Why choose Australia as a possible study destination?

  • Australia is a stable, prosperous, successful country with a high standard of living.
  • You feel a great sense of space in which to find your place, move around and expand.
  • The climate is generally warm and sunny.
  • The lifestyle is relaxed and informal, and there are few differences between social classes.
  • Australia has six universities in the top 100 worldwide – the third biggest number of any country.
  • Most people live in the five main cities, which are generally counted among the best in the world for their quality of life.  Enjoy big city living with the beach on your doorstep!
  • The main centres are incredibly diverse: Australia is much richer culturally than some people imagine.
  • You can enjoy unique and varied landscapes: from the Great Barrier Reef to deserts to rain forests (tropical and temperate).  Unique wildlife as well!
    • 15-day study tour in early January.
    • See Brisbane, Sydney, Canberra and Melbourne.
    • Our main study centres are Cromwell College in Brisbane (University of Queensland) and Queen’s College in Melbourne (University of Melbourne). Shorter stays at leading universities in Sydney and Canberra.
    • Visit six of the ‘Group of Eight’ leading universities: University of Queensland, University of Sydney, University of New South Wales (UNSW), Australian National University, University of Melbourne and Monash University. Also: Griffith University, Queensland University of Technology, Bond University, Newcastle University, Macquarie University and RMIT.
    • Enjoy city tours in the four main cities visited, and also see the Gold Coast and an Australian wildlife park.

Population: 23 million

Capital: Canberra

Largest cities: Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth, Adelaide

Divided into: 6 states and 2 territories (Australia has a federal system of government, rather like the USA)

Australia was once seen as the land of tough pioneers fighting to make better lives for themselves in hot, dry and largely empty landscapes.

Not any more!  Australia has a sophisticated urban culture – it’s actually one of the most urbanised societies in the world.  At the same time, its best universities are world leaders with an impressive international reputation; the range of programmes and the facilities available are really impressive.

KE invites students to come and check out Australia with us.  We’ll show you the three biggest Australian cities, and also take you to the capital, Canberra.  You’ll visit five of the top six Australian universities and learn what makes this huge country unique and special.  You’ll also have a chance to enjoy that famous Aussie way of life!

Australia is a large country, and the climate is very diverse: the far north is tropical, central parts have a harsh desert climate, Perth and Adelaide a Mediterranean climate, while Tasmania is temperate.  The part of the country which we visit, basically the southern half of the East Coast, has its own pattern of climate.

In the summer in this area, the weather is generally hot and sunny, with brilliant blue skies.  Most of the time, the heat is very pleasant, and in the coastal areas there is usually a refreshing sea breeze.   However, from time to time there can be heatwaves which bring with them temperatures as high as 40 degrees or more.  Melbourne can have some cooler days as well, while Brisbane tends to be more humid.  Rainfall may occur at any time in the summer, but any rainy periods are usually short, even if a lot of rain falls in a short period.  Sometimes, the summers are completely dry – every year is different.

Although Australia is generally quite a safe country, you should still look after your possessions carefully, as it is not completely free from crime.

During the daytime, you can walk around quite comfortably in all places we visit, including big cities. After dark, a little more caution may be sensible. We suggest that students of all ages go around in pairs or small groups at all times. Take care with possessions, and don’t leave wallets and purses in back pockets or other places where they can easily be seen. Leave valuables at the centre for safekeeping, and only take small amounts of cash with you.

You should be aware that bush fires do often occur during the summer months, and although the cities are not usually at risk, there can be a problem with smoke from the fires.  Australia also has a lot of poisonous snakes and spiders, but you are unlikely to meet any of these!

Australia offers a wide range of opportunities to international students, with nearly all of its institutions actively recruiting students from other countries. In Australia, the term ‘tertiary level’ covers ‘higher education’ and ‘further education’ (also known as ‘vocational education and training’); it covers all the opportunities available to students over the age of 18.

It’s important to note that Australia is a federal country, with 6 states and 2 territories; there are certain variations in the education systems of the various states and territories, but we’ll try to present the overall picture here.

Types of institution

International students in Australia can apply to universities, TAFEs or RTOs.

Australia has between 39 and 43 universities – depending on how precisely they are defined; these are the main providers of ‘higher education’. Nearly all of these are government-funded, though two, Bond and Notre Dame, are private; there are also two campuses which are branches of overseas universities.  

The rankings of the Australian universities vary enormously. At the top are the ‘Group of Eight’. These are:

  • The University of Queensland (UQ) – in Brisbane
  • The University of Sydney
  • The University of New South Wales (UNSW) – in Sydney
  • The Australian National University (ANU) – in Canberra
  • The University of Melbourne
  • Monash University – in Melbourne
  • The University of Adelaide
  • The University of Western Australia – in Perth

KE programmes include visits to the first six of these. According to most of the world ranking systems, they are all within the top 100 worldwide. This is a remarkable achievement, and means that Australia is the country with the most universities in the top 100 after the USA and the UK.

Many of the other universities, however, also enjoy very good reputations. For example, the Australia Technology Network is a grouping of five universities with a very strong basis in technology. The Network includes QUT in Brisbane, UTS in Sydney and RMIT in Melbourne. Griffith in Brisbane, Macquarie in Sydney and Newcastle are also well-ranking universities.

The main universities tend to be very large – some with around 50,000 students. A number of them are based on a college system, to which many of their students are affiliated.

It should be noted that a fair number of Australian universities do not appear in the top 500 worldwide.

In addition to the universities, there are around 60 government-funded institutions known as ‘TAFE’ (institute for Technical And Further Education). TAFEs are found all over Australia, and offer a wide range of largely vocational and practical subjects (though some specialise in more limited fields). Some of them have the word ‘college’ in their names, others choose ‘institute’ – but the word ‘TAFE’ usually appears somewhere as well. TAFE courses lead to a variety of certificates and diplomas; some also offer degree programmes. Even if they do not offer degrees, it’s often possible to move from a diploma course to an undergraduate programme elsewhere. Some TAFEs are closely linked with universities.

TAFEs, then, are government-funded providers of VET (Vocational Education and Training) – so the emphasis is on practical subjects rather than purely academic subjects. But Australia also has private providers of VET. These are called RTOs (Registered Training Organisations), and there are around 5,000 of them across Australia. As their name implies, RTOs have to be approved by a government department, which in most cases is ASQA (Australian Skills Quality Authority). Most RTOs accept international students. The RTOs differ widely in terms of the subjects they offer – some are very specialised – and in the status of the qualifications that can be obtained. However, in most cases, RTO qualifications are a recognised stepping stone into higher-level qualifications.

Our focus at KE is on introducing students to and preparing them for university education.

Entry levels

In assessing the suitability of international students for university, admissions staff consider two key factors: (i) academic record and (ii) level of English.

In assessing students’ academic suitability, the universities generally try to equate the overseas qualification against Australian qualifications.

When students at Australian high schools complete their studies there, they take examinations and obtain qualifications which may have different names depending on the state in which they’re taken; they generally contain the words ‘Certificate of Education’.   Although they do differ somewhat, all these qualifications are supposed to be viewed on an equal basis by the universities across the country.

In addition to the state examinations, some students also take international examinations such as the International Baccalaureate or CIE (Cambridge International Examinations – or just ‘Cambridge’ for short).

In some cases, qualifications obtained at schools in other countries are regarded as being of equal value to Australian ones; but not always. The universities will be happy to provide guidance here.

As evidence of English language abilities, the universities’ preferred examination is IELTS. IELTS results come in the form of bands, and different bands will be required depending on the course chosen. Other evidence of English language ability may also be accepted.

In most cases, universities accept students on the basis of their completed application form and evidence of their qualifications. They don’t generally interview prospective students.


Australian qualifications are assessed against the Australian Qualifications Framework (AQF), and there are 10 levels, ranging from the most basic certificate, usually in one particular skill area (level 1), up to PhD (level 10).

University programmes

Some international students will achieve direct entry into an undergraduate programme. In other cases, universities will require either one year’s study at a recognised university in the student’s own country, or they will require students to take a one-year foundation programme.

A foundation programme combines introductions to specific academic programmes with higher-level English language courses and general work on study skills. Students who obtain satisfactory results in their academic programmes can generally proceed to undergraduate programmes, usually, though not necessarily, at the same university.

Students with a strong academic background and a good level of English may join an undergraduate programme.  This means that they are starting a programme which will in most cases lead to a Bachelor’s Degree – possibly a BA (Bachelor of Arts), or BSc (Bachelor of Science).  Most undergraduate programmes run for three years. In contrast to degree programmes in the UK, most Australian undergraduate programmes do not lead to Honours degrees – it’s normally necessary to undertake further study to obtain Honours. To do this, students generally have to undertake some substantial independent research. A Bachelor’s degree is assessed at level 7 on the AQF, an Honours degree at level 8.

Students who have already graduated in their own country may be considered for a higher degree in Australia such as an MA (Master of Arts – level 9), or a PhD (Doctorate – level 10) – though there are a number of other postgraduate options such as MBA and MPhil.  Very often an MA is obtained on the way to obtaining a PhD.  Most higher degrees involve a great deal of independent study, and a PhD is focused entirely on research in a new field.

Please note that universities decide themselves on the candidates they will accept.  No qualification is an automatic passport to entry.

Domestic and international students

All Australian universities accept both domestic and international students.

All students pay tuition fees, though tuition fees for international students are higher than those for domestic students (domestic students are those from Australia, though students from New Zealand also pay domestic student fees).  International student fees generally range from about AU$20,000 to 33,000 p.a. Fees may be higher than this for engineering, and will be significantly higher for medicine (up to AU$60,000 p.a.). Fees are generally a little higher at the higher-ranking universities than at other universities. Remember that accommodation and other living costs have to be added on to these fees. The cost of living is generally quite high in Australia, though it does vary according to the location chosen (inevitably cities like Sydney will be more expensive than smaller places).

International students wishing to study in Australia will need to obtain a student visa. This is generally not hard to obtain in the case of bona fide students who have obtained an offer to study at a recognised institution, though it is important to demonstrate an ability to pay the fees for the whole period of study and also meet living expenses.

Student visas for tertiary-level study permit some part-time work, and the conditions are quite generous. The visa allows 40 hours of work per fortnight during term-time and unlimited work during vacations. An additional bonus is that students who graduate from Australian universities, having completed two years or more of study in the country, can apply for a Temporary Graduate work visa for up to 4 years; and beyond that, if employment is found, there are routes to obtain permanent residence. (This information is believed to be correct at the time of writing, but should be checked with Australian immigration authorities; rules can change at any time.)


International students can generally apply to study any of the subjects on offer at universities. However, some are harder to get into than others.  What the universities themselves tend to tell us is this:

  1. Very few places are available for medicine, which is highly competitive.
  2. Places are also limited for law.  (And students should only consider law if they have a really high level of English.)
  3. They would welcome more applications for science and engineering, also for arts, languages and social studies.
  4. Most of the universities offer a huge range of courses, and it would be good to see more international students considering some of the newer and more innovative courses which are often more closely linked to the expected demands of the future.
  5. Business studies is over-subscribed.  A number of universities have commented that they possibly have too many Chinese students taking business studies courses, and would be delighted to see more Chinese students applying for other disciplines.

If universities are actively seeking applicants for particular subjects, they may be less demanding in their expectations.