A popular destination with international students - thousands head Down Under each year to study in Australia

Sandy beaches, deep blue ocean, relaxed living, good weather and barbeques in the sun are just a few of the things that we associate with Australia. But did you know that the country has an internationally respected higher education system? It also has the third highest number of international students in the world, behind only the United States and the UK. All these foreign students can't be wrong so it’s not surprising that Australia is one of the most popular study destinations in the world.

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

Australian universities

The country has 43 universities located across state capitals and regional areas, so with some research you're bound to find the perfect place to settle.

Institutions offer thousands of courses in a range 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 Australian universities see Study in Australia - List of universities.

When it comes to university world rankings Australia has an impressive track record. Seven of the country's institutions feature in the QS World University Rankings 2019 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
  • University of Western Australia.

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.

Melbourne is the most popular student city according to QS Best Student Cities 2018. Three other locations, including Sydney, Brisbane and Canberra make up the top 30, with Perth narrowly missing out in 39th place.

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 England

The University of New England offers a wide range of courses delivered by world-class academics, and has been awarded five stars for 'Overall Student Experience' for the 13th year in a row - a record unmatched by any other Australian public university.

Degree courses in Australia

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.

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 in areas such as creative arts, engineering, health, education and sciences to name just a few. Like in the UK, you'll be able to study a Masters of Arts (MA) or Master of Science (MSc). Courses focus on either traditional coursework (taught courses) or independent research (research courses), or a combination of both.

In Australia you’ll also be able to study a 'Change of direction' Masters - for students looking to change subject pathways and a 'Professional development' Masters - for students looking to further their careers through additional training.

Entry requirements for Masters programmes in Australia vary depending on your university and subject but basic 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 usually a pure research degree and the highest qualification awarded by Australian universities. They typically take three years to complete and 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.

In terms of assessment you'll submit a written thesis, but unlike in other countries you won't need to orally defend your work.

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.

The University of Nottingham has partnership agreements with institutions in Adelaide, Brisbane, Canberra, Melbourne, Perth and Sydney.

If you study at the University of Edinburgh you could head out to the University of New South Wales or the University of Queensland on an exchange. While Kings College London has an exchange partnership with the University of Sydney.

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

Course fees

The cost of higher education in Australia is among the most expensive in the world. Fees are set by universities, not the government so the cost of postgraduate study can vary widely. International students will pay considerably more than Australian students and foreign students are also required to pay their tuition fees before they start their course.

Despite the increased cost of study the country remains popular with foreign students.

You can expect to pay anywhere between $20,000 to $37,000 (£10,748 to £19,883) for a Masters degree and $14,000 to $37,000 for a Doctoral degree (£7,523 to £19,883). 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. International scholarships can take the form of grants or bursaries.

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

  • Australia Awards - bringing together scholarships offered by a number of agencies including the Australian Agency for International Development (AusAID).
  • Endeavour Leadership Programme - offers a range of merit-based, government-funded scholarships to study in Australia.
  • Research Training Program (RTP) - administered by individual universities on behalf of the Department of Education and Training the RTP awards grants to support domestic and overseas students studying research Masters and research Doctorate degrees.

A number of Australian universities also offer scholarships to international students - for example the 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.

Student visas

To study in Australia you must obtain a student visa.

All international students 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 $575 Australian dollars (£309).

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.

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. Closing dates differ depending on your 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.

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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