Whilst Australia might not be the first place you associate with education and study, in reality it attracts the third highest number of international students, behind the USA and the UK, of any country in the world. Whilst a few of these will choose Australia because of its sun-kissed beaches, warm weather, and outdoor lifestyle, most of them choose to study in the country because of the quality of education on offer.
The Australian Education SystemAustralia has a highly regarded educational system, which is modelled on the British system with suitable local variations. It begins with pre-school education, which can start as young as three years old, although this is not compulsory. Formal compulsory education starts at age five or six – the requirement differs between individual States – and continues, through primary and secondary school, until at least the age of 16. Those wanting to study further, and apply for university or vocational training, will go to senior secondary school for an additional two years. Australia has a large number of public and private schools (the split across the country is 60/40), but all education providers must be licenced by the government, and are obliged to follow a national curriculum, which is intended to give all pupils a solid grounding in literacy, numeracy, communication and information technology. In senior secondary school (Years 11 to 12) students study for their Senior Secondary Certificate of Education – this is a prerequisite for entry to most Australian universities, as well as vocational training and educational colleges. Many international universities also recognise the Certificate as an entry qualification.
The Top Australian UniversitiesThere are 43 universities in Australia, 15 of which are ranked in the global top 250 according to the latest edition of the QS World University Rankings. Seven of these, in turn are in the world’s top 100. In descending order these are:
Australian Education Vs Other CountriesAustralia’s education system is similar to both that of New Zealand and the UK, with students able to study for their Bachelors and Masters degrees, and Doctorates. In terms of the US, there are greater similarities than differences. However, one area where Australian schools trump their US counterpart is when it comes to student results, which are higher in all categories – a distinction attributed to a higher standard of teaching and subject matter. Another difference is the academic year which, in the Northern Hemisphere starts in September but in Australia and New Zealand, begins in February. Australian Universities offer a full gamut of courses, with thousands on offer, ranging from the humanities to science, law to management, engineering to medicine. Types of Degree There are three main types of degree programme which can be followed:
Bachelor’s DegreeIt typically takes three years to complete a Bachelor’s degree in Australia – or four if studying for an honour’s degree. Unlike the UK though, the year is usually split into two terms, not three. The minimum entry requirement for admission on a degree course is a high school leaving certificate or equivalent; evidence of English language proficiency might also be required. Some practical or vocational course might also require a portfolio, audition, or successful completion of work placement.
Master’s DegreesA Master’s Degree normally takes one or two years to complete. Requirements vary between universities, but most require a successful completion of a Bachelor’s Degree first, with a 2.2 grade or higher.
Doctorates (PhDs)A PhD usually takes three years to complete, and is only normally undertaken when somebody has acquired a Master’s Degree first. As in most other countries, a written thesis is required but, unlike other jurisdictions, there is no stipulation that work then needs to be orally defended.
Language RequirementsAll undergraduate and post-graduate courses in Australia are taught in English. In some cases, those whose first language is not English may need to prove their proficiency in the language, before they are accepted on a course, by taking a recognised language test.
Student VisasAny international student who wants to study in Australia must first obtain a Student Visa. These can be obtained online (https://immi.homeaffairs.gov.au/visas/getting-a-visa/visa-finder/study) and last up to five years. They currently cost AUS $575 (US $405). To obtain a visa, applicants need to prove:
- Evidence that they have been accepted on a course by a recognised Australian university;
- Confirmation of their financial worthiness;
- Proof that they have the requisite English language skills; and
- Health insurance coverage
FeesAustralia ranks amongst the most expensive countries in the world when it comes to higher education, especially for those coming from abroad (anybody who is not from Australia or New Zealand is classified as an international student). Fees are set by individual universities, and can vary widely. Typically, those want to study for a Master’s degree should expect to pay, annually, anything between AUS $20,000 (US $14,100) to AUS $37,000 (US $26,200); those who want to take their Doctorate are looking at annual fees of between AUS $14,000 (US $10,000) to AUS $37,000 (US $26,200). High value courses such as medicine, veterinary science, and MBAs, cost considerably more.
Part-Time WorkTo help meet defray the cost of study, students might want to consider taking-up part time work whilst they are in Australia. Most student visas typically allow students to work for unrestricted hours during vacation periods, and up to 40 hours every fortnight during term time. The rules on student working have recently been tightened-up, so those interested should check their visa type before applying for jobs.
international awardsThere are a number of programmes available for international students which can take the form of either bursaries or grants. Amongst the most prominent are:
The Application ProcessInternational students need to apply directly to the university of their choice online. There is no uniform application process – it differs from institution to institution, so check with your chosen university first. Similarly closing dates vary depending on the course, so again check first before applying. The following steps should be adopted:
- Decide on which course you want to study at which university;
- Submit an online application to the institute (making sure you correctly follow any stipulations they might have);
- Receive, and formally accept, their Letter of Offer;
- Receive from the university an electronic Confirmation of Enrolment (eCoE).
- Apply for a Student Visa (but only when all the above stages have been completed).
- Evidence of their academic qualifications (certificates, transcripts, letters from teachers or professors);
- Formal confirmation of English language proficiency;
- Proof that they have sufficient funds to support themselves whilst they are studying in Australia; and
- International student health coverage.