International students looking to apply to study abroad in Australia should note that the application process for Australian universities is different from that of other international institutions.
Australia has a unique education system and application process. It also has an independent public university system which means there are fewer similarities than with other study destinations such as Canada, the USA, and the UK whose higher education establishments are mostly university systems.
Australian universities have different entry requirements for international students compared with their Australian counterparts. They are more demanding, especially in the key areas of English language proficiency and academic results. Most courses require a score of 6 in IELTS or equivalent to be considered for admission.
Prospective students should be aware of the following before applying to Australian universities:
- English language requirement for admission into a university is higher than in other countries. Applicants will need a score of 6 or more in IELTS with a minimum of 5 in writing and 5 in speaking and listening. This can be costly as many students require additional English courses to meet this standard.
- Australian universities have a unique course system, meaning the academic qualifications of an applicant from another country may not be considered comparable to its Australian counterpart. For example, a bachelor’s degree from India would not be seen as being on par with a bachelor’s degree from Australia, or other countries such as Canada and UK. In addition, many Australian universities have limited places for international students.
- The unique scholarship system in Australia requires prospective students to research available opportunities before approaching the University of their choice. Also, there are fewer scholarships available compared with other countries such as the USA and the UK.
- The international student experience is different from that of domestic students as there is no support network from family and friends, as well as other students studying at universities. The full academic demands on international students may mean that they have less time to engage in social activities compared with domestic university students.
- Courses offered by Australian universities are different from those available at a university back home. Selection of courses is not done via a centralized university portal.
- Australian universities have a different application process with fewer options for students to choose from compared with other countries, due to its independent public university system. For example, applying directly to the University of Sydney will only offer admission into specific courses where there are limited places available. Applicants are advised to apply through Universities Admissions Centre (UAC), an independent organization that is the central body for all undergraduate applications to public universities across Australia with a few exceptions.
- Australian universities have strict academic standards which vary from course to course and institution to institution. In addition, there may be fewer opportunities for credit transfer due to its unique courses system.
- Different fees structure compared with international universities. Most courses have a higher cost of education per student, although there are some exceptions.
- The academic year in Australia is divided into two semesters – semester 1 from March to June, and semester 2 from July to November split by a break in between. Students will then have the long summer holiday from December to February.
- The course structure and timing of semesters are different for international students compared with Australian students. Most courses are year-long and start in March (semester 1), although some disciplines may run from January to December. For example, medicine takes four years to complete instead of three years which international students are used to.
Students will also be required to attend summer school for some subjects, which is an additional cost on top of the course fee.
- A new academic year starts in March and a new student intake does not begin until mid-year, due to the lack of available places at universities during the September semester. As such, international students who arrive in Australia during August to September face a difficult period finding suitable accommodation.
- The student visa application process for international students is long and complicated, requiring students to apply months in advance of their desired course start date. The student visa has specific conditions including the requirement to maintain sufficient funds, the purpose of stay and return travel plans, as well as applying for different visas such as a student visa (subclass 500), dependent spouse visa (subclass 820), or guardian visa (subclass 576). It is best to apply for a student visa around 9 months before the course start date.
- Australia’s immigration laws are strict and it may be difficult for international students to change their immigration status if they decide to study a different course or university.
- International students may be required to undertake a health screening and provide evidence of compulsory private health insurance cover before their student visa can be approved, at an extra cost. Students should also take into account the medical expenses that might occur while traveling in Australia.
- Public transportation in university cities is not common and international students are recommended to apply for an international student ID card (ISIC) before arrival in Australia. Renting a car or getting a driver’s license can be quite costly, depending on the type of vehicle and registration fees. For students who plan to visit family and friends during their holidays, the cost of traveling long distances may be more expensive than home.
- Electricity in Australia is different from most countries. Although there are some similarities between residential electricity providers, every household has its supplier and pricing structure which can differ significantly. For example, some houses face higher charges for peak usage periods while others have a daily supply charge. Australia uses different plugs and sockets compared to some countries, although this is common in many parts of the world.
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