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  1. Eligibility and how to apply
  2. Refunds or remissions under special circumstances

Refunds or remissions under special circumstances

Sometimes students find themselves in a situation where they are unable to continue with their studies.

If after the census date has passed you discontinue from a unit or are unable to complete its requirements, you may be eligible to request a refund of the tuition fees you have paid upfront or remission of a HECS or FEE-HELP debt due to special circumstances.

The following process applies to domestic students only.

If you’re an international student seeking a refund due to special circumstances you'll need to complete the International student fee refund in special circumstances form (pdf, 377KB).


Your application will only be valid if your situation is deemed as special circumstances.  

These are circumstances that:

  • were beyond your control
  • did not make their full impact on you until on or after the census date
  • made it impracticable for you to complete the course requirements.

You are not eligible for a refund or remission if you successfully completed your unit(s) of study.

Student Service and Amenities Fee (SSAF) legislation does not permit providers to remit SA-HELP debts incurred by students. If you paid your SSAF upfront, you are also not eligible for a refund according to University policy.

Special circumstances do not include a lack of knowledge of the Higher Education Support Act 2003 (HESA), Local Fee Paying regulations or understanding of the University’s enrolment procedures.

Application period

We need to receive your application within 12 months from the day you officially discontinued your studies (the date you were granted a DC or DF grade).

If you did not officially discontinue your unit(s) we need to receive your application within 12 months from the end of the semester in which you were enrolled in the unit(s).

These arrangements apply to both standard and non-standard semesters / sessions. Exceptions may apply to this application period, in accordance with HESA, if it is deemed not possible for the application to have been made within 12 months. Additional supporting documents will be required.

Examples of special circumstances

Medical reasons

You have a medical condition that existed before the census date, continued past that date and deteriorated to the extent that you’re unable to continue your studies or your medical condition only became known after the census date.

Family/personal reasons

Due to unforeseen personal/family reasons that are beyond your control, you’re unable to continue with your studies.

Employment-related reasons

Your employment status or employment arrangements change unexpectedly due to circumstances beyond your control and you’re unable to complete your studies.

Course-related reasons

Your faculty changes the arrangements for your unit or course and as a result you’re unable to complete the requirements of the course.

How to apply

To apply, you will need to complete the relevant application form along with supporting documents. 

On the form you need to write a personal statement providing sufficient details explaining how your circumstances were:

  • beyond your control
  • prevented you from continuing your studies
  • changed after the census date.

This application will not remove any academic penalty for your unit(s). You need to apply directly to your faculty to amend your results.

Supporting documents

As well as your personal statement, you need to provide independent supporting documents to support your claims. This should include enough detail for us to make an informed decision about your case. Your application will be considered primarily on these supporting documents.

If you don’t have these documents ready by the application deadline, you should still submit your form. You have 28 days to provide supporting documents. After 28 days we will consider your application on the basis of the information you already provided.

You need to provide originals or certified copies of all documents. The University is required to retain any documents you submit.

Depending on your reasons for applying, you may also need to provide a statement from a doctor, counsellor, employer or your faculty to verify your claims. Statements or letters from a member of your family or another student are not considered independent.

If your application includes a Professional Practitioner Certificate(s) , you will also need to provide a letter from the doctor/counsellor outlining the details of the certificate(s) that are relevant to this process.

You should include a statement from your doctor for medical reasons, and for family reasons a statement from a doctor, counsellor or independent member of the community (such as a Justice of the Peace or a Minister of Religion) indicating:

  • the date your medical condition/personal circumstances began or changed
  • how your condition affected your ability to study
  • when it became apparent that you could not continue with your studies.

You should include a statement from your employer indicating:

  • your previous work hours and location
  • your current work hours and location and
  • the reason for changed hours and location.

You should include a statement from your faculty indicating:

  • how you have been disadvantaged by changed arrangements to your unit of study / course
  • why it was impossible for you to undertake alternative units of study or courses.

What happens next

We will send an acknowledgment of receipt to the email address provided on your form, within several days of receiving your application. If you do not receive this within two weeks of lodging your application, contact the HECS and Domestic Fees office at

You should generally allow 3-5 weeks for your application to be processed.

Once a decision has been made, you’ll be advised in writing.

If you change your address or contact details after you lodge your application, you’ll need to notify the HECS and Domestic Fees office straight away. If you’re a current student, you also need to update these details through Sydney Student.

Applying for a review

If you’re not satisfied with the decision, you may apply for a review.

This should be sent in writing to the HECS and Domestic Fees Office within 28 days of receiving the original advice and should include your reasons:

HECS and Domestic Fees Office
Student Centre
Level 3, Jane Foss Russell Building, G02
The University of Sydney NSW, 2006

We’ll notify you once we’ve received this. You will then be notified in writing of the reviewer’s decision and the reasons for that decision.

If you don’t receive any advice of a decision within 45 days of receiving the application for review, this means the reviewer has confirmed the original decision.

If you are dissatisfied with the results of the review and you are a Commonwealth supported or HELP-liable student, you have the right to appeal to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT) for a review of the reviewer’s decision (this does not apply to full fee-paying students).

For information on how to apply visit the AAT website.

Please note that an application fee of $884 (as at July 2016) is normally payable to the AAT.

Domestic student refund or remission of HELP debt In special circumstances

Download PDF

International student fee refund in special circumstances

Download PDF

Student Centre



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

Find out more about how we can help

Last updated: 28 July 2020

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