Frequently asked questions on this page:
Registered providers monitor the workload of students to ensure they complete the course within the duration specified in their CoE and do not exceed the allowable portion of online or distance learning. Registered providers only enable students to extend the expected duration of study for the course through the issuing of a new CoE in limited circumstances.
This standard allows students to study up to 25 per cent of their total course through online or distance learning. It also gives providers and students greater flexibility in managing students’ study loads over the duration of the course.
Distance learning is study in which the teacher and overseas student are separated in time or space throughout the duration of the unit of study. Distance learning differs from online learning in that the study may be undertaken through written correspondence and exchange of hard copy materials.
Online learning is study in which the teacher and overseas student communicate mainly through electronic technologies for the unit.
Note that the terms online learning and distance learning do not apply where the student:
A compulsory study period is one in which the student must enrol unless granted a deferment or suspension from enrolment or leave of absence under Standard 13. A compulsory study period does not include periods in which the student can elect to undertake additional studies. See the notes under Standard 9.1 for further details.
For the purposes of Standard 9, the expected duration of a course is the duration of the course as registered on The Australian Commonwealth Register of Institutions and Courses for Overseas Students (CRICOS). The expected duration for overseas students should not differ from the expected duration for domestic students.
The registered provider must have and implement documented policies and procedures for monitoring the progress of each student to ensure that at all times the student is in a position to complete the course within the expected duration as specified on the student’s CoE. In monitoring this enrolment load, the registered provider must ensure that in each compulsory study period for a course, the student is studying at least one unit that is not by distance or online learning.
The registered provider may only extend the duration of the student’s study where it is clear that the student will not complete the course within the expected duration, as specified on the student’s COE, as the result of:
compassionate or compelling circumstances (for example illness where a medical certificate states that the student was unable to attend classes or where the registered provider was unable to offer a pre-requisite unit)
the registered provider implementing its intervention strategy for students who were at risk of not meeting satisfactory course progress; or
an approved deferment or suspension of study has been granted under Standard 13.
Where there is a variation in the student’s enrolment load which may affect the student’s expected duration of study in accordance with 9.2, the registered provider is to record this variation and the reasons for it on the student file. The registered provider must correctly report the student via PRISMS and/or issue a new CoE when the student can only account for the variation/s by extending his or her expected duration of study.
The registered provider may allow the student to undertake no more than 25 per cent of the student’s total course by distance and/or online learning. However, the registered provider must not enrol the student exclusively in distance or online learning units in any compulsory study period.
Except in the circumstances specified in 9.2, the expected duration of study specified in the student’s CoE must not exceed the CRICOS registered course duration.
For a provider to show it is complying with Standard 9, it may need some of the following as evidence:
Please note: The principles in the examples below can be applied to all sectors.
Can a provider allow a student to study less than what was previously considered a ‘full-time’ load?
Yes, a provider can allow a student to enrol in less than a ‘full-time’ load in any study period if:
The National Code 2007 has moved away from the concept of full-time to focus on a student completing within the expected duration of the course. As a result, the National Code 2007 offers greater flexibility to manage a students’ work load. It allows students to spread their workload over more teaching periods, where a provider offers non-compulsory study periods, or to reduce their workload if they are having trouble adjusting.
This allows a student’s enrolment load to fluctuate during the course. However, the provider must ensure the student follows an enrolment pattern that will allow the student to finish within the expected duration in the normal course of events.
By studying less than what used to be considered a ‘full-time’ load, a student is at risk of not completing the course within the expected duration as specified on the student’s CoE. This may require the student to catch up by studying subjects during a non-compulsory study period or by overloading in some compulsory study periods to compensate for those study periods in which the student was studying a reduced load. Alternatively, a provider may extend the duration of the student’s study as a result of the circumstances listed in Standard 9.2.
How often does the provider have to review each student’s enrolment against the CoE?
It is up to the provider to determine how regularly it will review the student's enrolment against his or her COE. The provider needs to consider how long its study periods are, and how the frequency of monitoring may impact upon the student's ability to 'catch up' and attempt to complete the course with the expected duration.
For providers with semester long study periods, best practice would be to check each semester on the student’s progress towards completion within the expected duration.
Providers are required to have documented policies and procedures for monitoring students’ loads to ensure they will complete their course within the expected duration. What should these policies and procedures cover?
The Department of Education suggests providers’ policies and procedures should cover the following:
If it becomes clear a student is not going to finish within the expected duration, what action should the provider take?
Standard 9 requires that providers monitor each student’s enrolment load, take appropriate action if the student is not going to complete within the expected course duration, and retain evidence of the action taken. When a provider finds a student is not going to complete within the expected duration, the provider needs to decide how to respond.
Essentially, the provider has three options:
As the intention of Standard 9 is that students genuinely try to complete their courses within the expected duration, the provider should encourage the student to pick up extra units during the course. These extra units could be picked up during compulsory periods or during non-compulsory study periods where the provider offers these. However, for students who have failed some units, ‘overloading’ (taking more than a standard load in a compulsory study period) is not recommended.
If picking up extra units throughout the course is not appropriate, other actions should be considered. Different responses may be appropriate for different circumstances. The action taken does not necessarily have to involve in-depth counselling or extra study assistance.
Under what circumstances can providers extend the duration of a student’s study?
Standard 9.2 allows providers to extend the duration of a student’s study if the extension is as the result of:
What circumstances could be covered by ‘compassionate or compelling circumstances’?
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:
When this has impacted on the student. (these cases should be supported by police or psychologists’ reports)
These are only 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.
Please note that, for the purposes of Standard 9, the following additional situations would be considered ‘compelling’ circumstances and could support the granting of an extension of the duration of a student’s study:
If a provider’s intervention strategy for a student at risk of not making satisfactory course progress leads to the student being unable to complete the course within the expected duration, what must the provider do?
As long as the student is making satisfactory course progress, the provider must document the effect of the intervention strategy and issue the student with a CoE of a length which will enable the student to finish the course. However, if the student is not making satisfactory course progress in accordance with the provider’s course progress policies and procedures, the provider must report the student through PRISMS. For further information about course progress requirements, please see Standard 10.
If a student appears to be deliberately under-enrolling (taking less than a normal load without good reason) despite the provider’s advice, what can the provider do?
A student who deliberately under-enrols without the provider’s approval may represent a risk for the provider’s compliance with Standard 9. The provider has two options to address this situation:
Any provider wishing to implement the first option must ensure ‘under-enrolment’ is listed as grounds for cancellation of enrolment – see Standard 2.1.f and Standard 13. Please note that if a provider wishes to cancel a student’s enrolment under Standard 13, the provider must inform the student of its intention to cancel the student’s enrolment, and notify the student that he or she has 20 working days to access the provider’s internal complaints and appeals process.
If a provider chooses the second option, it must make the reasons for not granting a further CoE clear to the student.
Regardless of the option chosen, the provider must be able to demonstrate that it has monitored the student’s load and taken action to keep the student on track to finish within the duration.
If a provider uses an automated system to track students’ enrolment loads and issue warning letters to students regarding their loads, would this be sufficient to demonstrate monitoring for the purposes of Standard 9?
Such a system would comply with the requirements of Standard 9 as long as the following conditions are met:
If a provider is aware that a student coming through a pathway programme has had previous study difficulties, can the provider implement an intervention strategy of a reduced study load for the first study period?
Yes. If a provider has received notification from a pathway programme provider that a particular student has had study difficulties and may benefit from a reduced study load in the first study period, and the student agrees to such an intervention, this intervention would be allowed under the National Code 2007.
However, if a provider offered a reduced study load to all international students upon arrival, without assessment of each student’s capacity to handle a normal load, this would be contrary to the intention of Standard 9, for example that students’ loads are monitored so they finish within the expected duration in the normal course of events. If a provider believes all their international students need a reduced study load (leading to a longer than expected course duration) the Department of Education would suggest that the provider reconsider its entry requirements: perhaps the requirements are too low and students who have little chance of succeeding in their studies are being accepted.
If a student studies online or by distance during non-compulsory periods and this leads to early completion of the course, what is the provider required to do?
The provider notifies the Department of Education of the student’s early completion via PRISMS.
As a result of online study during a non-compulsory period, a student finishes his course before the expiry date of the CoE.
Prasad was issued a CoE for two years to study for a Certificate IV in Aged Care. At the end of the first year, Prasad arranged to complete two modules of his course online over the summer period. His summer units amounted to 20 per cent of the course, an amount allowable by the National Code. As a result, he was able to complete his course at the end of the first semester of his second year, so his provider reported Prasad’s early completion via PRISMS.
Can a student visa holder study more than 25 per cent of the total course online or by distance education?
No. There is a maximum of 25 per cent of study by online or distance education.
A student applies to study more than 25 per cent of her total course by online or distance education.
Mishi attends the University of the South and is studying a three-year bachelor degree. To complete her degree in less than the three years, she decides to study online during summer (a non-compulsory study period) at the end of the first year. Her study amounts to 10 per cent of the total course and is permitted by the university, which will allow up to 25 per cent of online study or distance education.
She decides to study online again during the summer period of her second summer year, but applies to study units amounting to 20 per cent of the course. The university rejects Mishi’s application and tells her she cannot study more than a further 15 per cent of the course online or by distance education, having already studied 10 per cent online. Mishi revises her application and is approved to study 15 per cent during the summer period.
Can online or distance learning be used to catch up and ensure completion of the course within the length of the CoE?
Yes, online or distance learning can be used to allow a student to restore course progress, but the student cannot study more than 25 per cent of the total course by online or distance learning. In every compulsory study period there must be at least one subject that is not taught by online or distance learning.
The provider’s intervention strategy requires a student to reduce a course load for a semester
Dicksha has enrolled in a Bachelor of Accounting degree at the University of the North. At the end of the first study period, the university’s intervention strategy identifies Dicksha as at risk of not making satisfactory course progress. Dicksha is advised to reduce her course load by one subject for the next study period as well as attending a study group once a week to strengthen her study techniques. She responds well to these intervention strategies and, by the end of the second semester, has determined to catch up the dropped subject during the non-compulsory summer semester. She organises to study the subject online over the summer period.
Can a student return home to finish a course online or by distance learning?
The National Code 2007 permits a maximum of 25 per cent of the student’s total course by online or distance learning. A student must study at least one subject in every compulsory study period that is not by online or distance learning. However, if a student goes home and does not return to Australia, the student’s CoE will be cancelled, and the student will no longer require a student visa.
The 25 per cent limit to online or distance study only applies to student visa holders. If the student no longer holds a student visa, the student may study as much of the course online or by distance methods as the provider will allow.
A student returns home to complete his course and does 50 per cent of his course online and via distance education.
Assim has been studying at the Consolidated English School for one year of a two-year course. He has completed fifty per cent of his course. He returns to Bangladesh at the end of his first year and decides to stay at home because of an illness in the family. He organises with the school to study the remainder of the course by distance and online methods. The school notifies the department of Education that Assim is no longer recognised as an overseas student as he has chosen to cease studying on a student visa.
If a student applies for suspension of enrolment, how will this affect the duration of the student’s course?
A serious accident, verified by a doctor’s certificate, would constitute compassionate and compelling grounds for suspending a student’s enrolment. If the suspension of enrolment leads to a later end date than originally expected, the provider notifies the Department of Education through PRISMS that it is 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. For further information about suspension of enrolment see Standard 13.
A student applies to have his course duration extended on compassionate and compelling grounds.
Mohammed has been studying at Yerrabi College of Hospitality. During his second year he is involved in a car accident and is unable to attend the college for a study period. He informs the college that he will not be attending for a study period and requests a deferment. The college approves his application and reports his deferment of study via PRISMS. The college makes arrangements to issue a new CoE to account for the later course completion date because he has medical documentation to verify his incapacity.
The duration of Mohammed’s study is extended by a study period through the issue of a new CoE to allow him to complete his course.
What is cross-institutional study and how do cross-institutional study arrangements apply to overseas students?Please note: the fact sheet on cross-institutional study previously found on the ESOS website is no longer current. Please refer to this FAQ for advice on cross-institutional study arrangements.
Study arrangements in universities referred to as cross-institutional are considered an arrangement. Cross-institutional arrangements are those where a student undertakes a unit or units of study at a university other than the home university or the university who has issued the student’s CoE and who will be awarding the student’s qualification. The units are undertaken by the student with the agreement of the home university and are credited towards the student’s qualification at that university. The home university is responsible for ensuring that the provider’s ESOS obligations for that student are met. The host university is not required to issue the student with a CoE.
How is ‘last day of study’ defined for the purposes of reporting on PRISMS?
The last day of study represents the date on which the provider ceased their educational teaching responsibilities to the student, for that Confirmation of Enrolment, for that particular course of education. It may be the date of a student’s last known attendance at a class, completion by the student of their course requirements, the date of a student’s last examination or any other date the provider determines that the student was no longer an active and participating student in that particular course for which that CoE was issued. While a provider must not cancel a student’s CoE prior to the conclusion of an appeal process as set out in Standard 8 of the National Code, the last actual day of study will not change, unless the student is successful in the appeals process and returns to study at that provider.
For further information about this Standard, please visit the Australian Education International and Department of Immigration and Border Protecetion websites.