Late discontinuation under special circumstances

From 1 January 2022 the DC process has changed:

  • The process will be referred to as late discontinuation under special circumstances.
  • Applications will be assessed by Student Administrative Services (SAS), not faculties.
  • There will no longer be a DC deadline around week 8 where you can withdraw and receive a DC automatically. Any unit you withdraw from after census date and before the last day of the teaching period will result in a Discontinue Fail (DF) grade.
  • Tuition fees (including HECS/HELP) will automatically be re-credited, refunded or remitted if a DC is approved.
  • The information below reflects this new process.


A DC (Discontinue Not to Count as Fail) indicates that you were enrolled in a Unit of Study, but at some point, were unable to complete the unit because of reasons beyond your control. The uni calls this “late discontinuation under special circumstances”.

Why is a DC better than other marks?

A DC indicates that you could not complete the Unit due to circumstances beyond your control; unlike a Fail (FA) or Absent Fail (AF), which show that you were not successful in your attempt at the Unit. You need good reasons, as the uni will not approve DCs for students just trying to ‘clean up’ their record. DCs do not count towards your WAM or academic progression. Students who withdraw from a unit online after census date, but before the end of the teaching period (week 13), will receive a Discontinue Fail grade (DF). [Note: A grade of Discontinue Fail (DF) is not counted towards your uni WAM, but is counted for progression, and in some cases may be counted towards an honours WAM].

What are the deadlines?

Before census date: If you cease to be enrolled by the HECS census date (semester 1: March 31st and semester 2: August 31st) you receive Withdrawn for that unit. This is better than a DC as it does not show on your record at all. Domestic students who withdraw from a unit of study before census date will not be charged HECS for that unit. International students who pay tuition fees but withdraw from a unit before census date will need to apply for a fee refund.

After census date: If you are unable to complete one or more units of study after census date due to circumstances beyond your control, you will need to apply for a DC grade. If a DC is approved, tuition fees paid for the unit(s) of study (including HECS/HELP) will automatically be re-credited, refunded or remitted.

Due to visa restrictions, international students will also need permission from the Uni to reduce their study load below 24 credit points.

Students receiving Youth Allowance, Austudy or Abstudy, may cease to be eligible for this payment, if they drop to a part time study load. Student Concession Opal Cards may also be cancelled if a student drops to part time study.

Applying for DCs after the deadline

You can apply for a DC if you were unable to reasonably attempt your studies due to special circumstances that arose or became worse after the census date. You need to show that these circumstances were beyond your control, that at the beginning of the semester you reasonably believed you would be successful in the unit, but it was not until after census date that your situation worsened and you were no longer able to complete the unit. You will need to provide independent documentation to support your claims which includes the timing and impact of your circumstances.

If you are unable to complete a unit of study, it is best to apply before results are released. Applying for a DC grade after results are released requires a higher level of documentation and strong, compelling reasons for the lateness of your application.

Applications are submitted online and assessed by Student Administrative Services (SAS).

Factors to think about

Is the problem significant?

Your application and supporting documentation need to show that your circumstances were significant and beyond your control, or the illness or condition so severe that it was not possible for you to successfully complete the unit.

Why couldn’t you discontinue before census date?

You must be able to demonstrate that is was not possible, or reasonable for you to discontinue before the census date. This might be because the special circumstances that affected your studies did not begin, or did not fully impact your studies, until after census date. Sometimes an illness or health condition gets unexpectedly worse later in semester. Sometimes students are so affected (e.g., sick) before and after the deadline, that they are not able to discontinue until they have recovered enough to take action. You need to provide a reasonable explanation for any delay, as well as documentation that supports any reason for the delay.

Did you apply for Special Consideration?

If you did not apply for special consideration in the unit explain why you were unable to do so. If you were granted special consideration, explain why your circumstances prevented you from completing the assessment, or applying for special consideration again. It may be that the special consideration you were offered was not sufficient to deal with the problem you faced. If so explain why.

If you are granted Special Consideration for the final exam, and again for its replacement exam, you may be given a DC grade if no further forms of assessment are available in that unit of study.

What was your mark in the subject you are applying for a DC for?

If you failed a Unit but your mark was close to a pass, (e.g., 45–49%) explain why you believe this was still not a legitimate attempt at the subject. That is, why should this not just count as a fail. For example, you got good marks early in the semester and bad ones later when the problem arose. Or you might be able to point to the past where you have scored credits or distinctions for similar assessments or subjects, and that the low mark in the unit you are seeking a DC for is best explained by the extraordinary circumstances you have experienced. DC grades cannot be approved for units you have passed.

Did you pass any units?

If you passed one or more units in the semester you will need to explain why you were able to successfully complete them, but not the ones you are seeking a DC for. An event may have happened after you had completed the assessment for one unit but not the other; or perhaps the content or types of assessments were different in those units.

Can I get my fees back?

Yes. If a DC is approved, tuition fees paid for the unit(s) of study (including HECS/HELP) will automatically be re-credited, refunded or remitted.

Do you have supporting documentation?

DC applications must have independent supporting documentation from a relevant medical practitioner, counsellor, or religious or community leader. Sometimes it may be appropriate to get a statutory declaration from a family member or friend. If you are unable to get these documents due to COVID-19, you may be able to provide a student declaration, however, use this as a last resort. Your documentation needs to clearly address the timing and impact of your circumstances on you, and your studies. Your supporting documentation needs to demonstrate the circumstances occurred after census date, and how these circumstances impacted your ability to study and complete the unit(s).

My application was declined, is there anything I can do?

DC decisions are administrative decisions, not academic decisions. This means they cannot be appealed under the university’s appeals rule. You can, however, request a formal review of the decision. In your request for a review you should respond to any reasons they provided for declining your DC application. You might also include new documentation. Talk to a Caseworker to ensure you are putting your best case forward.

Information updated on 21st December, 2021. (DC)

Important Notice and Disclaimer: This information does not constitute legal advice. Seek qualified professional advice before making decisions about educational, financial, migration or legal matters. This information can change from time to time. Check for the most up to date information.