Legislative requirements relating to international students

Staff who interact directly with international students must be aware of ACU's responsibilities under the Educational Services for Overseas Students (ESOS) Act 2000 and the accompanying National Code.

The following matters are important.         

Course duration

International students must complete their course within the minimum duration as specified on their Confirmation of Enrolment (CoE) issued by Global Engagement. CoEs are issued for the minimum course duration taking into account any significant credit granted for prior studies.

Extensions of duration may only be granted in the following cases:

  • compassionate and compelling circumstances (which must be documented)
  • where a documented intervention strategy has been implemented
  • approval has been granted for a deferment or suspension of studies.
Study load

International students located within Australia are required to enrol in a minimum of four units of study, with at least one of them being a face-to-face unit, in each compulsory session (ie, Semester 1 and Semester 2).  

A reduced study load may be approved by course coordinators. However, since international students are required to complete their studies within the minimum duration, a study plan must be in place considering future units of study offered by ACU in Summer, Winter, Professional Terms or cross-institutionally.

Online studies

International students located within Australia may take up to one-third of their total course load by online/distance education.


Universities are exempt from the requirement to keep attendance records for international students. This exemption does not extend to international students enrolled in Foundation and ELICOS programs.

Interruption to study

International students seeking an Interruption to Study (Leave of Absence) should be advised to discuss their decision with their local International Student Adviser prior to withdrawing from units. In most cases, a student will be required to depart Australia for the duration of the leave and may need to reapply for a student visa to re-enter Australia after the period of leave has expired.

The above legislative requirements do not apply to international students studying fully online and those on alternative visas.

TEQSA announcement on return to compliance with ESOS Act and the National Code

In October 2022, TEQSA announced that education providers will need to transition to full compliance with the ESOS Act 2000 and the National Code by 30 June 2023 where it is safe and practical to do so.

Consequently, ACU will need to ensure it is compliant with the following National Code Standards from 1 July 2023 in relation to international students studying in Australia on a student visa:

  • Standard 8.19: A registered provider must not deliver more than one-third of the units (or equivalent) of a higher education or VET course by online or distance learning to an overseas student.
  • Standard 8.20: A registered provider must ensure that in each compulsory study period for a course, the overseas student is studying at least one unit that is not by distance or online learning, unless the student is completing the last unit of their course.

Staff with any concerns or questions are welcome to contact Global Engagement for advice.


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