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Thinking of studying in Australia? Useful tips and advice to get you started

Meld Magazine

Thu Dec 19 2013


MORE and more students are choosing to study overseas, but how do you choose which country to go to or university to apply for? Grant Roberts provides a good starting point for those thinking about studying in Australia. 


Students in secondary school or college may have at one point or other wondered about the opportunity to furthering their studies abroad. But how do you know if it’s merely a flight of fancy or a prospect worth pursuing?

According to figures from the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), more and more students are choosing to study overseas. The number of students enrolling outside their country of citizenship has increased fivefold over the past three decades, from from 0.8 million worldwide in 1975 to 4.1 million in 2010.

In 2011-2012, more than 1.5 million students pursued an education overseas in popular destinations including Australia, the United Kingdom and the US.

Australia’s academic reputation

Interestingly, a survey conducted by Australian-based education resources, services and technology provider Hobsons has found that teacher quality, subject availability and academic reputation were ranked first, second and third respectively as the most important factors for prospective international students when choosing a university, ahead of tuition fees, scholarships and living expenses.

According to the latest QS World University Rankings, Australia has seven universities listed among the world’s top 100.

Australian Universities in the World’s Top 100CityRanking
Australian National UniversityCanberra27
University of MelbourneMelbourne31
University of SydneySydney38
University of QueenslandBrisbane43
University of New South WalesSydney52
Monash UniversityMelbourne69
University of Western AustraliaPerth84

Sydney and Melbourne in particular, have been rated among the top 10 best student cities, behind Paris, London and Singapore.

Top 10 Student Cities
  1. Paris
  2. London
  3. Singapore
  4. Sydney
  5. Melbourne
  6. Zurich
  7. Hong Kong
  8. Boston
  9. Montreal
  10. Munich


Word-of-mouth recommendations 

However, word-of-mouth recommendations often play a key role in helping students decide which country and university they should settle on.

The University of Melbourne’s international media manager David Scott says students that have studied in Australia often pass on their “enriching academic and social experiences” to their friends and family, encouraging them to try it as well.

“The University consistently attracts international students each year from around the globe who tell us their friends and cousins once studied here. (We’ve) always had a very large international student cohort, and you need only look at our alumni network to see that – we have 280,000 graduates in 150 countries, with 15 per cent living outside Australia,” he said.

Proximity to home

Singapore was too near for me and the UK or the US was too far for her, so we settled for Australia.” – Rachel Gan, Malaysia

Rachel Gan, a student from Malaysia, says she chose to study in Australia because her family had spoken positively about their experiences there and it wasn’t “too far away”.

“I’ve had cousins study at RMIT and they came back with a good impression. My father himself once studied in Perth, so he was biased towards Australia rather than the UK or US,” she said.

“Also distance mattered to my mother, and Australia was a better option. Singapore was too near for me and the UK or the US was too far for her, so we settled for Australia.”

Rachel’s story is a common one, and one worth bearing in mind. Would you be prepared to put up with long-haul flights? Students from Asia are only a six to eight hour flight away if they choose to study in Australia, which makes it more convenient for short trips home or family and friends planning to visit.


Applications and school fees

If you’re considering Australia, the application process is relatively simple as the majority of universities in Australia allow students to apply online. You must ensure you provide the university with necessary certified paperwork such as academic transcripts and other documents.

And contrary to popular expectations, an overseas education isn’t reserved for those who have deep pockets. In fact, the survey conducted by Hobsons also revealed almost half (48 per cent) of international students studying or wanting to study at Australian universities come from very low income backgrounds.

Many universities in Australia encourage students to apply for international scholarships.

The University of Melbourne for example has an extensive scholarship program, offering undergraduate international students with 100 per cent fee remission valued at $138,000 for the entire duration of their course (excluding honours). In order to be eligible for the scholarship program, students must have achieved excellent final year results such as an International Baccalaureate score of 44, four A grades in the GCE A-Levels or an ATAR of 99.9 in the Australian Year 12 program.

Cost of living 

In addition to school fees, living expenses will also need to be factored into your considerations for studying overseas. These include setting aside money for rent, food, transport, utilities including electricity and gas and other expenses such as mobile phones, internet, and spending money.

To give you an idea of what a year’s expenses would add up to, the University of Melbourne has a very useful Cost of Living Summary Table:

Type of AccommodationNo. of WeeksWeekly Rent / Board Range ($)Estimated Total ($) Rent or Board and other expenses
Sharing Rented Premises (with 2 others)Close to Parkville campus


190 – 230

22 000 – 28 800

Within 6 kilometres of Uni


155 -185

20 000 – 26 300

Rural area


80 – 100

15 600 – 20 700

Student ApartmentsTwo bedroom, shared


215 – 260

23 400 – 30 500

One bedroom not shared


305 – 370

28 500 – 36 700

HostelOne bedroom – shared bathroom/kitchen


185 – 225

22 100 – 28 200

Residential Colleges (near or on campus)35 week stay


552 – 712*

27 600 – 36 600

44 week stay


552 – 712*

34 072 – 45 017

HomestayLiving with a local family


240 – 290*

16 000 – 20 700

Source: University of Melbourne

Some students choose to find part-time work to help keep up with the cost of living.

For La Trobe University student from Sri Lanka Patrick Abdeen, managing his living costs has been the biggest challenge.

“The cost of living in Australia is relatively high and that doesn’t even factor in the foreign currency exchange rate,” he said.

Sean Harrison Nyàk, a student from Singapore, feels transportation costs largely contribute to a high cost of living in Melbourne, but is looking forward to discounted ticket prices on public transport from 2015.

“It has been pretty expensive living in (Melbourne) as an international student and we can’t get concession for transport and have to pay the full price for transport. It’s good to see the government has listened to students and followed the other states,” he said.

For more information about studying abroad in Australia, you may wish to check out the official Australian Government website for international students, where you can search for courses, institutions and scholarships, and more information on studying and living in Australia.