Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) for current students

  1. Who to I contact for general questions about the program?

  2. Current students can find more general information about the program from:

    Ask George: at

    Students can also ask questions at:

    The point of contact for all student enquiries is at studentHQ

  3. When are the main assessment items due?

  4. For full details of due dates, see the "Calendar" on your Canvas unit site.

    In general, assessment items are due on the same day for all (non-Major Project) units. Essays are due at the end of Week 9, Projects are due at the end of Week 11, CMT1* is due at the end of Week 6, CMT2* and Newsgroup submissions are due at the end of Week 12. Due to the international nature of SAO, all assessment items are due on a Saturday (student local time).

    * CMT = Computer Managed Test

  5. What is the difference between 'withdrawing from a course' and taking a 'leave of absence'?

  6. Students who withdraw from a course do not intend to return to the program at a later date, whilst a leave of absence allows students who intend to continue studying to have a break from their studies for a semester or two.

    Withdraw from a course is for students who want to withdraw from the entire program (and hence study no further units) and do not intend to continue with the program in the near future.

    Leave of absence (LOA) is a period of approved absence from the course in which a student is enrolled. Student must normally have been studying for at least one academic year before they are eligible to take an LOA. Note that LOA is not an automatic entitlement; each applicant will be treated on their merits and approval will depends on the student's academic history and reason for the application. LOA can be for one or two semesters in duration. A student may take a maximum of two semesters LOA per degree program.

  7. What do I do if I want to drop one unit (or more) but remain enrolled in my other unit(s)?

  8. Please visit our Change of Details page.

  9. How do I withdraw from my program or take a leave of absence?

  10. Please visit our Change of Details page.

  11. If I withdraw from one or more units, take a LOA, or withdraw from the program, am I entitled to a refund?

  12. If you withdraw before the census date you will obtain a refund (and not incur a FEE-HELP debt).

  13. What is the census date?

  14. The census date is the date on which your enrolment requirements must be finalised. Swinburne University is required to report student liability information to the Department of Education, Science and Training (DEST) by the specific census date. The census date is the last day with withdraw from a unit or course without financial penalty.

  15. When is the census date?

  16. Census dates are advertised here.

    (Note that these are the Open Universities Australia census dates and apply to all SAO students, including those who are not enrolled via OUA.)

  17. What happens if I withdraw after the census date?

  18. You can withdraw after the census date, but you will not get a refund on your fees. If you withdraw before the start of the 9th week of the semester, you will not obtain an academic fail on your results certificate (but the unit will still be listed as an enrolled unit). You will receive an academic penalty if you withdraw after the start of the 9th week of semester. Students cannot withdraw once the teaching semester has completed, i.e. the last day to withdraw is the final Friday of the semester.

  19. What do I do if I find a blooper in the SAO course material or on one of the website?

  20. Please report all bloopers on our Comments and Corrections form.

  21. Are you planning on offering any more SAO units?

  22. We do not have any current plans for creating new Units. In 2009 we accredited two new SAO units: AST80014 (formerly HET619) Major Project - Astronomy & Astrophysics, which was first offered in S1-2010, and AST80015 (formerly HET620) Planetary Science, which was first offered in S2-2011. For details of all our units and their schedule, see this link.

  23. Are there any SAO Units I must enroll in?

  24. If you enroll for the first time in SAO in 2015 and onwards, you are required to complete a specific set of units selected from core(complulsory) and elective units. Please see Required Units of Study for this information.

    In the 2009 re-accreditation to all our degree programs, there were changes to the program rules which effect students who commence a degree program from 2010 onwards. These changes include:

    • There are no unit restrictions for Graduate Certificate of Science (Astronomy) students.
    • Graduate Diploma of Science (Astronomy) students must complete three core units, plus any 5 elective units (subject to prerequisites). The three core units are AST80005 (formerly HET602), AST80004 (formerly HET603), AST80006 (formerly HET624).
    • Master of Science (Astronomy) students must complete three core units plus one Major Project unit, plus any 8 elective units (subject to prerequisites). The three core units are AST80005 (formerly HET602), AST80004 (formerly HET603), AST80006 (formerly HET624) and the choice of Major Project units include AST80012 (formerly HET612), AST80013 (formerly HET615), AST80011 (formerly HET617) and AST80014 (formerly HET619).

    Note: If you commenced your SAO degree prior to Semester 1, 2010, these rules DO NOT apply to you.

  25. Do I have to do a Major Project unit?

  26. If you enrolled prior to S1-2010, no, you do not have to do a Major Project unit (though SAO encourages you to at least consider it!).

    If you enrolled in the Masters any time from S1-2010 to S2-2014, you must complete at least one Major Project unit.

    If you enroll in the Masters from 2015, onwards, you must complete at least two Major Project units (please refer to Required Units of Study for this information.

  27. Why did two SAO units (HET604 and HET605) change their names in 2009?

  28. During our program re-accrediation in 2009, we reviewed the content of all units. The course content of our old units HET604 Exploring Galaxies & the Cosmos and HET605 Theories of Space & Time were revised and the unit names were changed to more closely match the content. The Swinburne student adminstative system could not accept a change of unit name without a change of unit code, and so these two units were called HET624 Galaxies and their place in the Universe and HET625 Cosmology and the Large-scale Structure of the Universe. It should be noted that students who have already completed HET604 and HET605 cannot do HET624 and HET625 (since the course material is very similar).

  29. Why did all SAO units change their unit codes in 2014?

  30. Swinburne University of Technology is introducing a new Student Management System in April 2014. As a result all unit/subject codes have been changed to support the implementation of the new system. All unit titles and content remain the same, although you will notice a change in the code you are enrolling into for 2014 onwards.

  31. Where has the Faculty of Information and Communication Technologies (FICT) gone?

  32. Swinburne University of Technology will be changing to a three faculty structure from 1st January 2014. The three new faculties are:
    • Faculty of Science, Engineering and Technology
    • Faculty of Business and Law
    • Faculty of Health, Arts and Design

    SAO is taught by the ongoing Centre for Astrophysics & Supercomputing and the (new from Jan, 1 2014) Department of Physics & Astronomy, which are both in the School of Science, which exists in the Faculty of Science, Engineering and Technology (FSET).
facebook twitter