Each year thousands of international students head Down Under to study at Australian universities. Tuition fees aren't cheap but what you gain in life experience is priceless

Good weather, sandy beaches, azure ocean and barbeques in the sun are just a few of the things that we know about Australia. But did you know that the country has an internationally respected higher education system? So much so that Australia is the third most popular study destination in the world.

Five of the country's cities make the top 30 of the QS Best Student Cities 2016. Student hotspots include Melbourne, Sydney, Canberra, Brisbane and Adelaide respectively, with Perth narrowly missing out on a top 30 ranking.

The cost of living is high, so be prepared for the expense when spending your money. However, Australians love the great outdoors and strolling along the beach or surfing can be done for free. In your study-free hours make the most of the country's metropolitan cities and coastal idylls. One thing's for certain, you'll never be short of places to explore thanks to Australia's 17 world heritage sites.

Australian universities

The country has 43 universities (40 Australian, two international and one private) located across state capitals and regional areas, so with some research you're bound to find the perfect place to settle.

Institutions offer more than 22,000 courses in a variety of subjects from science and humanities to management and engineering. Australia's education structure is similar to that in the UK and you can study for Bachelors, Masters and Doctorates.

For a full list of all Australian universities see Study in Australia - List of universities.

When it comes to university world rankings Australia has an impressive track record. Six of the country's institutions feature in the QS World University Rankings 2016/17 top 100. These include:

  • Australian National University
  • The University of Melbourne
  • The University of Sydney
  • University of New South Wales
  • The University of Queensland
  • Monash University.

The country's oldest research universities comprise the Group of Eight (Go8) including Australian National University, Monash University and the universities of Adelaide, Melbourne, New South Wales, Queensland, Sydney and Western Australia.

The academic year usually starts in February but this can vary depending on your institution and level of study.

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Curtin University of Technology

The largest university in Western Australia has a variety of undergraduate and postgraduate courses to choose from in four main areas: business, health sciences, humanities and science and engineering.

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The University of Melbourne

Experience a rich academic and social life at Australia's top-ranked university.

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University of New South Wales Business School

Study for a world-class MBA at the Australian Graduate School of Management.

Student exchanges

Exchanges are possible and can be a cost-effective option as you'll continue to pay your home tuition fees. To take part in a student exchange programme you must be nominated and approved by the exchange coordinator at your home university.

Check with your institution to see what links they have to Australian universities.

Degree courses

Bachelors programmes typically take three years to complete (four years for an honours degree). They're generally split into two semesters, although some universities offer three.

An undergraduate degree helps to develop the skills and knowledge you'll need to work in your chosen field and enables you to pursue postgraduate studies if you want to.

Entry onto Australian higher education programmes is competitive and to gain a place on a course you'll need a high school leaver's certificate or equivalent. You'll also need to prove your level of English proficiency if it's not your first language. Additional entry requirements for some programmes may include the successful completion of work experience, a portfolio or audition.

Masters degrees

Australian Masters follow a similar format to those in the UK and usually take one or two years to complete. Qualifications awarded from Australian institutions are globally recognised and well respected by employers, standing you in good stead upon graduation.

Institutions in the country offer a range of taught and research-based Masters courses in areas such as creative arts, engineering, health, education and sciences to name just a few. Courses focus on either traditional coursework (taught courses) or independent research (research courses), or a combination of both.

Entry requirements for Masters programmes in Australia vary depending on your university and subject but basic admission requirements include the successful completion of a Bachelors degree, with most looking for students who hold a minimum of a 2:1 or 2:2 grade.

Other postgraduate qualifications on offer include:

  • Graduate certificates
  • Graduate Diplomas
  • Doctoral degrees.

PhDs

The Doctoral degree, or PhD, is the highest qualification awarded by Australian universities and typically takes three years to complete. They are undertaken on completion of a Masters qualification.

The Doctoral degree is a research programme made up of three components:

  • a review of literature, experimentation or other methodical approach to a body of knowledge
  • an original research project that contributes to understanding and knowledge in your field
  • a thesis that demonstrates a relationship between the research and the field of study.

Course fees

The cost of higher education in Australia is among the most expensive in the world and as an international student you will be required to pay tuition fees before you start your course. Despite the increased cost of study the country remains popular with foreign students.

Course fees vary widely between institutions and per subject so make sure you check this information before committing to a programme. While tuition fees are set by individual universities you can expect to pay anywhere between $20,000 to $37,000 (£11,842 to £21,907) for a Masters degree and $14,000 to $37,000 for a Doctoral degree (£8,289 to £21,907). All costs are per-year in Australian dollars.

These estimates do not include high-value courses such as veterinary science, medicine and the Masters of Business Administration (MBA) where you should expect to pay considerably more.

Funding to study in Australia

Australian institutions are big on internationalisation so as an overseas student you're guaranteed a warm welcome as well as a helping hand. In fact, the Australian government provides more than $200million each year for international scholarships. These can take the form of grants or bursaries and can help to support you financially with your studies.

Some of the major scholarship programmes available for international students include:

A number of Australian universities also offer scholarships to international students - for example the La Trobe Academic Excellence Scholarship, Monash University International Scholarships for Excellence and the University of Sydney International Scholarships. To find out what help your institution offers get in touch with the international office.

You can search for scholarships on the Study in Australia website.

To help with living expenses you could also consider working while studying. Most student visas allow you to work for up to 40 hours every two weeks during term time and unrestricted hours during holiday periods. To make sure that you don't fall foul of the law always check that you can work on your visa type before accepting a job offer.

How to apply

To study a postgraduate degree in Australia you'll need to apply directly to your chosen institution online. Entry requirements vary between universities so check these details before you begin the application process. Application closing dates differ depending on your chosen course and some programmes may accept applications all year round.

To gain a place on a course you must:

  • submit an application form to your chosen university
  • receive a Letter of Offer
  • receive an electronic Confirmation of Enrolment (eCoE)
  • apply for a student visa.

In order for your application to be successful you will need to provide evidence of:

  • academic achievements (transcripts, certificates)
  • English language proficiency
  • funds to support your study
  • overseas student health cover.

Language requirements

Programmes at undergraduate and postgraduate level are taught in English. In some cases you may need to provide proof of your proficiency in the language through a recognised English language test.

Be aware of the fact that the skill level required by institutions can differ from the level required on your student visa application.

Student visas

To study in Australia you must obtain a student visa. Traditionally Australian student visas were categorised depending on your level of study but from 1 July 2016 the country introduced a simplified student visa framework.

All international students now need to apply for the Student visa (subclass 500) online, which enables you to study full time in Australia in a recognised education institution. This visa lasts up to five years and costs around $550 Australian dollars (£325).

To secure one you must:

  • provide evidence that you've been accepted onto a course, be this a copy of your confirmation of enrolment or offer letter
  • provide proof of your finances
  • possess English language proficiency skills
  • have health insurance
  • not have a substantial criminal record.

For more details on Australian student visas, visit the Department of Immigration and Border Protection - Visa finder.

Comparison to UK qualifications

As the Australian higher education system closely mirrors that of the UK, your qualifications will be recognised all over the world.

If you're unsure whether your Australian qualification will be recognised in your home country, speak to your institution for clarification.

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