Brief Background: The Australian government’s
National Strategy for International Education 2025 sets out a 10-year
plan to grow and sustain Australia as a global leader in education,
training, and research.
In 2018 there were 693,750 international students in Australia, with
about 44 percent enrolled in Australia’s 39 public and four private
universities—or unis, as known in local parlance. In 2018 there were
11,468 US students enrolled in Australian higher education institutions,
including 790 undergraduates, 2,000 graduate students. Most other
American students participated in short-term study abroad programs
Many unis have multiple campuses, often in different states and
cities, to improve access and choice for students. Some universities
also have formed groups of like-minded institutions. Universities Australia
represents 39 comprehensive universities in Australia and maintains a
relationship with its counterpart organizations overseas, including the
American Council on Education and Universities Canada.
Australia’s Group of Eight
(Go8) comprises Australia’s eight leading research intensive
universities: University of Melbourne, Australian National University
(ANU), University of Sydney, University of Queensland, University of
Western Australia, University of Adelaide, Monash University, and
University of New South Wales (UNSW). Go8 members are consistently
ranked in the top 150 institutions worldwide (with 7 in the top 100) in
the Academic Ranking of World Universities from Shanghai Jiao Tong
University, the Times Higher Education World Rankings, and the QS World University Rankings.
The Australian Technology Network of Universities
(ATN) comprises four of the most innovative and enterprising
universities in Australia: University of Technology Sydney (UTS), RMIT
University, University of South Australia, and Curtin University.
Members are a new generation of universities focused on industry
collaboration and research with real-world impact. Their focus: To
produce work-ready graduates.
Innovative Research Universities
(IRU) is a policy network of seven comprehensive universities: Charles
Darwin University, James Cook University, Griffith University, La Trobe
University, Flinders University, Murdoch University, and Western Sydney
University. IRU members seek to lead the way in collaborative teaching,
language, research, and policy initiatives. Eighty-nine percent of
research at IRU universities is ranked at world standard or above,
according to Excellence in Research for Australia 2018.
The Regional Universities Network
(RUN) is a group of six universities with headquarters in regional
Australia and playing major roles in their regions. RUN universities are
Central Queensland University, Southern Cross University, Federation
University Australia, University of New England, University of Southern
Queensland, and University of the Sunshine Coast.
Good to Know: Students can typically earn an
undergraduate degree in Australia in three years. However, there are
exceptions that may require an additional year or two of study:
professional fields (for example, veterinary science), honors programs,
double bachelor’s degree programs, or an area of study that requires
The term course generally refers to a program of study. Only
rarely can students enroll at an Australian university with an
undecided program of study, though options are available for students
who want to change their course after enrolling. International students
who want to change majors are urged to check with immigration officials
to ensure they follow the correct procedure.
In Australia, higher education institutions generally set their own
admission requirements for domestic and international students. They
will take into consideration whether the student has the academic
ability to complete the course of study as well as English language
proficiency. For a range of professional courses, additional admission
requirements may be set, such as an interview with the university or an
independent aptitude test, but this will depend on the university
students are applying to.
Universities develop their professional courses in collaboration with
the relevant professional accreditation body or association in that
field (for example, the Australian Medical Council or Engineers
Australia) to ensure students will meet Australian accreditation
standards once they graduate and will be eligible for entry into their
chosen profession. These professional courses tend to include an
internship or placement component, and universities will offer various
levels of support and services to assist students with completing the
requirements. Students should contact the university at which they would
like to study, to discuss internship availability.
Australia’s Educational Services for Overseas Student (ESOS) Act is
designed to protect and promote the rights of international students on
student visas. For example, institutions are required by law to provide
access to orientation and support services, and accurate and timely
information about fees and study options. Many free services are
available to all students on all campuses, including academic guidance,
skills and career advice, employment search support, and assistance to
students with disabilities.
The Overseas Students Ombudsman
is a specialist role of the Commonwealth Ombudsman which investigates
complaints about problems that prospective, current or former overseas
students have with private education providers in Australia.
The Fair Work Ombudsman
is an independent government agency created by the Fair Work Act in
2009. It provides free education and information about people’s basic
rights and protections in the workplace, including minimum pay and
conditions. It also helps to resolve workplace issues, conduct
investigations, and enforce relevant Commonwealth workplace laws.
“One of my initial worries was whether my Australian degree
would limit me after graduation. I thought that if my degree, including
law and business courses, were restricted to an Australian context, it
might not apply globally. However, all my classes so far have been
teaching content within the context of a global industry and not only
focusing on the Australian aspect of it.”
—Sharon Thomas, Georgia/TCK, Queensland University of Technology
Academic Calendar: Most universities have two
semesters: February/March to June/July, and July/August to
November/December, with breaks in between. Many courses allow students
to begin their studies in either semester. International students from
the northern hemisphere often start in Australia’s second semester, late
July or early August. The student visa system caters to different
However, many Australian universities are moving toward more flexible
arrangements, (e.g., some have three semesters, some four) with the
intent of making things more convenient for northern hemisphere
Most Australian unis run orientation week—known as O-week—at the start of each semester.
Search: The Australian government’s Study in Australia
website offers general advice and information for prospective
international students. All institutions offering courses to
international students in Australia must be registered through the
Commonwealth Register of Institutions and Courses for Overseas Students
(known as CRICOS). Its website, enables users to search by institution or by course of study. Universities Australia offers additional institutional profiles and key contacts.
State and territory governments also host websites focused on services they provide for international students:Australian Capital TerritoryNew South WalesNorthern TerritoryQueenslandSouth AustraliaTasmaniaVictoriaWestern Australia
Apply: There is no national application system for
international students. However, Tertiary Admission Centres (TACs)
process applications for institutions within a particular state.
International students should check if the course they are interested in
encourages direct application to the institution or application through
Students apply to a course of study within a university. Many
universities allow students to apply a year ahead of time. Admission is
typically offered on a rolling basis, and students are encouraged to
submit their application as soon as they can.
Deadlines: Applications are due in late October or
late April, depending on whether a student intends to start in the first
or second semester.
Application Fee: Varies by university. Can be up to 100 Australian dollars.
Admission Requirements: For a majority of programs,
admission is based on completion of a high school diploma, AP exam
scores, and scores on either the SAT or ACT exam. Full IB diplomas are
also accepted. Some programs require a minimum high school GPA.
If a student is applying through a TAC, eligibility for a selected
program is determined by converting a student’s final results (GPA +
SAT; IB) into an Australia Tertiary Admissions Ranking (ATAR)
equivalent. This ATAR score is the result of the final year of high
school for Australian students and is the primary metric used for entry
into undergraduate programs.
If an international student is applying directly to a university,
eligibility will be determined by assessing the final high school
results (GPA + SAT; IB) against the cutoff entry requirements published
by each university.
Some courses may require additional components in an application,
such as a statement of purpose, interview, or portfolio, but this is
relatively rare at the bachelor’s level. Essays and recommendation
letters are generally not required or considered.
Upon Acceptance: Accepted students receive a letter of offer,
which serves as a contract between the student and the institution. It
sets out the course the student will be enrolled in, enrollment
conditions, fees, and refund policies. The letter of offer is required
to obtain a student visa.
Applicants are either offered a conditional place subject to final
results (if they apply before final exam scores are released) or an
unconditional offer if completed results are provided. Copies of final
result statements and certificates must be notarized. Details on this
step in the process will be provided to successful candidates.
If a student’s qualifications are not sufficient to gain admission to an Australian university, he or she can enroll in a foundation
year lasting six to twelve months. Successful completion of a
foundation year results in admission to the university where the program
Tuition and Fees: Tuition and fees are regulated at
the national level and tend not to fluctuate. Annual undergraduate
bachelor’s degree charges range from AU$15,000 to AU$33,000 (this range
does not include professional courses such as veterinary or medical),
depending upon the program of study.
US undergraduates may be eligible for some scholarships, grants, and
other forms of financial support offered by the Australian government,
individual education institutions, and a number of other public and
private organizations. Several Australian universities also accept US
federal student loans.
More information on financial aid for international students can be found through Study in Australia’s website.
“Studying abroad can be quite hard sometimes, and I think the
only way to make it through is if you feel passionate about what you’re
doing. When exploring options, select a program you are passionate
about and don’t necessarily focus on the country or location. When you
get a little homesick you can think about what you are doing this for
and it’s because you love what you’re doing, you love that field of
Housing: Australian university students
traditionally live at home or off-campus, but more universities are
building accommodations to attract international and local students.
Most universities have comfortable and furnished apartment-style living
on campus or close by, sometimes with cleaning and meals included. Some
universities offer residential colleges that provide dining services;
opportunities for social, sporting, and cultural events; and
extracurricular academic programs for residents. Individual institutions
should be contacted directly in order to ascertain the accommodations
available and how the costs compare with securing housing on one’s own.
Minimum cost of living, estimated by Australia’s Department of Home
Affairs, is AU$20,290 a year. A shared rental can be anywhere between
AU$85 and AU$215 per week, and on-campus housing, AU$90 and AU$280 per
week. Groceries and dining out range from AU$80 to AU$280 weekly.
Students will also need to consider the cost of utilities, public
transportation, and a phone plan when they arrive in Australia. More
information can be found through Study in Australia’s website.
Visa and Other Permits: Students planning to pursue
an undergraduate degree in Australia will be eligible for a student visa
(subclass 500). Visa information is available on the Australian
government’s Department of Home Affairs website.
Australia also runs a Visa and Citizenship Information Service office,
located in Ottawa, Canada, which can be reached by phone at (613)
238-1040. In addition to a visa, students will also need to meet the
Genuine Temporary Entrant (GTE) requirement stating they intend to stay
in Australia temporarily for the purpose of study.
The visa application will require evidence of academic and language
skills, evidence that the student has funds to support their study, and
evidence of Overseas Student Health Coverage (OSHC). The cost of OSHC
varies and all costs will be in Australian dollars. For more information
on health coverage, visit the Australian government’s Department of Health website.
Visa fees vary depending on an applicant’s circumstances. For more information see the Australian government’s Department of Home Affairs website.
The student visa status allows students to work part-time (up to 40
hours over a two-week period) when school is in session, and unlimited
hours outside term time. Following graduation, students are eligible to
remain in Australia on their student visa for approximately two months,
provided the course of study they completed was longer than 10 months.
Students who wish to work in Australia—either temporarily or for a
longer term—must apply for a new work stream visa, which is granted for
durations of 18 months, two years, three years, or four years, depending
on the level and type of degree achieved.
Advice from the Field: Students can apply to
Australian universities through education agents, however this is not
necessary. Note that under Australian law, an Australian university that
works with agents must list all of its contracted agents on the
institution’s website. For more information on agents in Australia,
visit Study in Australia.
The Australian government has developed a strategy to reach out to
the global alumni community, inviting alumni to connect and engage with
Australia and the region. The Australia Global Alumni website
provides a virtual global network to connect, build and invigorate the
international community of scholars who have studied in Australia, and
Australians who have studied overseas. The website is also home to the
practitioner hub, an exclusive virtual community for practitioners in
alumni engagement – such as Australian education institutions, alumni
associations, state and federal government agencies, and professional
bodies. Each Australian university also has its own alumni programs.