Considering withdrawing from study

There are many possible reasons for thinking about changing your plans. These may be study-related, personal or a combination of both. You may be encountering these sorts of things:

  • programs or courses that are not suited to your interests or career needs
  • problems with studying, understanding what's required
  • personal problems, including family or relationship difficulties
  • financial difficulties
  • physical or mental health problems, either your own or those of other family members
  • problems with living away from family and friends, particularly if you are an overseas or interstate student
  • difficulties focusing on your work when your social life is too distracting or your study is not holding your interest

It's important to be aware of not only the impact these difficulties can have on your study, but also the options you may have to deal with them.

The following are the steps that might be helpful in making a decision.

Becoming informed

The best decisions are made when you have all the facts in front of you so that you can make an informed choice. Within the University, there are many people who are able to help you explore the issues associated with your decision to change courses or to leave. While it can sometimes be daunting to go and speak with someone about your concerns, it can often be extremely beneficial and save a great deal of worry.

For academic & administrative concerns

Within your faculty/school/centre there are people able to help you directly with queries relating to your program, or specific courses. They can assist with questions relating to:

  • assignments and examinations
  • assessment dates
  • special consideration
  • withdrawal and leave of absence
  • HECS-HELP and SLE and fees

The most appropriate people to start with are:

  • your tutor or demonstrator,
  • the lecturer in charge of the subject,
  • the sub-dean or secretary of your faculty (program convenor or administrator for graduate students).
  • Student Administration and Student Fees staff

The Undergraduate Handbook or graduate Coursework Guide, are also valuable resources. The Student Enrolment and Administrative Procedures Guide can help you with the procedures that you need to follow and important dates.

For specific program & career concerns

The Careers Centre provides careers counsellors who are available to talk through the issues with you and can provide information about the career implications of your decision.  If you wish to change programs, obtaining accurate information about selection into other university and TAFE courses is vital for weighing up your options. Remember you may no longer be considered in the school leaver category by university and TAFE selection officers. The Careers Centre can also give you independent advice on the possible career directions of particular programs.

For other concerns

The University is well aware that personal, relationship, health and a range of practical problems can arise in your life that can impact on your study. The University provides a range of services to assist you at such times.

Explore all the options available

Continuing your current load of study

Having reviewed your difficulties, through using the student support services of the University and your own personal support networks, you may decide that you can continue your program without any changes.

Withdrawing from a course of study

Reducing your workload by withdrawing from one or a few courses of study may be possible within your faculty. This can then give you the time to deal with your current situation. Remember that there are time-limits for withdrawing without listing on your transcript withdrawing without fail, so check the dates for the current year with Student Administration. Withdrawing after the Census dates means that you will still incur tuition fees. Check also how a withdrawal affects any Centrelink benefits, scholarships/bursaries, or your living circumstances if you are in a residential hall.

Changing programs

This is possible within the university but check procedures with Student Administration in your academic college. Remember that your marks in your current program may significantly influence your chances of being accepted. It is helpful to get support from your current faculty for the move.

Taking leave of absence from study

This means you take time out from your program for personal or medical reasons, but you keep your place with the option of returning at a later date. This period of leave is usually limited to one year. You need to apply for this at Student Administration or your Faculty/School/Centre office.

Discontinuing your program

If you withdraw from your study, you give up your place in that program altogether. So if you then wished to return to the same program after some time out, you would need to re-apply for admission. This is a major step to take, and if you are considering this option you are strongly advised to talk with your faculty academic staff, advisors and the various student support services available to you. Make sure you leave properly. Fails instead of Withdrawals, outstanding fee or library debts, etc may make it more difficult to return to University, to enrol elsewhere, or to qualify for Austudy payments if you return to study in the future. If you are leaving study, and don't have employment to go to, check out what assistance may be available to you at your local Centrelink.

International students

If you are an international student you may not be able to study part-time or remain in Australia if you take a leave of absence. It is vital for you to check your options with your faculty/college, scholarship or program coordinator, Student Administration, and the Department of Immigration and Border Protection being aware you may need to apply for an extension of your student visa and electronic Confirmation of Enrolment (eCoE) if your course of study is delayed.  

Follow through carefully on your decision

Whatever you decide, it is important to follow the appropriate procedures so that you are able to re-enrol at ANU or elsewhere at a later date. If you have reached the point where you think you will leave your study, either temporarily or permanently, follow through the checklist below to make sure you have completed all the necessary stages. Forgetting to do any of these can cause a lot of hassles for you in the future!


Have you:

  • Been to Student Administration and
    • Completed and submitted an any necessary hard-copy forms or processes on ISIS?
    • Found out the closing dates for reapplying if you decide that this is what you wish to do?
    • Obtained a copy of all your results to date?
    • Asked about fee refunds?
    • Ensured they have your most recent address?
  • Notified Centrelink if applicable of your decision and filled out the relevant forms?
  • Paid all outstanding debts and library fines?
  • Kept all the appropriate records of your study?

Emotional & psychological support

It's sometimes difficult to imagine what the outcome of your decision will be. Students frequently experience a range of psychological reactions as a result. You may feel:

  • Relief that a decision has been made and you can move on to a different way of experiencing your study or working.
  • Disappointment or a sense of failure at not achieving a goal you had set.
  • Regret and wondering if you have been too impulsive in your decision making.

These emotions are all normal reactions to what can be an extremely stressful period of decision making.