the student’s planned courses, then the provider offering that subsequent course is also an affected provider and the student needs to obtain a letter of release for that course as well or seek the provider’s agreement for the COE commencement date to be delayed.
It’s very important for providers to advise students in a package of courses that changes to their preliminary courses may have ramifications for their admission to their principal course (e.g. if a preliminary course is a prerequisite).
Can I grant a letter of release that specifies certain conditions on the student (such as that the student can only transfer to a campus of the same provider in another state or to a specific provider of which I approve)?
No. The purpose of a letter of release is to enable the student to enrol with another provider of their choosing. The provider should determine through its decision making process whether or not it supports the student’s request for a letter of release, based on the information presented to it by the student. If a letter of release is then granted, it can not contain conditions.
If an under-18 student has his or her guardian’s permission to transfer prior to completing six months of the principal course, is the student’s request for transfer automatically granted?
No. Even with the parent or guardian’s permission for the student to transfer, the provider may refuse to release the student if the student’s reason for transfer is not included as allowable grounds under the provider’s transfer request assessment policy.
Tichy is a 17–year-old student who has come to Australia to learn English. He has a CoE from the Australian English Centre for a course in English language. He attends irregularly and receives a warning notice from the provider that his attendance is at 82%. Tichy feels that he will soon be reported to DIBP and three months into the course, requests to be transferred to another registered provider - Central English College.
Tichy has a letter of offer of enrolment from Central English College and a letter from his guardian to the effect that the guardian supports Tichy’s transfer. Both letters are submitted as a part of the application for release in accordance with the Australian English Centre’s policy and procedure. The Australian English Centre rejects Tichy’s application because its policy states that students who have been warned for non-attendance will not be granted approval to transfer unless other mitigating circumstances apply.
The Australian English Centre’s decision is communicated in writing to Tichy, together with the reasons for refusal. Tichy is informed that he has the right to appeal the provider’s decision in accordance with the provider’s complaints and appeals process.
Would an application for admission to a school signed by parents be satisfactory to meet the requirements that the parents agree to the transfer of an under 18 year old student or is a separate letter required?
A provider must only grant a letter of release for an under 18 if:
a. the registered provider has written confirmation that the student's parents support the transfer, and
b. where the student is not being cared for in Australia by a parent or suitable nominated relative, the valid enrolment offer also confirms that the registered provider will accept that responsibility for approving the students accommodation, support and general welfare arrangements as per Standard 5 of the National Code.
If the receiving provider includes with the letter of offer of enrolment, a copy of an application for admission signed by the student’s parents, the original provider would be entitled to accept this as evidence that the parents support the transfer. However, the original provider can also seek independent confirmation from the parents of the student if it considers such confirmation appropriate.
If a student has already transferred course, does he or she need to get another letter of release if the student wants to move again?
Standard 7 requires providers to not knowingly enrol a student wishing to transfer from another provider's course prior to the student completing six months of his or her principal course except in certain circumstances. Where a student transfers from a principal course to a new course, the new course becomes the principal course. If a student wants to transfer from this second provider and one of the exceptions in Standard 7.1 has already been satisfied for the original course (the course on the student’s initial visa) for the time period of relevance, a new letter of release is not required.
If a student has withdrawn from his or her principal course before completing six months can I enrol that student if the student has evidence that the provider no longer wants the student?
Under Standard 7 of the National Code 2007, registered providers are required to not knowingly enrol a student wishing to transfer from another provider prior to completing six months of his or her principal course unless one of the exceptions in 7.1 is satisfied. In unusual cases, the receiving provider may consider enrolling a student if he or she has documentation which approximates the letter of release (e.g. the student may have evidence that his or her COE was conditional on meeting certain entry requirements and that the student has not been able to meet those requirements). This action should be noted on PRISMS and the documentation kept on the student's file.
Sian has enrolled in ELICOS, followed by a Master of Accounting at the Accounting Plus College. Sian finishes her ELICOS course but has not met the English standard requirement to gain entry into the Masters of Accounting. With the English skills she has acquired, Sian is keen to complete a lower level course and obtains an offer from Accountancy for Me for a lower level course.
The Accounting Plus College refuses to give Sian a letter of release because it is of the view that with additional English study, Sian could meet the entry requirements. However, Sian is confident that further study is not going to substantially impact her English skills, is concerned about the cost implications of undertaking ELICOS and would rather undertake a lower level course which she can manage with her current English skills.
As Sian can demonstrate that the COE for the Master of Accounting was conditional on meeting certain English entry requirements and that she has not achieved these requirements, Accountancy for Me is able to enrol Sian in a Graduate Diploma course as these documents are considered to be an approximation of a letter of release. The Accountancy for Me notes that Sian was able to provide documentation which approximated a letter of release and places it on her student file.
Can a government-sponsored student transfer before completing six months of his or her principal course?
Yes, this is one of the situations in which a student may transfer to another provider before completing six months of his or her principal course (see Standard 7.1d). In this situation, a letter of release from the original provider is not required.
At the College of Practical Arts, Myan has been sponsored by the Government of Colombia to enrol in a Diploma of Manual Arts which is registered for a duration of two years. The Colombian Ambassador in Australia has received reports that Myan is unhappy because there are no other Colombians studying at the College of Practical Arts. The Ambassador considers a change of provider to be in the best interests of the student and provides written support for that change.
If the student is a government sponsored student and the government sponsor approves the transfer, does the student need a letter of release?
No. Under Standard 7.1d, a student does not require a letter of release if their government sponsor approves the transfer.
Does a Queensland provider have to issue a letter of release if the student is sponsored and the sponsor does not approve the transfer?
In Queensland, the Queensland Government’s Education (Overseas Students) Regulation 1998 states a letter of release must be given to a student who requests one. If the other requirements of Standard 7 are met (student has a valid letter of offer and if under 18, the requirements of 7.3.b), the provider must issue the student with a letter of release even if the sponsor does not support the transfer.
Now that the restricted period for transfer has dropped from 12 months to six can the provider ask for 12 months fee deposit or must it be six months only?
Standard 7 of the National Code does not affect the provider’s policies on payment of course fees or its refund policy. Under Standard 3 a provider is required to enter into a written agreement with the student which clearly sets out what the course fees are and the amounts that may, or may not, be repaid to the student.
If the student has outstanding fees and transfers to another provider, can any notes be included on PRISMS to alert the second provider to the outstanding fees issue?
How a student pays outstanding fees will be noted in the provider’s refund policy. If the student leaves owing fees the provider is entitled to pursue payment with the student.
The provider should report the student’s cessation of studies in PRISMS. There is no capacity in PRISMS to include notes about the student’s non-payment that will be visible by a subsequent provider.
Whose responsibility is it to issue letters of release if a provider has multiple locations or campuses?
Standard 7 requires the provider to consider requests for letters of release in accordance with its policy. It is up to the registered provider to determine its processes for actioning this and other National Code requirements in line with the standards, including whether the decision making point is devolved or centralised. When the provider has several locations, an important consideration is for policies and procedures to be consistently applied across all locations.
If an institution has education facilities in different states, which have different CRICOS numbers, does Standard 7 apply?
Yes. Under the Education Services for Overseas Students Act 2000, education providers are registered to deliver a particular education and training course for a particular state or territory. If an institution has education facilities in a different state or territory, each facility or campus is registered separately on the Commonwealth Register of Institutions and Courses for Overseas Students (CRICOS) and will have its own CRICOS provider number.
Each facility or campus with its own CRICOS provider number is considered to be the registered provider for the purposes of the National Code 2007. Hence, students must have a letter of release if they want to transfer to a facility of the same institution in a different state or territory prior to completing six months of their principal course of study.
Providers with facilities in two or more states or territories may want to consider how such transfers will be addressed though their transfer policy and procedure.
Is there a diagram which shows the steps involved in a transfer between registered providers?
Yes. Transfer between registered providers diagram.
For further information, please visit the Australian Education International, Department of Immigrationn and Border Protection websites.