Australia has forty universities. There are more than a million people studying at campuses around the country. Close to 300,000 international students attend university classes in Australia.
A detailed list of all universities shows that they are generally big. The average Australian university has around 25,000 people studying on campus. Fourteen universities have more than 30,000 students and seven have more than 40,000.
University of MelbourneWorld university rankings show Australia has somewhere between five and eight of the world's top 100 universities.
The world rankings can be misleading though. They focus on academic research, not teaching. There is a different ordering of Australian universities when ranked by value to students.
A look at Australia's top universities shows what separates the best from the rest. Prestigious universities usually perform well in a range of areas. Some universities are not "prestigious" but rate highly because of teaching quality and graduate salaries.
Australia's best universities for international students are Wollongong, RMIT, Monash (according to stats and ratings). But almost every Australian university could be a good place to study abroad. Twenty-six Australian universities have more than 5,000 international students on campus.
All universities charge different tuition fees for international students. While base fees are similar, each university has its own pricing schedule.
There are big differences in fees for a particular course. The differences matter - tuition fees are usually more than half the cost of studying in Australia.
Australia has a public university system in which most institutions are government funded. While the universities are independent, they operate within the same legal framework. They also have similar approaches to research and teaching.
To qualify for university, Australian students gain a higher school certificate (HSC) over two years. HSC grades are standardised nationally to give each student an ATAR (Australian Tertiary Admission Rank), which is out of 100.
Each university establishes cut-off marks for course entry and uses ATARs to make offers where places are limited.
Universities apply the same merit-based approach to international students. For each country, a minimum high-school grade average or number of points may be required to be admitted to a course.
The most common degree from an Australian university is a 3-year Bachelor Degree in a field such as Arts, Business or Science. Usually there is enough flexibility to begin first-year enrolled in courses across two or three faculties.
Professional degrees such as Engineering or Law are completed over four years. Veterinary and Dentistry degrees take five years and Medical degrees take up to six.
Admission to postgraduate programs is based on achievement in previous university studies and, for some courses, on professional experience as well.
A bachelor degree with honours is usually achieved by doing an extra year of study at the honours level. Honours program placements are offered to students with high bachelor-degree grades, particularly in the final year.
Masters courses are typically one-year duration for full-time study (or two years when completed part time). MBAs may be one or two years of full-time study but are most commonly 1.5 years.
To get into a doctoral program, you need high achievement in a Masters Degree or have a Bachelor Degree with at least Upper-Level Second-Class Honours. A doctoral degree is assessed based on a dissertation, although coursework may feature in the first year.
The academic year for Australian universities is divided into two semesters. Summer courses are also available for some subjects. While each university has its own timetable, most universities follow the pattern shown in the calendar.
Semester 1 starts in late February or early March. An orientation week generally precedes the first classes. This is the best time to join clubs and societies.
There is a mid-semester break of about a week or so in April and the semester 1 teaching period usually ends in late May or early June.
Exams are held over a period of around two weeks and wrap up in late June. After exams, there is a mid-year break of usually four weeks during July (which is the middle of winter).
Semester 2 is organised similarly to Semester 1, but with classes starting in late July / early August and exams held in November. Most students use the summer (from December to February) for holidays or doing paid work.
Australian universities have a culture of independent learning. Lecturers and tutors give students the tools and opportunities to succeed. But they don't do hand holding. You are treated as an adult. If you want to slack off, skip lectures and so forth, then that is up to you.
You will find instructors who are happy to lecture, discuss issues, and read and critique what you have written. You will find those same instructors just as willing to leave you alone and let you choose whether to turn in assignments or not. If you are struggling for whatever reason or are unsure how to approach your work, it is up to you to ask questions.
Part of the Australian university system is to assess students mainly through the end-of-semester exams. There may, depending on the course, be few or no assignments that count towards the final grade. That means results depend heavily on a couple of weeks in June and a couple of weeks in November. The rest of the academic year is about learning and exam preparation. There is plenty of freedom in how you go about it.
Academic work is presented in a variety of ways but the typical course has a combination of lectures and tutorials. The lecturer presents the course content to all students in lectures. Tutorials are an opportunity to work through assignments or topics in a smaller group. For courses with many students, tutors usually conduct the tutorials. Often, they are post-graduate students who are teaching part time.
Studying in Australia as an international student takes some organisation and funding. However, the processes are well developed and streamlined. It can be done without an agent if your English skills are good.
The hardest part about organising study abroad may be choosing where to study. Once you've chosen a university or universities, you can apply directly for a placement. The universities provide clear instructions and help you through the process.
Standard documents you'll need to supply are: certificates of completed study and qualifications; evidence of English language proficiency if relevant; and certificates or documents that verify previous study and job experience (if you are seeking course credits).
To help choose a university, we've ranked universities for international students. If the main issue is deciding where to live, Student Cities Australia describes what it is like to live and study in Australia's university cities.
You can apply for a student visa to study in Australia after a university issues you a Letter of Offer and Electronic Confirmation of Enrolment.
The visa application requires assurances that have enough money to fund the first year. This is $18,610 in addition to tuition fee amounts. Most students are also obliged to purchase Overseas Student Health Cover (OSHC), which costs around A$400 to A$500.
For more information about Australian student visas, see StudentPassport.org.
Booking international flights is easy to do online. Discounts are usually available from about 5-6 months before the travel date. They start to become harder to get as the date approaches. Flying on weekdays or at unusual hours is generally cheaper.
You can leave the departure date until close to the semester start if you are staying at a university residence or otherwise have accommodation booked.
If you are finding accommodation after arriving, you should leave a few weeks earlier and book somewhere to stay temporarily. In most places, there is a rush for private accommodation in the few weeks before university starts.
Each university has an accommodation services team than can provide information or organise a place for you. Preferential treatment is usually given to first-year students from abroad. UOW accommodation shows the kinds of services available.