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The Complete Guideline to Study in Australia

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The Complete Guideline to Study in Australia

Jan 13, 2022Date Published
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Pre-pandemic numbers say a lot about Australia’s rapid growth in popularity as an international student destination. In fact, in 2019, Australia reported a record high of over 700,000 international students. Like most study abroad destinations, these numbers dipped somewhat over 2020 and 2021. The good news, though, is that from December 2021, Australia is reopening its borders and offering limited travel exemptions to international students. As international travel becomes safer, we are optimistic that incoming student numbers will soon bounce right back up. And to make sure you’re prepared, here’s our complete Student Guide Australia to get you going!


What You Need to Know to Study in Australia – For International Students

Before we jump into things, let’s tackle the question of why you might want to study in Australia in the first place.

Well, for starters – of its 43 universities, 36 rank among QS World University Rankings 2022! And of these, five universities hold positions in the top 50 of the best universities in the world. This gives you an idea of the world-class reputation and quality of Australian education. A degree from one of these institutions says a lot about your skill, knowledge, and ability as a graduate. 20 of Australia’s universities land in the QS Graduate Employability Rankings of 2022, after all. Of these, the University of Sydney holds a coveted place in the top 5, and the University of Melbourne in the top 10. 

As you can tell, getting an education at an Australian university can open up numerous doors in your future. Alongside flexible immigration possibilities, including the opportunity to seek post-study work and permanent residency options, Australia stays highly attractive to international students! With its prospering economy, high standards of living, gorgeous natural and man-made attractions, and friendly people, the Land of Oz has it all.

So, now that you know exactly why Australia could be the launchpad to your future success, let’s jump right into everything you need to know to study in Australia!


1. Understand the Australian Qualifications Framework (AQF)

The Australian education system does things a little differently than what you’re used to. Higher education qualifications in Australia fall under the Australian Qualifications Framework (AQF). When researching universities and the academic requirements to be eligible, you might run into AQF levels quite often. So, let’s break them down so they’re easier to understand!

The AQF has ten levels overall. Levels 1 through 7 cover undergraduate studies. These include certifications, foundational degrees, and diplomas, as well as a full bachelor’s degree. Completing a three-year bachelor’s degree is equivalent to a Level 7 qualification on the AQF. 

If you complete an honour’s degree, for example by studying an additional undergraduate year for a four-year bachelor’s degree, you have a Level 8 qualification. Level 8 qualifications shift you into territory somewhere between a normal bachelor’s degree and a graduate certificate. Levels 9 and 10 cover postgraduate studies – master’s and postdoctoral degrees, respectively, fall under these categories.

So what happens if you don’t meet the AQF equivalent requirements with your current qualifications? Many Australian universities offer foundation courses or preparatory pathways leading into a degree program. If you find that you don’t have the qualifications to be eligible for your chosen degree program, look into options for a prep program by the university!

2. Find Your Course Through a CRICOS Search

To study in Australia, you need to know if you meet the international student requirements. First, you must make sure your chosen course qualifies under the Commonwealth Register of Institutions and Courses for Overseas Students (CRICOS). To get a visa to study in Canada, you need a Confirmation of Enrolment (CoE) for a CRICOS-registered course! 

The degree you enrol in depends on your level of study and the outcomes you’re seeking from the qualification. Some of the options available include:

Entry Requirements
Associate Degree
2 years
Year 12 or equivalent, Certificate III/IV (Level 3 on the AQF)
A short degree program – either a pathway for a bachelor’s degree or an Advanced Diploma in specialist industry training
Bachelor’s Degree
3-5 years 
Year 12 or equivalent, Certificate III/IV (Level 3 on the AQF)
More comprehensive course content than an Associate Degree; basic qualification level for entry into job sectors and postgraduate studies
Bachelor’s Degree (Honours)
4 years
Bachelor’s Degree 
An additional year of study after the first three years of a bachelor’s degree. This may include research elements
Graduate Certificate
6 months
Bachelor’s Degree (Level 7 qualification on the AQF)
A short course to develop knowledge and skills picked up during your undergraduate program, or to build foundational skills and knowledge in a new area
Graduate Diploma
1 year
Bachelor’s Degree  (Level 7 qualification on the AQF)
A more specialised and intensive degree to prepare you for a specialised professional pathway or further studies
Master’s Degree (Coursework)
1-2 years
Bachelor’s or Bachelor’s Honours Degree (Level 7-8 qualification on the AQF)
Develops advanced knowledge and skills in a field through traditional coursework and assessments
Master’s Degree


2 years
Bachelor’s or Bachelor’s Honours Degree (Level 7-8 qualification on the AQF)
Develops your research competencies and allows you to establish and enhance your expertise in your field of choice
Doctoral Degree
2-3 years
Master’s Degree (Level 9 qualification on the AQF)
An intensive research program, and the highest educational award on offer by Australian institutions


3. Adjust to the Australian Academic Year

No international student guide: Australia is complete without a heads-up about the Australian academic calendar. You are likely already familiar with spring, summer, and fall semesters. What you might not know, though, is that these mean completely different things in Australia. 

This island nation – the world’s smallest continent, but its sixth biggest country – is in the southern hemisphere. This flips the seasons over in Australia. The summer session for most Australian universities begins between November and January. The autumn sessions begin between February and June – the official start of the Australian academic calendar. Lastly, the spring session falls between July and November.

You might find this a bit confusing at the beginning. This will especially be the case when the rest of the world seems to be going in the opposite direction. It’ll definitely be at least a little strange when your friends back home are off to the beach over summer break while you’re bundled up against an Australian winter. 

This is all the more reason to start getting used to the upside-down seasons in Australia as soon as possible. It’ll make your research and travel preparations much easier, to start off. You’ll know right away that if a course is taking applications for the Autumn intake, you’ll begin classes at the beginning of the year, around February. Plus, knowing about the seasonal idiosyncrasies helps you prepare for what to pack or buy when you get to Australia. After all, you don’t want to pack up all your winter clothing and arrive in Australia in December, only to find it’s the middle of summer there. 


3. Get to Know What Your Grades Mean

Once you get to Australia and start classes, you might realise the grading system is also a little different from what you know. Again, it’s nothing to panic over. Different universities set different grade boundaries. Overall though, rather than the letter grades you know, these are the grades you’ll be seeing, in descending order:

  • Higher Distinction – HD 
  • Distinction – D
  • Credit – C
  • Pass – P
  • Fail – F


4. Living Costs Guide for International Students in Australia

You’ve looked at the academic side of things – but what about actual cost of living in Australia? Given how huge the country is, it’s unsurprising that the experience can vary from place to place. What is consistent, though, is that Australia remains one of the best places in the world to live in. The OECD Better Life Index finds the country ranks much higher than average across several metrics denoting a higher standard of life. And better yet? Nine Australian cities hold spots in the top 100 best student cities globally, according to QS Top Universities 2022! Two of these cities, Melbourne and Sydney, are in the top ten

While it is true that Melbourne and Sydney also fall on the more expensive side when it comes to affordability, there are excellent universities nationwide at more affordable locations too. Vienna, Graz, and the Gold Coast fall among more affordable destinations for students. Plus, the costs of living for each student can vary within the same city, so it boils down to your requirements and preferences.

In general, we recommend thoroughly researching the costs of living in your city of choice based on your preferences. From the location, down to your university, your choice of accommodation, lifestyle, etc. a lot can impact your yearly costs. Study Australia recommends using this cost of living calculator to get a more specific estimate of your cost of living. 


It bases your estimated weekly costs on:

  • The city
  • Location (city/suburbs)
  • Accommodation (homestay, shared housing, one-bedroom unit, managed apartment)
  • Transport (frequency of modes of transport: walking/bicycling, public transport, car, taxi/Uber) 
  • Food (how often you eat out, which meals you eat out for, price ranges your meals fall under at home and when eating out)
  • Personal expenses (how often you use products and services such as gyms, haircuts, cosmetics, mobile plan)
  • Clothing (how often you shop for clothing items, categorised by price ranges)
  • Entertainment (how often you opt to go for: cinemas, live music/sports events, social sport/group classes, night out)

Living costs are something you need to consider even before arriving in Australia. One of the prerequisites of getting the Subclass 500 student visa is to prove you can financially cover your tuition fees and living costs for 12 months while in Australia. Bank statements proving that a parent or spouse has a yearly income of at least AUD 62,222 counts as proof of financial support, for example. As of 2019, Study Australia lists the 12-year living costs for an international student to be around AUD 21,041.


5. Work as a Student in Australia

The good news is, getting a Subclass 500 visa automatically qualifies you to work in Australia! International students can work for up to 40 hours over a fortnight (two weeks). They can also work full-time over regular holiday breaks! These job opportunities can include tutoring, on-campus jobs like working as a library or teaching assistant, bartenders or waiters, and more. Internships are also on the table and an excellent opportunity for international students. After all, Australia is one of the world’s strongest and most highly-developed economies. The hands-on experience you get here is cutting-edge and invaluable when you enter the workforce.

6. Post-Study Work Opportunities

Our Student Guide Australia doesn’t just span the time you spend studying in Australia, just as Australia’s opportunities for international students don’t end at graduation. While your Student visa is still valid, you can apply to stay between two and four years in Australia through its Post Study Work stream! Once you hold the Temporary Graduate (Subclass 485) visa, you can stay, travel, and work in Australia. How long the visa is valid for depends on the level of qualification you hold:

  • Bachelor’s Degree (including Honours): 2 years
  • Master’s Degree (coursework): 2 years
  • Master’s Degree (research): 3 years
  • Doctoral Degree: 4 years

You may be eligible to apply for a second Post Study Work stream visa after the first. And if your long-term goal is to settle in Australia as a permanent resident, working in Australia can help you qualify for a work-stream permanent residence visa, too! 


7. Settling in and Experiencing Australia

International students typically worry about how well they’ll be able to settle down in a foreign country. On that front, you can be at ease – Australians are friendly, warm, and welcoming people, with a carefree and easy-going approach to life. Australians deeply believe that everyone deserves fair and equal treatment no matter who they are and where they’re from. Don’t hesitate to ask for help when you need it, or to reach out to strike up conversations and friendships. You’ll likely make connections that will last a lifetime! 

The most common language of use in Australia is English. And one of the key requirements of both universities accepting international students and Australian immigration is proof of your English language ability. If you’re not completely confident expressing yourself in English, it's never too late to start practicing. After all, it isn’t enough to just pass the English tests for your target scores. The scores are there to convince universities and immigration agents that you can get by just fine speaking in the main communication medium of the country. To make your life easier, working on your fluency in the language now can go a long way when you’re actually studying and living in Australia.


Wrapping Up: Student Guide Australia

For some of you, studying in Australia literally and figuratively involves travelling to the other side of the world. Some things may feel a little upside-down compared to what you’re used to. Hopefully, our Student Guide Australia covers all the major things you need to know to make your life there a little easier. From what the different qualification levels mean, to the differences in the academic calendar and grading system, knowing what to expect can make your transition into Australia’s excellent higher education system that much smoother.


Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

How much will it cost me to study in Australia as an international student?

This depends on a bunch of factors. Programs within the same university can vary in tuition fee ranges, and university fee ranges will also vary across institutions. Living costs depend on a bunch of factors as well, such as:

    • The city you live in – the bigger and more metropolitan cities like Melbourne and Sydney are more expensive to live in
    • Location within the city – the city centres are more expensive than the suburbs
    • Type of accommodation – student accommodation is more affordable for some students since it often covers utility payments and cuts down transport costs since rooms are generally on-campus. Other students prefer to split rent with friends or housemates, sharing a flat in a cheaper or more convenient location
  • Personal expenses and lifestyle

Study Australia recommends this handy living cost calculator to get a more accurate idea of your estimated weekly expenses by zooming in on each of the above items. 

What requirements do international students need to meet to study in Australia?

To qualify for a Subclass 500 Student visa, students need to check off a few requirements. These include having:

  • A Confirmation of Enrolment (CoE) from a CRICOS-registered course at an Australian university
  • Proof of funds to cover their tuition fees and living costs for 12 months
  • Proof of their English language proficiency
  • Overseas Student Health Cover (OSHC)
  • Proof that they meet health requirements
  • Signed Australian Values Statement
  • Proof of being a Genuine Temporary Entrant 

The visa application process can be lengthy and at times complicated, so be sure you’re fully familiar with all the steps and requirements to apply for an Australian student visa!