Five Quick Points About Australia
- Incredibly beautiful country with a wide range of scenic and leisure opportunities
- Internationally acclaimed education options for international students, including many English-language options
- Excellent pathway and articulation between programmes such as diploma to degree
- Competitive in terms of cost of living and study
- Multicultural, friendly society, with over 400,000 international students coming to study each year
Location and Geography
Australia is an island continent of approximately 7.7 million square kilometers, making it the sixth-largest country in the world. Located between the Indian Ocean and the South Pacific Ocean, it is the oldest, lowest (apart from Antarctica), and driest continent. Because of its unique and varied geography, it is an archaeologist’s delight, with land forms dating back millions of years. Australia is mostly flat, but has some notable mountains and long beaches. Canberra is the capital.
The climate ranges from tropical in the north to temperate in the south. The largest part of Australia is desert or semi-arid. Overall, Australian cities enjoy a mild climate, with maximum temperatures falling in a fairly narrow range (e.g., in the summer in Sydney, the temperature might range from 16° to 26° Celsius). But the continent is large, and international students should be informed about the individual climates of the regions they are interested in. They should also be aware that the Australian sun can be very strong.
History and Population
Aboriginal peoples settled Australia about 60,000 years ago – there were many distinct languages and dialects, and customs varied greatly from region to region. British settlement began in 1788, and for a time Australia was actually used as a penal colony (the first fleet of convicts arrived January 26, 1788, and the country still marks this occasion on that date with a holiday called Australia Day). The penal era ended in 1868. The settlement developed into six self-governing colonies which federated in 1901 to form Australia, a nation founded on ideals of egalitarianism, human rights, harmony, and democracy. Since the 1950s, large numbers of displaced people have immigrated to Australia, and this has had a profound effect on its society and culture.
The population is more than 21 million, and is highly urbanized. Just over 60% of Australians live in the main cities and almost 80% within 100 kilometers of a major city. Nearly one in four Australians were born overseas. Australia is predominantly a Christian country, with English the official language. It is a member of the British Commonwealth.
Society and Culture
Australian society is safe, friendly, sophisticated, and harmonious. Many ethnic groups are represented in Australia, making it one of the most culturally diverse countries in the world. The country’s proximity to the Asia-Pacific region also influences its culture, economy, and lifestyle. The government of Australia describes the values underpinning the Australian way of life as:
• Respect for equal worth, dignity and freedom of the individual
• Freedom of speech and association, religion, and a secular government
• Support for parliamentary democracy and the rule of law
• Equality under the law
• Equality of men and women
• Equality of opportunity
• A spirit of egalitarianism that embraces tolerance, mutual respect, and compassion for those in need.
There are many ways to take part in Australian culture, from enjoying the vibrant dining out scene to barbecuing on a beach, and from taking in a world-class theatre event to throwing on a backpack and doing a scenic hike. Surfing and other water activities are also highlights of Australia. It’s been said that Australia is an easy place to be a tourist even on a limited budget.
Australia has a stable, advanced economy, and is a member of the G20 group of nations. In 2009, it was the 13th largest economy in the world by nominal GDP. As with other advanced economies, the service sector dominates, which represents 68% of GDP. Natural resources are also important: the agricultural and mining sectors account for more than half of the nation's exports. The currency is the Australian Dollar.
Australia is divided politically into six states and two territories, and is a stable, liberal parliamentary democracy (similar to the U.S. and U.K.), with three levels of government: federal, state, and local. Federal and state governments administer the laws that apply to education.
Living Conditions and Cost of Living
Living conditions in Australia are generally quite good. Australia consistently ranks in the top five or ten in the world when it comes to quality of life indexes (e.g., The Economist’s) or human development indexes (e.g., The United Nations’). Housing and accommodation is of good quality, public transport is available, food and water are high quality, and many public amenities are accessible. Students can experience a wide range of leisure and sporting activities, and can expect low crime rates and a safe environment.
Tuition fees range from $A5,500 to $30,000 per year. The average fee is approximately $9,000 per year. Health coverage is $380 per year. Accommodation costs $70–400 per week. Other costs are variable but similar to the U.S., Canada, and the U.K.
Education in Australia is the duty of the state governments. Education is divided into three tiers: primary, secondary, and post-secondary/tertiary. Up to the age of around 15 or 16, education is compulsory; this age is determined by each state. The Australian Qualifications Framework (AQF), a unified system of national qualifications of schools, vocational training and education, regulates post-compulsory education and the higher education sector.
Primary school and secondary school take up to 12 years, with years 1–6/7 for primary schooling and years 7/8–12 for secondary. While school education is compulsory up to age 15 or 16 (year 9 or 10), most students continue and finish in year 12 so they can study for the government-endorsed Senior Secondary Certificate of Education. This certificate is recognised for entry into all Australian universities, vocational education and training institutions, and many international universities.
Post-secondary education comprises two sectors: vocational/technical education and higher education. Australia’s vocational education and training (VET) sector must meet the nationally agreed standards of the Australian Quality Training Framework (AQTF). In 2007, nearly 108,000 international students were enrolled in VET courses in Australia.
Higher education programmes lead to the following qualifications:
• Certificates, diplomas, advanced diplomas and associate degrees, which take one to two years to complete.
• Bachelor’s degrees generally take three or four years to complete; they are generally the first university degree students undertake.
• Master’s degrees are undertaken after the completion of at least one bachelor’s degree, and often deal with a subject at a more advanced level.
• Doctoral degrees are undertaken after an honours bachelor’s or a master’s degree, and require a significant original research project resulting in a thesis or dissertation.
There are 39 Australian universities, and many other recognised higher education institutions, located in capital cities and many regional centres. Australian courses are of very high quality and recognised worldwide by employers and other institutions.
Immigration and Visas
Australia is a world leader in the provision of education to international students. More than 400,000 students from around 200 countries receive an Australian education each year. The government notes top source countries for international students as being China, the Republic of Korea, Malaysia, Hong Kong, Japan, Thailand, and Indonesia.
The Education Services for Overseas Students (ESOS) Act 2000 is the legislation regulating international education. Its National Code of Practice sets standards for educational institutions delivering services to overseas students. The Commonwealth Register of Institutions and Courses for Overseas Students (CRICOS) issues a unique CRICOS number. The ESOS Act, the National Code 2007 and CRICOS are national rules and regulations. Each state also has rules and regulations that closely relate to the ESOS Act.
English-language education (ELICOS) centres are accredited by the National ELT Accreditation Scheme (NEAS), and national professional associations include English Australia (EA), ACPET, WAPETIA, and TAFE.
The academic year in Australia comprises two semesters; the first begins in February and the second begins in July. (Some universities and programmes offer other start dates outside of these, but these are the norm.) The deadlines for sending in applications are November 1 for the February intake and April 1 for the July intake. International students should begin the application process at least three months in advance.
For courses lasting less than three months, international students can use a visitor visa or working holiday visa. For longer courses, they must apply for a student visa.
Student visas are only issued for CRICOS-registered institutions or courses. The Migration Act 1958 and associated migration regulations govern the issuing of visas. Visas are divided into seven subclasses based on the study option a student has chosen. They are:
• 570 – Independent ELICOS (English Language Intensive Courses for Overseas Students)
• 571 – Schools
• 572 – Vocational Education and Training
• 573 – Higher Education
• 574 – Post-graduate Research
• 575 – Non-award
• 576 – AusAID and Defence
Students must be enrolled on a full-time basis to be eligible for a student visa. In addition, they must satisfy the Australian government’s general visa conditions. Extra conditions may apply depending on the student’s country of origin.
A student visa allows full-time international students in Australia to work part time (maximum of 20 hours a week) during school semester and full time during vacation periods.
PRISMS (the Provider Registration and International Student Management System) produces and tracks all Confirmation of Enrollments (COE) for international students. A CoE is necessary for the issuing of a student visa.
Australian Education Agent Training Course
Student counselors wishing to specialist in Australia are advised to take the Australian Education Agent Training Course (EATC), designed for education agents who counsel and refer students to study in Australia. It is an online course contained within the wider group of PIER courses for international education professionals, and is offered in partnership with Australia Education International (AEI) and the Australian Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC).
The purpose of the course is to:
• Provide education agents with information about the Australian education system and Australia as a study destination, education quality assurance issues, and the Australian visa regulation system
• Keep agents abreast of changes and developments in international education services
• Encourage and support excellence in business service delivery, study, and career pathways and professional development.
It covers four areas:
• Australia, the AQF, and Career Trends (AQF)
• Legislation and Regulations (REG)
• Working Effectively in International Education (WEF)
• Professional Standards and Ethics (ETH)