Reducing Your Study Load

As an international student on a student visa you are required to undertake a full-time study load and complete your program by the end date of your Confirmation of Enrolment (CoE).

This means most students need to be enrolled in 48 units of credit (UOC) in a year and at least 12 UOC a term.

If there are reasons why you cannot study 48 UOC in a year or 12 UOC a term you will need to apply to reduce your study load.

Applications for Term 3 should be submitted by Friday 27 September 2019.

There are potentially serious consequences to your CoE and student visa when reducing your study load. Your CoE and student visa will only be extended in limited circumstances and for reasons which must be documented and approved. A successful application for Reduced Study Load (RSL) may be useful for such applications.

For more info about your student visa conditions visit The Department of Home Affairs.

You do not need to apply for a reduced study load if you are:

  • in your final term of study and can complete your program by your CoE end date.
  • ahead in your program, enrolled in at least 2 courses a term and can complete your program by CoE end date.
  • enrolled in 48 UOC / 8 courses in the year over three terms. 
  • dropping a course with an Academic Penalty (AW) grade after the census date (however, we strongly recommend you see an International Student Advisor).


Reduced Study Load criteria

Compassionate and compelling circumstances

These are circumstances beyond your control and affect your ability to attend classes and study. Examples include:

  • Serious medical illness or injury to you or a close family member.
  • Death of a family member such as a parent or grandparent.
  • A major political upheaval or natural disaster in your home country requiring emergency travel or disruption to your studies.
  • A traumatic experience e.g. accident or crime.
  • Delay in receiving your student visa.

Supporting documentation required: Professional Authority Form must be completed by medical or health professional.

Academic difficulties

Academic Intervention Strategy

If you are below Good Standing you may be advised by your Academic Advisor or Faculty to reduce your study load as part of an academic intervention strategy.

Supporting documentation required: a copy of the action plan or interview record from your meeting with the Academic Advisor or Faculty.

At risk of failing a course  

If you have failed assessments or are at risk of failing a course, your Academic may recommend withdrawing from the course.

Supporting documentation required: proof of failed grades or consultation trail with course coordinator e.g. email.

Other academic reasons 

Core course/s not available

Courses you require for your Program or Major are not offered and no other courses (General Education, electives) are available to maintain a full enrolment of 48 UOC.

Don’t meet pre-requisite requirements or program rules

The University is unable to offer a pre-requisite course, or you have failed a prerequisite course/s and therefore are unable to progress with your study plan.

Granted Credit Transfer

You have been granted credit transfer and ahead in your degree program.

Reasons that do not meet the reduced study load criteria

  • The course is difficult or not what you expected
  • Financial problems
  • I want to improve my Weighted Average Mark (WAM) by studying less
  • I want to change my major or program in the future
  • Difficulties in adjusting to living in Australia or academic life
  • Failure to enrol in your course by the enrolment date
  • Failure to understand or seek clarification of key dates or withdrawal procedures
  • Distance of your accommodation from UNSW Campus
  • A desire to move to another provider
  • Work commitments.

What you can do if these things are affecting you

Access support from your Faculty, International Student Experience Unit (ISEU) or other services on campus.

If you are finding a course difficult and you are concerned about failing, it is important that you speak to your academic as soon as possible. They may offer support and assist you find help within your Faculty or support services to improve your performance. 

If you are at risk of failing the course then your academic may support your application to reduce your study load.

How a reduced study load may affect your student visa

The National Code 2018 (Education Services for Overseas Students Act 2000), requires International Student Visa Holders to complete their program within the time specified on their COE.

Reducing your study load may lengthen the time it takes for you to complete your program and therefore you will not be able to complete your program within the duration of your CoE and student visa.

New applications for CoE and student visa extending how long you can study, may be granted in limited circumstances and an approved reduce study load application may help.

There will be additional costs associated with extending your student visa (e.g. administration fee, overseas student health cover, medical assessment).

Please note if you have reduced your study load without approval or supporting documents and require a new CoE, UNSW may refuse to issue you with a new CoE and this will prevent you from completing your program.

What is a Study Plan

A Study plan is a record of the courses you are currently enrolled in and what you need to study in future terms to complete your degree. You MUST include a study plan for the rest of your degree in your application.

It is important that you complete the study plan using the UNSW handbook for the year you started your degree to ensure it is correct.

How to complete a Study Plan:
1. Use study plan template and upload it to your application OR
2. Build your study plan in the application.

If you do not know the course code or name, simply enter “Elective” or “Core Course” or General Education”.

If your study plan is INCOMPLETE or INCORRECT your program authority WILL NOT approve it, and this may DELAY the outcome of your application. 

How to apply

  1. Check your CoE and student visa end date
  2. Register with ISEU booking system and book in to attend an Information Session to check if you meet the criteria to reduce your study load 
  3. Include your study plan (See. What is a study plan)
  4. Prepare supporting documents. 
    • Professional Authority Form (if you have compassionate & compelling reasons)
    • Action Plan or interview record from Academic Advisor (if you are below good standing)
    • Proof of failed grades or consultation trail with course coordinator e.g. email (if you are at risk of failing)
    • Letter of support from sponsor (if you are a scholarship or sponsored student)
    • Parent Authority Form (if you are under 18 years of age)
  5. Complete the online reduce study load form (If you wish to withdraw before census date you should submit it at least 10 working day before census date).
    REMEMBER to include your study plan (upload or built in the application)

A decision will made based on the information you have provided and sent to your UNSW student email within 10 working days.

If your application is approved, you can then drop the course on myUNSW.