Student support services
Special Circumstances is a program that takes into account serious events beyond your control that occurred after the Census date, affecting your ability to continue with your studies.
These can include any of the following:
- Medical reasons in which a medical condition became known or changed after the Census date and prevented you from completing your studies
- Involuntary change in employment conditions, such as an increase in your employment hours or responsibilities that were beyond your control, which meant you were unable to continue your studies
- Family or personal reasons, such as death or severe medical problems or unforeseen financial difficulties within your family, which made it unreasonable for you to continue your studies
- Other extenuating circumstances
Special Circumstances does not cover an inability to repay student loans. If you would like to find out more about repaying your FEE-HELP debt please visit the Study Assist website.
Before you apply for Special Circumstances
To be eligible to apply for Special Circumstances:
You must be able to provide independent evidence that you would have been unable to successfully complete your studies
- The study term for your unit(s) must have ended, with a final fail grade received
You must have already withdrawn from the unit(s) for which you wish to claim Special Circumstances and have a "W" grade
If you are unable to withdraw from your unit(s) by the last date to withdraw (see Key Dates for the Census date of your study term), you will be required to wait for a final grade before commencing your Special Circumstances application. Your final grade should be reflected on your enrolment history by Week 7 of the following study term.
Learn more about withdrawing from a unit.
Which costs can be waived or removed due to Special Circumstances?
- Refund of unit fees - where you paid for your unit(s) up front then had to stop studying after the Census Date;
- Re-credit of your FEE-HELP debt - where you used FEE-HELP to cover the cost of your unit(s), then had to stop studying after the Census date;
- Approval of withdrawal without academic penalty - where you had to withdraw after the final date allowed by the university. The decision is made by the university or universities that offered your unit(s).
You must make your application for Special Circumstances within 12 months of your withdrawal or 12 months from the last day of the study term in which you were enrolled (whichever date is earliest).
How do I apply for Special Circumstances?
There are two ways to apply for Special Circumstances:
- Withdraw from your unit(s) prior to the Census date or the last day to withdraw (see Key Dates for the Census date of your study term). If you were successful in withdrawing prior to the Census date, you will not be required to apply for Special Circumstances (as you would not have incurred a FEE-HELP debt). If your withdrawal takes place after the Census date, but before the last day to withdraw, you can then complete your Special Circumstances application below.
- If you are unable to withdraw from your unit(s) by the last date to withdraw (see Key Dates for the Census date of your study term), please wait for your final grade (usually Week 7 of the following study term). Once you've received the final grade for your unit(s), you can apply for Special Circumstances below.
Submit an online application*
Before you apply online, take a look at our frequently asked questions document below:
Special Circumstances frequently asked questions (PDF, 1.23 MB)
Once you've had a look through, or if you're ready to apply right now, click on the button below:
The OUA Professional Authority form (below) may be of assistance if you require supporting documentation from a healthcare professional (a doctor, counsellor, etc).
Professional Authority Form (PDF, 35 KB)
* This application is for FEE-HELP students and students who have paid for their studies up front. Commonwealth supported place students (including HECS-HELP), must contact their course provider using the details at the bottom of the page.
Please note: To request a PDF version of the Special Circumstances form, please email Special Circumstances at OUA.
How your application is assessed
Every Special Circumstances application (excluding applications by Commonwealth supported students, which are sent directly to the course provider) is formally investigated by OUA and/or your unit provider, depending on the nature of your application.
OUA will assess Special Circumstances applications for refund of unit fees and re-credit of FEE-HELP. Most application outcomes will be issued within 40 working days. However, please be aware that some cases may take longer to resolve.
If you are applying for an approval of withdrawal without academic penalty, the provider university will determine the result and advise yourself and OUA of the outcome of your application in accordance with the university's policy.
If you are not satisfied with the outcome of our internal review, you can appeal in writing (with supporting documentation) within 28 days of receiving OUA's written advice. An OUA senior officer will review the case afresh and provide advice within 14 days.
If you are again unsuccessful, disputes relating to re-credit of FEE-HELP may be taken to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal, while disputes relating to refund of unit fees can be reviewed by an External Review Officer (i.e. a person chosen by, but independent of OUA) on request.
How do I apply for Special Circumstances as a Commonwealth supported student?
If you are studing in a Commonwealth supported place (CSP), including HECS-HELP, you will need to contact your course provider.
Tel: (07) 338 21999 / 1800 802 041
La Trobe University
General enquiries to Student Connect:
Withdrawal without academic penalty:
Student Life and Learning
Tel: 1300 MURDOCH (1300 687 362)
Assessment Support Unit
Tel: +61 3 9925 5000
Current and past Swinburne students
Tel: +61 3 9214 4315
University of South Australia
Student Finance and Enrolment team
Tel: +61 8 8302 1112