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Reduced study load (student visa holders)

It is a requirement of your student visa that you are enrolled in a full-time study load (24 credit points). If you're looking to drop a unit of study, in certain circumstances you may be able to apply to reduce your study load.


A full-time study load for student visa holders requires you enrol in the following credit points.

  • For Semester 1, you need to enrol in a minimum of 24 credit points from January to June. At least 18 credit points need to be completed in the Semester 1 session, or sessions other than Intensive January, Intensive February or Intensive June.
  • For Semester 2, you need to enrol in a minimum of 24 credit points from July to December. At least 18 credit points need to be completed in the Semester 2 session, or sessions other than Intensive July or Intensive December.

In some circumstances you can apply to reduce your study load for compassionate or compelling reasons, such as:

  • serious illness or injury
  • death of a close family member
  • if your faculty or school is unable to offer any other units of study because of the structure of your program
  • if you are currently on the progression register and an academic adviser from your faculty or school recommends your study load be reduced to make sure you successfully complete your remaining units of study. In this case your faculty or school may implement a formal intervention strategy.

You cannot reduce your study load for reasons relating to finances or work (outside your studies). You will need to provide supporting documents with your application. A request without evidence of compassionate or compelling circumstances will not be approved.

If receiving a waiver has reduced your study load, speak with an academic adviser about enrolling in a unit in its place.

Receiving credit for previous study is not a valid reason alone for reducing your study load. If you have 24 credit points available to enrol in for each semester, then you are required to undertake them. However, if none of your remaining units are available to make up 24 credit points, then you may apply to reduce your study load. This will likely be in your final semester.

Remember that reducing your enrolment load may lengthen the time it takes for you to finish your course. This may mean you need to request another eCoE to extend your visa.

When to apply

You can apply to reduce your study load once you have enrolled, up until the DF deadline. You should apply as early as possible. If you’re granted a reduced study load, the outcome will depend on when you applied. 

  • If you apply before the census date, you will be withdrawn from your selected units without financial or academic penalty.
  • If you apply after the census date, but before the DC deadline, you will be given a grade of Discontinued not to count as failure (DC). You will be financially liable for the unit but it will not count as a fail on your transcript and does not affect your Weighted Average Mark (WAM).
  • If you apply after the DC deadline but before the DF deadline, you will be given a grade of Discontinue fail (DF). You will be financially liable for the unit and it will count as a fail on your transcript but does not affect your WAM. A DF grade can be a trigger for academic progression, so you may receive a warning that you haven’t made satisfactory progress in your degree.

How to apply

Before applying, you should seek some advice from an academic advisor or compliance officer.

If you decide to reduce your study load, you need to apply through Sydney Student (go to ‘My studies’, ‘Units of study’, then ‘Apply to reduce your study load’).

Supporting documents

When applying to reduce your study load, you’ll need to provide the following supporting documents. Your faculty or school may require additional documents, in which case they'll email you once you've submitted your application.

Any supporting document issued in a language other than English needs to be translated into English by the National Accreditation Authority for Translators and Interpreters (NAATI).

Reason for application

Type of documents needed

COVID-19 related circumstances

The University wishes to avoid placing an additional burden on the health care system during the COVID-19 crisis. As an alternative to a medical certificate or other medical documents, you can submit a student declaration, with any available supporting evidence, that describes the misadventure, illness or injury that you suffered and for how long. 

The form needs to be signed and include the following information:

  • full name and student number
  • an explanation on how the COVID-19 circumstances have affected your ability to study or enrol in a full-time load
  • the potential duration of the impact caused by the COVID-19 circumstances.

Serious illness or injury

A signed medical certificate with appropriate letterhead from a doctor stating that you are unable to attend classes.

Medical certificates should:

  • be less than three months old
  • have a clear duration of recommended time away from studies and 
  • should indicate that you will be impacted for a substantial period of the semester.
Mental health issue Report issued by psychologist with a clear treatment plan. Report should be less than three months old. If you are unable to obtain the required medical documentation and/or if your condition is a result of COVID-19 related circumstances, please complete the Student Declaration Form outlining the reasons for not being able to obtain this documentation.

Compelling circumstances that have resulted in you missing study

Any relevant documents such as medical certificates, statutory declarations, death certificates, birth certificates or police reports

You have previously been identified as not meeting academic progression requirements

Evidence of an Academic Progression and Advice session (provided by faculty). A Stage 1, 2 or 3 letter is not sufficient evidence, you will also need to attach your formal Academic Progression Plan and recommendation from your Faculty’s Academic Advisor.

You are unable to enrol in a full-time load due to availability of units of study

Confirmation letter from faculty or school

You have previously completed a unit of study as an intensive in the summer or winter break and you are in your final semester of study

Supporting documents not necessary

What happens next

Your application will be assessed within 10 working days. We will email you the outcome of your application to your University email address.

If you are granted a reduced study load, you will be withdrawn from or granted a DC or DF grade for your selected unit based on the date you applied. If the requested unit is a requirement for any other units you are enrolled in, you may also be withdrawn from these units.

A reduced study load may extend the duration of your course and could mean you need to apply for a new electronic Confirmation of Enrolment (eCoE) to extend your visa. The University may need to notify the Department of Home Affairs.

If your application is declined, you will be provided with the reason for this decision. You will remain enrolled in your units of study.

Help and support

Before you apply to reduce your study load, speak with our compliance officers for advice about your student visa or eCoE. You can contact an academic adviser for advice about how reducing your study load may impact your enrolment and course progression.

If you’re struggling academically or personally, the University has many services that can support you, such as the Learning Centre or Counselling and Psychological Services.

Student Centre

Limited service

As a precaution, we’re currently closed for in-person enquiries.

Find out more about our service


1800 SYD UNI (1800 793 864)
or +61 2 8627 1444


Last updated: 01 April 2021

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