Want to study in Australia? We're not surprised! It's one of the world's most popular study destinations, and it's not difficult to understand why...
What comes to mind when you think of Australia? Sandy beaches and a deep azure ocean, cold cans of lager, and barbeques? Perhaps you might add some weird and wonderful creatures (including some poisonous enough to kill you), miles upon miles of unpeopled wilderness, and an almost maniacal love of sport.
There is a large element of truth to these common suppositions. Australia does boast two beaches known as the Eighty Mile Beach and Ninety Mile Beach (and 10,683 other smaller beaches on its mainland alone); Australians – particularly students – do enjoy a drink on the weekend; and the warm weather does indeed lend itself to the outdoor preparation of food. But this by no means an entire portrait of the country - for one thing, it misses out any mention of Australia's impressive higher education system, which was ranked fourth in the QS Higher Education System Strength Rankings 2016.
Read on for information on the top universities in Australia, popular student cities, costs, visas and more.
Universities in Australia have a strong reputation worldwide. Indeed, only the US and the UK have more universities in the top 100 of the QS World University Rankings®. Australian universities are also known to be strong proponents of internationalization, and are well-prepared to welcome large numbers of international students each year.
Six members of Australia’s Group of Eight (similar to the US Ivy League) make it into the global top 100, and a total of 35 Australian universities are featured in the rankings. Australia also lays claim to the highest number of institutions featured in the QS Top 50 Under 50 and Next 50 Under 50 – which celebrate the world’s leading young universities.
The three top universities in Australia are:
The highest-ranked university in Australia is Australian National University (ANU), placed 22nd in the world in 2016-2017. It’s located in capital city Canberra and is the only university to be created by the parliament of Australia. ANU was ranked first in the country for graduate employability in 2015 by the Emerging Global Employability Survey 2015, and six of its alumni and faculty members are Nobel Laureates.
The University of Melbourne is ranked 42nd in the world and is one of the oldest Australian universities, having been established in 1853. It now has over 47,000 students enrolled, including 12,000 international students from 130 countries. The university is highly reputed for its research, with over 100 research centers and institutes and a research expenditure of $850m a year.
Thinking of studying at ANU or Melbourne? Read a comparison of the two top universities in Australia.
Ranked joint 46th in the world, the University of Sydney was the first Australian university to be founded (in 1850). Its campus has been included in lists of the world’s most beautiful universities and includes a neo-Gothic sandstone quadrangle. The university counts five Australian Prime Ministers among its alumni, including incumbent Malcolm Turnbull, plus 24 Rhodes Scholars.
Other top universities in Australia (all in the global top 250) include:
Explore Australia's top student cities...
The name of Australia’s biggest city tends to evoke images of beaches, surfing and drinking, all in the shadow of the nation’s most recognizable landmark, the Sydney Opera House. And, sure, it is famed for its party lifestyle. But, like many cities famous for their nightlife, it is also bohemian, creative, and intellectual.
If this sounds like your kind of environment, then universities in Sydney provide plenty of choice. Two of Australia’s prestigious Group of Eight – the University of Sydney (ranked joint 46th in the world) and the University of New South Wales (ranked joint 49th) – are based in the city, as well as a number of other institutions, including Macquarie University (joint 247th), the University of Technology, Sydney (193rd) and the University of Western Sydney (551-600).
Considered to be the cultural and multicultural capital of Australia, Melbourne is a good alternative for those who perhaps find Sydney a bit too brash – think of it as a sort of San Francisco to Sydney’s Los Angeles. However, it’s not a pretentious intellectual bubble either – Melbourne’s locals are known for their love of sport, and you won’t be left wanting in terms of nightlife. It is also notable for being one of Australia’s best-preserved cities architecturally.
Melbourne was ranked second in the QS Best Student Cities 2016, with only Paris beating it as the world’s top city for students.
Universities in Melbourne include two Go8 institutions, the University of Melbourne (ranked 42ndin the world) and Monash University (65th), as well as the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT; joint 252nd), Deakin University (355th), La Trobe University (joint 386th), and Swinburne University of Technology (441-450).
Australia’s third-largest city Brisbane is known for the friendliness of its locals – often considered to be a major factor in the city’s growth. Of course, friendliness alone isn’t enough to make a city, and it also has a thriving live music scene, a plethora of world-class cultural institutions and – of course – access to plenty of beautiful beaches.
Among universities in Brisbane, the most prominent is the University of Queensland (Brisbane is the capital of the state of Queensland), which ranks at joint 51st in the QS World University Rankings 2016-2017. The other ranked institutions in the city are the Queensland University of Technology (276th), and Griffith University (336th).
If it’s the quiet life you’re after, then maybe Perth should be quite high up your shortlist. The city lies in splendid isolation on Australia’s west coast, and boasts a high volume of relatively unspoiled and quiet beaches. The city itself is uncrowded and peaceful. If you’re more into cafés, parks and peaceful beaches than all-night partying, then you and Perth might be a match made in heaven.
Universities in Perth include the University of Western Australia (ranked 102nd), Curtin University (joint 306th) and Murdoch University (501-550), and Perth is also the main location for one of Australia’s two private universities, Notre Dame University.
Located in the midst of Australia’s chief wine-growing region, Adelaide is the capital of the region of South Australia. Like all of the cities listed here, Adelaide is a coastal city, so can offer the gold and blue shades which characterize Australia’s beaches, as well as the lush greenery which provides the setting for the region’s vineyards.
Unsurprisingly, given its location, Adelaide is noted for being a good city for lovers of food and drink. It is also, as a result of the many nature preserves and conservation areas which lie within spitting distance of the city, a good choice for lovers of nature and wildlife. Among universities in Adelaide, the highest ranked is the University of Adelaide at joint 125th in the world rankings, followed by the University of South Australia (joint 288th) and Flinders University (551-600).
There is no federal or state-level application system for international students applying to universities in Australia, so you will need to apply directly to the university, usually online and often for a fee. You’ll need to provide documents such as proof of your English language proficiency and certificates that verify your previous study and educational qualifications to date.
If your application is successful, you’ll receive a ‘Letter of Offer’ which you should read carefully before signing and sending it back to the university to confirm your acceptance. This letter is a contract between you and the institution and sets out the course you’ll be enrolled in, the conditions, fees and refund terms. After you’ve accepted your offer and paid your deposit you will receive an ‘Electronic Confirmation of Enrolment’ (eCoE) by email, which outlines your program’s start date, total fees and course length.
The following average annual tuition fees are estimated by StudyinAustralia.gov.au:
Bachelor’s degrees: A$15,000 to $33,000 (~US$11,420-20,610)
Master’s degrees: $20,000 to $37,000 (~US$12,500-23,115)
PhDs: $14,000 to $37,000 (~US$8,740-23,115)
These estimates do not include high-value courses such as medicine, and tuition fees will vary from university to university and subject to subject. If cost is going to be an issue, then make sure you do some research, and consider applying for a scholarship. A searchable database of scholarships to study in Australia can be found here.
When applying for your student visa you will need to prove you have at least A$19,830 (~US$15,100) per year to cover your living costs. If you’d like to live on campus in university accommodation, this will typically cost A$90 to A$280 per week (~US$70-210). You might also like to rent privately, with a shared rental costing around A$165 to A$440 per week (~US$125-335.) You could also choose a homestay, in which you’ll live with an Australian family at their home, with bills and meals usually included in your rent, usually $235 to $325 per week (~US$180-250). Homestays might be particularly beneficial to students who’d like to improve their English language skills.
Australian student visas were previously categorized in different types depending on the type of study program, but have now been simplified so that all international students apply for the same visa – the Student Visa (Subclass 500). The changes also mean that students are no longer assigned an assessment level, as a single immigration risk framework will apply to all international students.
Students from New Zealand are not classed as international students and do not need a visa to study in Australia.
You will also need to meet the Genuine Temporary Entrant (GTE) requirement, which means stating your genuine intention to enter Australia temporarily for the purpose of study – and not as a means to longer-term residency. You may need to attend an interview at your nearest Australian embassy for this.
Here's a quick checklist of what it takes to get an Australian student visa:
You must first be accepted to study a course which is registered on the Commonwealth Register of Institutions of Courses for Overseas Students (CRICOS). You’ll need an online code and a copy of your confirmation of enrolment or an offer letter to serve as proof of this. You will be able to change course afterwards, but it must be to one of the same or higher study level, or else you will need to apply for a new visa (with the exception of changing a PhD to a Masters).
You may need to prove you’re able to cover your course fees, travel expenses and living costs for you and any accompanying family members. At the time of writing (October 2016), the amount you need is deemed to be A$19,830 per year (in addition to tuition fees and travel costs), which is approximately US$15,100. Accommodation fees paid to your institution in advance can be deducted from the total. If you are receiving full funding, you simply need to provide proof of this.
You may be required to take a medical and/or a radiological check-up to show you are in good health, but shouldn’t do this unless specifically advised to. If you are told to take a test, you must attend an appointment with a doctor who has been approved by the Australian immigration department.
You are also obliged to purchase Overseas Student Health Cover – OSHC – unless you are from Belgium, Norway or Sweden, though Swedes must be covered by the National Board of Student Aid or Kammarkollegiet for this to apply. You may purchase this cover through your university, or directly from one of five approved providers: Australian Health Management, BUPA Australia, Medibank Private, Allianz Global Assistance and nib. The cost of health insurance will vary depending on the provider and the length of your studies.
If you’re not from an Anglophone country (and haven’t completed at least five years of study in one), be prepared to prove your proficiency with certified English language test results (the Australian Department of Immigration and Citizenship’s website lists eligible tests). The score you will need will depend on whether you are starting a full degree, studying a foundation course, or enrolling on a preliminary English Language Intensive Courses for Overseas Students (ELICOS).
You will need to prove that you don’t have a substantial criminal record, and your past and present conduct must not suggest you will engage in criminal activity or incite discord in Australia. You may need to acquire penal clearance or get a police statement for this purpose. You will also need to declare fidelity to Australian values by signing an Australian Values Statement.
You must apply for your Australian student visa online. You can use the Document Checklist Tool on the Border.gov.au website to find what you’ll need to submit. All documents should be translated into English.
After you have gathered and scanned your supporting documents, you’ll need to create an account and apply with the online ‘ImmiAccount’ application system.
You will need to submit evidence of all the above along with your application form, passport, passport pictures, offer letter from your university, employment history and proof of your academic record. You may be asked to attend an interview at a local visa office. You’ll need to pay a fee to apply, and can get an estimate of this on the Border.gov.au website. Most applications take four weeks to process.
If you would like to supplement your income with a part-time job while in Australia, your student visa entitles you to work a maximum of 40 hours per fortnight when your course is in session, and unlimited hours in the holidays. You cannot commence work until you have started your course.