Boasting 43 universities across six states and two territories, Australia is home to a neat selection of higher education institutions. Five of its universities – namely Australian National University, University of Sydney, University of Melbourne, University of New South Wales and University of Queensland – even made it into the 2021 QS World University Rankings list of top 50 universities.
In 2020, Australia saw 418,168 overseas enrolments for higher education, making it one of the few countries worldwide to have a large international student population. This means studying abroad in a diverse country like Australia would provide you with a wide range of rewarding experiences such as cross-culturalism, personal growth and even student internship opportunities.
Whether you feel challenged by thoughts of where and what you want to study in the universities in Australia or are unsure about the admissions process, this handy guide has everything you need to know about pursuing higher education in Australia as an international student.
Top universities in Australia
1. Australian National University
Rank (as of 2021): #1 in Australia, #31 in the world
Founded in 1946, the Australian National University (ANU) in Canberra comprises seven academic colleges that house several schools and research centres specialising in disciplines from Arts & Social Sciences to Law and Health & Medicine.
It offers both single and flexible double degrees as well as research-intensive programmes. Plus, it is most known for subjects such as Archaeology, Anthropology, Development Studies, Earth & Marine Sciences, Agriculture & Forestry, Biological Sciences, Linguistics and Economics & Econometrics. Classes have a high staff-to-student ratio, too, so you can be sure that you will receive all the guidance you need for your learning.
ANU’s student body includes over 6,000 international folks, making the university a melting pot of cultures. Looking to add more value to your studies? ANU provides exchange opportunities for students with its global partners, like Imperial College London and the National University of Singapore.
Australian National University
Address: The Australian National University, Canberra, ACT, 2600, Australia
Tel: +61 2 6125 7257 (international), 1800 620 032 (domestic)
Opening hours: 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. (Mon. to Fri.)
2. University of Sydney
Rank (as of 2021): #2 in Australia, #40 in the world
Established in 1850, the University of Sydney (USYD) is the country’s oldest university and is one of the first in the world to admit students solely on academic merit. It’s a member of the Group of Eight, too, a coalition of Australia’s leading research-intensive universities.
As its name implies, USYD is located in Sydney, New South Wales. It encompasses eight academic faculties and schools, offers the widest range of programmes compared to other universities in Australia, and provides state-of-the-art facilities to students attaining their bachelor, master and doctoral degrees. It’s also home to over 25,000 international students, making USYD’s campus life vibrant and diverse.
Boasting an outstanding academic reputation, USYD is first in Australia and one of the top few worldwide for graduate employability – so after graduation, your achievements at USYD will not only prepare you for a career but also help you stand out from others in the global job market.
Thinking of what to study? USYD’s top disciplines include Archaeology; Architecture; Electrical & Electronic Engineering; Education & Training; Mechanical, Aeronautical & Manufacturing Engineering; Medicine; Modern Languages; Philosophy; Veterinary Science; and sports-related subjects.
University of Sydney
Address: The University of Sydney, Camperdown/Darlington, NSW, 2006, Australia
Tel: +61 2 8627 1444 (international), 1800 793 864 (domestic)
Opening hours: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. (Mon. to Fri.)
3. University of Melbourne
Rank (as of 2021): #3 in Australia, #41 in the world
Nestled in the heart of central Melbourne is Australia’s second oldest university, the University of Melbourne (UniMelb). Initiated in the colonial era, UniMelb started with just four professors and 16 students. Today, it never fails to rank among the best universities in Australia and globally. And it has an estimated 8,000 staff and a student population of more than 48,000 – including over 13,000 international students from across 130 countries.
Having affiliations with 10 residential colleges, UniMelb offers accommodation for students on campus, allowing you to enrich your academic experience and form a social network quickly. If you’ve decided to live off campus, don’t worry about missing out. UniMelb has tonnes of clubs and societies you can join to meet like-minded people. Not to forget, its main campus is in Australia’s cultural capital, so you can find a blistering array of things to do, eat and shop when you’re not busy with lectures and tutorials.
Wondering what makes UniMelb’s degrees stand out? The university’s curriculum allows you to choose a major of your interest from 11 of its academic units. You then get to choose subjects from other study areas to complement your chosen discipline, giving you a breadth and depth of knowledge that makes you open-minded and your expertise invaluable.
Notable areas of study include Anatomy & Physiology; Biological Sciences; Business & Management Studies; Computer Science & Information Systems; Dentistry; English Language & Literature; Economics & Econometrics; Electrical & Electronic Engineering; Law; Modern Languages; Mechanical, Aeronautical & Manufacturing Engineering; Medicine; Performing Arts; Psychology and Statistics & Operational Research.
University of Melbourne
Address: The University of Melbourne, Grattan St., Parkville, Victoria, 3010, Australia
Tel: +61 3 9035 5511 (international), 13 6352 (domestic)
Opening hours: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. (Mon. to Wed.); 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. (Thurs. to Fri.)
4. University of New South Wales
Rank (as of 2021): #4 in Australia, #44 in the world
Formerly known as New South Wales University of Technology, the University of New South Wales (UNSW) was established in 1949 as a technology-based institution because the nation felt that Science and Technology played critical roles in society’s transformation post-World War II. In 1958, UNSW transitioned to a generalist university and changed its name to its current one. Other faculties like Arts, Medicine and Law were then introduced.
Presently, UNSW is one of the top universities in Australia and a founding member of the prestigious Group of Eight. Based in Sydney, UNSW features seven faculties through which it offers bachelor, master and doctoral degrees. With an estimated 64,000 students from across 130 countries, the university’s community is culturally diverse and vibrant.
Renowned for its new and creative approaches to education and research, its best subjects are Accounting & Finance; Law; Civil & Structural Engineering; Materials Science and Mechanical, Aeronautical & Manufacturing Engineering. UNSW leads the country in Medicine, too, where its medical students’ median ATAR (Australian Tertiary Admission Rank) is higher than most Australian medical schools.
University of New South Wales
Address: University of New South Wales, Sydney, NSW, 2052, Australia
Tel: +61 2 9385 1844 (international); 1300 864 679 (domestic)
Opening hours: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. (Mon. to Fri.)
5. University of Queensland
Rank (as of 2021): #5 in Australia, #46 in the world
Apart from being one of the six sandstone universities in Australia – an informal designation of the oldest university in each state of the country – the University of Queensland (UQ) is one of the leading universities in Australia and the world. Situated in Brisbane, UQ was founded in 1909 by the Queensland parliament and is one of only three Australian members of Universitas 21 – an international network of research-intensive universities – and a founding member of the Group of Eight.
Encompassing six faculties, a college and a graduate school, prospective students can complete their associate, bachelor, master, doctoral and higher doctorate degrees at UQ. If you’re looking to study Agricultural & Forestry, Biological Sciences, Environmental Sciences or sports-related subjects, you’d be glad to know that these are the university’s top disciplines.
UQ has also attained more Australian Awards for University Teaching than any other university. Not to mention, the campus community itself is supportive, inclusive and diverse, where about 18,000 international students make up the university’s population. So, you can be assured that UQ is committed to providing students with the best opportunities and experiences.
University of Queensland
Address: The University of Queensland, Brisbane, QLD, 4072, Australia
Tel: +61 7 3365 7941 (international); 07 3365 2203 (domestic)
Opening hours: 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. (Mon. to Fri.)
Admissions process for universities in Australia
1. Admission criteria
When it comes to entry requirements for international students, Australian universities accept most school-leaving examination results such as the SAT or ACT, GCE A Levels, International Baccalaureate Diploma and British Columbia Graduation Certificate.
However, if your certificate is not in the university’s list of equivalent qualifications, your eligibility for entry will be assessed on a case-by-case basis during the application process. Depending on the degree you apply for, you might also have to meet additional requirements such as prerequisite subjects, portfolio submission, interviews or auditions.
Since all degrees in Australia are taught and assessed in English, you would have to prove your English proficiency if you’re a non-native English speaker or your previous studies’ primary language of instruction was not English. To show proof of English language competency, you can either sit for tests, such as TOEFL or IELTS, or check if you meet the university’s English language requirement with your secondary English study.
2. Application period and semester dates
As an international student, it is paramount to know the application period and deadlines as well as semester dates before applying to your chosen university to ensure there is enough time for obtaining a student visa for Australia.
Most universities in Australia have intakes twice a year because they follow a two-semester pattern – the first semester starts in February till June and the second one starts from July to November. Some universities also have intakes for the summer or they follow a three-term schedule, so it’s always best to check with the university to determine the exact application dates.
In general, if you’re looking to apply for the February intake, the application deadline is between October and December of the previous year. But if you want to start university in July, your deadline is between April and June of the same year. Do also note that some universities charge an application fee of around $100.
3. Tuition fees and scholarships
Tuition fees at universities in Australia range greatly depending on the degree and level of study. They are calculated per unit, paid every semester and are subjected to a 5-percent increase each year. This means international students can expect to pay a hefty sum of up to four times more than domestic students to the university.
For those studying at an undergraduate level, the annual tuition fee ranges from $15,000 to $33,000. Postgraduate students can expect annual fees to range from $20,000 to $37,000 for a master degree and $14,000 to $37,000 for a doctorate.
Looking for ways to help offset your tuition fees? Most universities offer international students scholarships, study grants and bursaries that can assist you financially. The Australian Government, as well as private and public organisations, also provide similar options.
From shared bedrooms to fully furnished studio apartments, the majority of the universities in Australia offer affordable student accommodation on campus so you can check out each university’s website for details on student residences.
If you choose to live off campus, there is a huge variety of student housing options to choose from such as UniLodge, Urbanest, Student Housing Australia, Atira and Scape. You can also rent directly from property owners and agents in Australia.
5. Additional costs
Apart from tuition fees and living expenses, other costs you need to consider when applying to universities in Australia include health insurance, a student visa and a lawyer’s fee to certify that your educational certificates are legit.
Health insurance for international students, or Overseas Student Health Cover (OSHC), is mandatory and covers the length of your student visa. When you receive your acceptance letter, there will be an outline of OSHC requirements, including the university’s preferred healthcare provider where you can purchase the cover. You’re not obligated to buy from them, though, as you can obtain OSHC from any approved healthcare provider. The cost of your OSHC will depend if you’re purchasing for an individual, a couple or a family.
You will be issued the Subclass 500 student visa – a temporary visa that allows you to study for up to five years in the country – when you’re accepted and enrolled in the university of your choice. You can apply for this visa within and outside Australia, and the cost starts from $630. But before you’re granted this visa, you’ll have to submit proof of funds to support yourself during your studies and have OSHC. You’ll also need to undergo a medical examination from a physician or clinic approved by Australia’s Department of Home Affairs.
Most universities in Australia require students to certify their academic documents as a true copy of the original, whether it is professional qualifications or English translations of documents. You’ll need to engage a lawyer to do this, and the cost would depend on the lawyer or firm you’ve hired.