7. Census dates

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A provider must set a census date for each unit of study it provides, or proposes to provide, during a year [HESA subsections 104-4(5) and 169-25(1)] in accordance with the Administration Guidelines 2012 (Administration Guidelines). The census date is important for a number of reasons, including:

  • it is the last date before which a person can withdraw from a unit of study and not incur a HELP debt in respect of that unit
  • it is the last date before which a person must submit requests for FEE-HELP or HECS-HELP
  • a person’s enrolment in a unit of study will be cancelled by the provider if that person fails to successfully submit a ‘Request for Commonwealth Assistance Form’ by the census date; and
  • it is the date on or after which the full impact of any special circumstances on a student need to occur in order for their HELP balance to be recredited

7.1 - Unit duration and census dates

A census date must be no earlier than 20 per cent of the way through the period during which the unit is undertaken [Administration Guidelines paragraph 6.30.1], which is the time between the unit commencement and completion dates.


The duration of a unit of study is 13 weeks. The census date must be no less than 19 calendar days after the commencement of the unit of study.

The duration of the unit should include any normal study breaks, assessments and/or exam periods. Supplementary exams should not be included, as all students do not normally undertake these. If final exam dates are unknown, the last day of the exam period is used as the end of the unit. If a unit does not include a final exam, exam periods should not be included.

7.2 - Census dates for full-year units

A full-year unit of study has one census date and not separate dates for each teaching period. Semesters and trimesters in full-year units do not have separate census dates.

7.3 - Setting common census dates

The provider may set a common census date for multiple units, providing they apply the minimum 20 per cent requirement across all units.

7.4 - Census dates for postgraduate research units

The provider may determine the census date for research units of study undertaken by higher degree research students based on the days or weeks that an individual student is enrolled in a given period. This is the consumption model. Each student is enrolled in their own unique unit of study, although a provider may determine a common unit of study code for particular groupings of these units. The 20 per cent rule still applies.

The provider must comply with the standard census date provisions for postgraduate coursework units of study [HESA subsection 169-25(1)].

7.5 - Publishing census dates

The provider must publish the census date for each unit of study that it provides or proposes to provide, on or before the earliest enrolment date for units of study [HESA subsection 169-25(3)] [part 37.3].

7.6 – Withdrawing before the census date

Providers must have processes and procedures in place allowing a student to withdraw from a unit of study or course of study. The procedures for a student to withdraw from a unit of study or a course of study before the census date must not involve financial, administrative or other barriers to withdrawing.

Providers must also have processes in place to allow a student to re-enrol in a unit of study if the student had previously withdrawn from that unit. However, providers must not, after a student withdraws from a unit or course of study, enrol a student in a unit or course of study without the written permission of the student (which must be given after the withdrawal) [HESA section 169-17; HEP Guidelines chapter 8, section 8.8].