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: this portal.

    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 (if applicable rather than an Essay) 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. Students 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 Australian Government's Department of Education, Science and Training (DEST) by the specific census date. The census date is the last day to withdraw from a unit or course without financial penalty.

  15. When is the census date?

  16. The census date has typically been at the end of Week 3, and you can check the actual date in the Academic Calendar.
    note: SAO is run through Open Universities Australia (OUA) and Hawthorn Online (HOL), so check the Study Period (SP) dates for this part of the rather detailed calender.

  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 currently (2022) have new Units under development.

  23. Are there any required SAO Units I must enroll in?
  24. If you enrolled for the first time in or after 2015, you are required to complete a specific set of units selected from core (complulsory) and elective units. Please see Required Units of Study for links to 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 2010-2014. These changes included:

    • 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 all SAO units change their unit codes in 2014?

  28. 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.

  29. I want to become a professional astronomer. Can I commence a PhD after completing the Master of Science (Astronomy) degree?

  30. SAO's Master of Science (Astronomy) degree can be a direct path into the PhD program at Swinburne.
    To become a professional astronomer, you typically need a PhD in astronomy. To undertake a PhD in astronomy, you usually first require a Bachelor's degree in a cognate discipline such as Science (usually Mathematics or Physics) or perhaps Computing or Engineering. You also need an Honours year with a thesis component or a post-bachelor's Master of Science degree with a substantial research component, typically a thesis written within a Masters-by-research degree. Swinburne Astronomy Online (SAO) offers a Masters-by-coursework degree that includes two `Major Project' units, i.e., research-focussed units contributing a total of (2x12.5=) 25 credit points. Swinburne considers this acceptable in combination with the other research elements in the other units.
    However, PhD positions at Swinburne are obtained on a competitive basis. You will likely require an 80 per cent grade average in your studies with SAO, and you will need to identify a qualified staff member within Swinburne willing to supervise you. Further information is available here.

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