Studying at a University in Australia
Moving to Australia for university? The country has over 40 universities, all of which offer a good education, and some of which are ranked in the world's top university league tables.
Universities here offer both graduate and undergraduate programs, and typically have tight integration between research and teaching.
Degrees and course structure
Australian universities offer both general degrees (humanities, science) as well as specific professional degrees including engineering, technology, health science, and commerce. Double degrees are common; e.g. law plus arts, science plus technology.
If you enrol in a full-time course, you can complete most undergraduate degrees in either three (BA, BComm, BSc) or four years (BEng, BTech). Graduate degrees include honours (one year), Masters by coursework or thesis (two years), and PhD's (three or more years).
Shorter programs include associate degrees (2 years) and Graduate Diplomas (1 year).
The Australian university year is split into two semesters:
- Semester 1: first week March to last week of June
- Semester 2: late July to third week of November
An increasing amount of universities use the long summer break to offer catch up courses, and particularly bridging courses for overseas students.
Traditionally most Australian students attend a local university, particularly for their undergraduate degree. Many students therefore either live at home or in a flat with friends, so the on-campus living culture is not particularly developed as in the case of some overseas universities.
Most universities are in large cities like Sydney and Melbourne, so they lack the “student town” vibe, as students are not a large percentage of the population. That said, there are definitely “student suburbs” near the main campus of most inner-city universities.
Only a small number of students live in university halls of residence, not all of which are on campus. Indeed, larger inner-city universities often have several satellite campuses.
Applying to an Australian university
You can apply to Australian universities either as an international (fee-paying) student or as a permanent resident (domestic fees). There is no central body to apply to for admission to Australian universities. Instead you will need to decide on your preferred institution and course and apply directly.
You shouldn't apply for a student visa until you have received an unconditional offer from the university. Requirements vary widely depending on the demand for places but will normally include assessment of your:
- Academic background
- English language competency
- Costs of studies
Tuition fees vary widely between institutions but for international students range from 30,000 AUD and up per one year. If you have Australia permanent residency or citizenship, then you are eligible for domestic fees which are usually around 8,000 AUD a year.
Additional costs including:
- Textbooks, study guides, and equipment
- Field trips
- Living expenses
- Overseas student health cover
- Costs associated with student visas and travel to Australia
Some universities will also a charge a student services fee to cover services that are not academic including employment and career services and recreational facilities.
Typical living costs for single students are around 25,000 AUD or 480 AUD a week, based on:
- Rent: 200–350 AUD single room
- Utilities including internet: 35 AUD
- Food: 70 – 80 AUD
- Travel: 35 AUD
- Other costs: 50-80 AUD
Paying for a university qualification
Only those in Australia on permanent visas, New Zealanders, and Australian citizens can apply for the Australian Higher Education Loan Program (HELP) used by Australian students to pay fees and living costs.
Help for overseas students
As an overseas applicant, you may be eligible for financial aid in your home country e.g. American students can get an US Financial Aid help to finance their studies in Australia.
All universities offer a range of scholarships for students, some of which are open to, or specific to overseas students. On a student visa you are allowed to work no more than 20 hours a week during term time. You can work full-time during official vacations.
Top universities in Australia
There are over 40 public universities in Australia, plus many other non-university higher education providers. The following top 5 picks have all made the Times Higher Education top 100 worldwide.
1. University of Sydney
Australia's first university was founded in 1850 and the original campus is in central Sydney. The modern university has 10 campuses which are home to 3,000 academics teaching around 49,000 students.
University of Sydney is particularly strong in engineering with over 25 undergraduate engineering degrees ranging from the usual (mechanical, civil, electrical, chemical) to the less usual (aeronautical, mechatronics, bioelectronics).
Cost of studies:
37,000 – 35,000 AUD a year for undergraduate international students.
Sydney Scholars program is open to International students who have completed an International Baccalaureate and who apply via the Universities Admission Centre these are awarded on the basis of academic merit.
2. University of Melbourne
Established in 1853, University of Melbourne is Australia's second oldest university. Has a very strong teaching and research base, with approximately 50,000 students enrolled of which approximately 30% are international.
Associated with Melbourne University are 15 graduate schools, the most prestigious of which are the law, business medical schools.
Cost of studies:
33,700-36,200 AUD a year
International Undergraduate Scholarships are available which can provide either a 50% or total reduction of fees for the duration of an undergraduate degree. Scholarship is awarded on the basis of academic merit, course taken, and country of origin.
3. Australian National University
Located in Canberra ANU was established in 1946 and has a grassy green campus in northern Canberra where 1,600 academics teach around 1,600 students.
ANU has seven colleges, and unsurprisingly has a very strong reputation in public policy and law. ANU also has a strong physics department with notable successes in astronomy and particle physics.
Cost of studies:
28,600- 33,000 AUD a year
ANU International Scholarship is available to overseas students based on academic merit and covers full fees and health insurance.
4. University of Queensland
Located in Brisbane has a student base of 48,800 of which 19,500 are postgraduate and 11,500 are international students.
University y of Queensland is a very well-regarded university teaching everything from agriculture to humanities, as well as a large medical school. Some of their more unusual facilities include an experimental mine for mining resources students and a coral-island marine studies centre.
Cost of studies:
30,000 – 33,000 AUD a year for most undergraduate bachelor degrees. 54,000 AUD for Veterinary science.
Queensland offers a number of scholarships for students from Latin America, Indonesia, Hong Kong and Malaysia, among others.