University Education Manual-Australia

Australian Universities


The higher education sector consists mainly of universities but also government and private institutions. This sector contributes to Australian society and Australia’s international reputation in so many ways.

As a Stars N Beyond representative, you need to be able to describe the important and unique characteristics of this sector to your students, and help them plan learning pathways for them, that are realistic and the most appropriate.

Focus Questions

  1. What kinds of qualifications does the higher education sector provide?
  2. What is the organisational structure of a university?
  3. What proportion of universities and their campuses are located in capital cities?
  4. How is the quality of higher education providers maintained?
  5. How could you determine which universities are the best?
  6. What is “internationalisation” and why is this vital to Australia’s education industry?

Introduction to Australian Universities

There are 41 Australian universities, of which 3 are private (Bond, Torrens and Notre Dame). In addition, Carnegie Mellon and University College London have campuses in Adelaide, South Australia.

Australian Universities have three primary roles:

  • Storing knowledge;
  • Transferring knowledge to others;
  • Creating knowledge.

Each institution has the freedom to specify its own mission and purpose, modes of teaching and research, and the range and content of their educational programs.

As an agent, you need to be aware of the particular goals of the universities that you promote.

Higher education in Australia enjoys a high international reputation. Australian universities are part of a clearly recognised international community of scholarship, with academic staff recruited internationally.

University Locations

Australian Universities are located in all major State and Territory capital cities as well as in many regional centres.

The locations of their main campuses are given in the table and diagram below:




Australian Capital Territory (2)

The Australian National University


University of Canberra


New South Wales (11)

Australian Catholic University


Charles Sturt University


Macquarie University


Southern Cross University


The University of Newcastle


The University of New England


The University of New South Wales


The University of Sydney


University of Technology Sydney


University of Western Sydney


University of Wollongong


Northern Territory (1)

Charles Darwin University


Queensland (8)

Bond University

Gold Coast

Central Queensland University


Griffith University


James Cook University

Townsville, Cairns

Queensland University of Technology


The University of Queensland


University of Southern Queensland


University of the Sunshine Coast



South Australia (4)

The University of Adelaide


Flinders University


University of South Australia


Torrens University Australia


Tasmania (1)

University of Tasmania


Victoria (9)

Deakin University


The University of Divinity


Federation University


La Trobe University


Monash University


Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology


Swinburne University of Technology


The University of Melbourne


Victoria University


Western Australia (5)

Curtin University of Technology


Edith Cowan University


Murdoch University


The University of Western Australia


The University of Notre Dame



University Courses and Qualifications

There are some important points about courses that you need to be aware of:

Courses can vary considerably in form, entry requirements, duration and method of assessment.

– The academic year is generally from: Early March to late November, or
Mid-July to late June of the following year.

The year is normally divided into two semesters, although some universities offer three semesters in one calendar year for certain courses.

Students studying towards a Doctoral Degree or other postgraduate research awards may be able to negotiate an alternative starting date with their research supervisor.

The following qualifications are available at Australian universities and approved higher education providers. This information is general, so you need to realise that a particular university course may not have exactly the same length or purpose.


All of these qualifications are listed on the AQF.




Duration = 1 -2 years

  • This is offered by some universities and university colleges.
  • It is the same level as a Diploma that is offered by a VET institution.


Bachelor Degree

Duration = minimum of 3 years

  • This is the basic university qualification and is required for entry to a profession.
  • Study involves acquiring a systematic and coherent body of knowledge, its underlying principles and concepts, and associated problem-solving techniques.
  • Students develop the academic skills and aptitudes to comprehend and evaluate new information, concepts and evidence from a wide range of sources. Also, students learn to review, consolidate, extend and apply the knowledge and techniques that they have learnt.
  • Study usually involves major studies in an area where significant academic literature is available.
  • Course content is to a significant depth and progressively developed to a high level. This also prepares students for further postgraduate study if desired.

Bachelor Degree (Honours) Duration = 4 years

  • A Bachelor Degree with Honours takes an additional year after a Bachelor Degree with a focus on research.
  • Honours may also be granted where outstanding achievement is recorded in a Bachelor Degree course of four or more years.


Graduate Certificate

Duration = 6 months

• The Graduate Certificate typically involves broadening individual skills already gained in an undergraduate program, or developing vocational knowledge and skills in a new professional area.

Graduate Diploma

Duration = 12 months

  • The Graduate Diploma either broadens individual skills obtained in an undergraduate program or develops vocational knowledge and skills in a new professional area.
  • This qualification involves further specialisation within a systematic and coherent body of knowledge.


Masters Degree(Coursework) Duration = 1 – 2 years

  • The Masters Degree enhances specific professional or vocational skills.
  • It is typically gained by coursework and some research.
  • Study involves acquiring an in-depth understanding of a specific area of knowledge usually by independent research.
  • A Masters Degree takes one to two years, after completion of a Bachelors Degree.

Masters Degree (Research) – MPhil Duration = 1 – 2 years

• The Master of Philosophy program aims to provide research training that develops independent research skills including:

o ability to formulate a significant problem;
o mastery of appropriate conceptual and methodological

o capacity for articulate and critical analysis.

  • Admission requires a Bachelor degree with Honours but students may be admitted after completing a Graduate Diploma and having significant work experience.
  • It is possible to transfer to a PhD program after 1 year full-time if the work in the MPhil course is considered to be a suitable standard.

Doctoral Degree

(Doctor of Philosophy – PhD)
Duration = usually 3 years

  • The Doctoral Degree is the highest award offered by Australian universities. Although traditional PhDs are research degrees, some programs may have a coursework component.
  • There are three components to a Doctoral Degree:

o a review of relevant literature, experimentation, or other

systemic approaches to a body of knowledge.

o an original research project resulting in a significant contribution to knowledge and understanding and/or the application of knowledge within a discipline or field of study.

o a substantial and well-ordered thesis, demonstrating the relationship of the research to the broader framework of the discipline or field of study.

Non-University Higher Education

TAFE Institutes, specialised institutes and other private colleges also provide post-school qualifications. While they mostly offer courses to a Diploma level, some courses are offered through to Bachelor degree level.

Some of these institutions offer degrees in specialised areas that no universities cover. For example, the Australian Defence Force Academy (ADFA) offers degrees in military subjects or the Endeavour College of Natural Health offers degrees in alternative medicine.

International Student Numbers

Australia has for many years welcomed overseas students into Australian universities. Many leaders of business, government, the military and even the nobility from many countries, especially in the Asian region, have studied and obtained their qualifications in Australian universities.

Australia is now a world leader in the provision of education to overseas students. There were 410,925 international students from 193 countries studying on a student visa in Australia in 2013.

India, Thailand and the Republic of Korea which had larger shares of students in vocational education and training (VET); Brazil with greater numbers of students in ELICOS; and the USA with more students in the non-award sector than any other.

AEI’s research snapshots are easy to read and give and very informative: see the enrolment data for 2013.

Open the International data page 2014 on the Australia Education International website to view the range of information provided.

Entry Points, Entry Requirements and Costs

Students need to meet both a sufficient level of English language proficiency and the minimum academic requirements before they can be admitted to an Australian university.

English language proficiency

Australian education institutions can only accept students with an appropriate level of English proficiency. Institutions set their own English language requirements. The language proficiency entry levels (e.g. IELTS, CAE or other, specified by the education provider, like RMIT English Worldwide) may be different from those required for a student visa.

If a student’s English language proficiency score is not high enough, there are many English language courses with starting dates throughout the year to prepare them for further study in Australia. All Australian universities either have their own English language centre or have links with English language colleges.

Academic Requirements

Institutions are free to determine the academic requirements for entry to their courses. These requirements depend on:

  • The level and content of the study the student has completed in Australia or their home country;
  • The level and academic standards of the institution at which they completed their study. In general, however, the following criteria apply for undergraduate and postgraduate courses:

Undergraduate courses

Undergraduate degrees require an Australian Senior School Certificate of Education (Year 12) or the overseas equivalent of this. Some degrees may also have certain pre-requisite subjects and grades.

For international students who have attended an Australian High School, entry to higher education institutions is normally based on completion of Year 12 and determined by the student’s tertiary entrance score or rank.

A tertiary admissions centre then assesses a student’s tertiary entrance rank in the same way as for domestic students:


Tertiary Admission Centre

Northern Territory

Charles Darwin University


Universities Admissions Centre (UAC)


Queensland Tertiary Admissions Centre (QTAC)

South Australia

South Australian Tertiary Admissions Centre (SATAC)


University of Tasmania


Victoria Tertiary Admissions Centre (VTAC)

Western Australia

Tertiary Institutions Service Centre (TISC)

Most universities have specialised pathway programs, such as Foundation courses or Diploma programs that enable international students who do not meet academic requirements to gain entry.

Postgraduate courses

Entry to postgraduate courses requires completion to a satisfactory standard of a Bachelor degree. Prospective students may also need to demonstrate research ability or relevant work experience.

Costs of Australian Education for Overseas Students

University courses in Australia are comparable to those in other English speaking countries. For example, the cost of a Bachelor of Arts may be:


Yearly Cost (Undergraduate)


$A20,000 – $A45,000

USA (public university)

$A20,000 +

USA (private university)

$A40,000 +


$A18,000 +


In the Australian education system, some degrees are slightly shorter than in other countries. For example, some Bachelor degrees take three years in Australia but four years in the USA.

Quality Assurance of Australian Universities

Some of the measures that operate to safeguard and improve quality of Australia’s Universities include:

  • The Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency (TEQSA)
  • Universities Australia (Universities Australia)

The Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency

TEQSA is an independent body with powers to regulate university and non-university higher education providers, monitor quality and set standards. TEQSA registers providers, carries out evaluations of standards and performance, protects and assures the quality of international education and streamlines current regulatory arrangements.

Universities Australia

Universities Australia is the peak body representing Australian Universities and operates a Code of Ethical Practice in the Provision of Education to International Students by Australian Universities, and associated Guidelines.

The code provides ethical practice guidelines for universities about promotion and marketing, and agents and partners. It also provides information about:

  • the admission of students,
  • arrival and orientation,
  • student support,
  • fee-charging and refunds,
  • university infrastructure,
  • returning home support.

The Code of Practice provides overseas students with clear assurances in respect of:

  • maintaining academic standards,
  • being accurate and honest in the provision of information to prospective students,
  • the welfare of international students,
  • being sensitive to the culture, customs and linguistic needs and characteristics of international students,
  • delivering to students the commitments made to them by education agents or others representing the University,
  •  the refund policy for overseas students.

Which are the “Best” Australian Universities?

International Students often want to know which the ‘best’ universities in Australia are. In many countries, universities are officially ranked on a scale. However, the judgments that underlie this kind of ‘ranking’ can be too subjective and the rank may not necessarily match what is best for a particular student’s individual needs.

One commonly referred to international ranking table is the Academic Ranking of World Universities (ARWU) from the Institute of Higher Education, Shanghai Jiao Tong University. The ARWU has been published by ShanghaiRanking Consultancy since 2009. A range of other ranking methods are summarised by the Australian Education Network.

It is also rare to find a university anywhere in the world that is the ‘best’ in all that they do. Likewise, a reputation earned in one discipline, perhaps many years ago, may not be relevant to another discipline in the 21st Century.

However, there are a number of possible indicators that show the relative standings of Australian universities.

Entry Standards

While entry levels are fairly uniform for entry into Australian university degrees, different universities do have different requirements for entry into similar courses. The relative academic levels can illustrate which universities are considered better. This can show how, in general, academically more able students choose one university over another to do a similar course.

Groups of Universities

Universities that share common characteristics have formed groups and networks that to some extent illustrate differences in focus and objectives between groups of universities and the commonalities of those within the group. These groups may be linked through a formal network, such as the Australian Technology Network of Universities (ATN) and the Regional Universities Network which have their headquarters situated in a regional centre. All Australian universities are members of Universities Australia, the peak body representing the university sector:


Group of 8 (Go8)

These are research intensive universities and are amongst the oldest in Australia.

They are regularly listed towards the top of any ranking scheme that includes Australian universities.

They also:

  • receive over 70% of national research grants,
  • employ 80% of university researchers,


  • produce 60% of research publications,
  • generate 80% of the most highly cited university

publications. The members are:

  • University of Adelaide
  • Australian National University
  • University of Melbourne
  • Monash University
  • University of New South Wales
  • University of Queensland
  • University of Sydney
  • University of Western Australia

Australian Technology Network of Universities (ATN)

This is a grouping of five universities that share a common focus regarding the practical application of tertiary studies and research.

The members are:

  • Curtin University of Technology
  • University of South Australia
  • RMIT University
  • University of Technology Sydney
  • Queensland University of Technology

Innovative Research Universities Australia (IRU Australia)

This is a grouping of seven universities, established as research- based universities with:

  • a comprehensive disciplinary coverage,
  • a strong commitment to innovation,
  • an inter-disciplinary focus.

The members are:

  • Charles Darwin University
  • Flinders University
  • Griffith University


  • James Cook University
  • La Trobe University
  • Murdoch University
  • The University of Newcastle

Regional Universities

These are universities that serve the needs of a regional area in Australia:

  • Central Queensland University
  • Charles Darwin University
  • Charles Sturt University
  • Deakin University
  • James Cook University
  • La Trobe University
  • The University of New England
  • The University of Newcastle
  • University of Ballarat
  • University of Southern Queensland
  • University of the Sunshine Coast
  • University of Tasmania
  • University of Wollongong

International groupings

One of the most noteworthy groups that includes these Australian universities is Universitas 21:

  • University of Melbourne,
  • University of New South Wales,
  • University of Queensland.


Internationalisation in Higher Education in Australia

Internationalisation is developing within higher education in the following areas:




Many degrees have learning materials that reflect:

  • the international content of subject matter,
  • the possible international profile of students undertaking a program.

Student mobility & exchange

Most universities are promoting the benefits of:

  • domestic students undertaking a portion of their studies (and work experience) in another country,
  • international students undertaking their ‘study abroad’ in Australia.

Institutional partnerships

  • Universities have formed a number of international groups and bi-lateral arrangements to collaborate in research and increasingly in the delivery of specified programs.
  • Private providers tend to be forming partnerships with public universities that target the international education market.

International Students

  • International students have become very visible on Australian campuses and they represent from 10% to 30% of the total student population.
  • Some universities have specific campuses that are predominately populated by international students.
  • International alumni associations have become important in both recruitment and in advocating for a particular institution.


Structural administration

  • While Universities have a variety of administrative structures, their international activities are headed by a senior management position such as Deputy or Pro-Vice-Chancellor (International).
  • Typically an administrative Director of an International Office manages the strategic and procedural issues.
  • In some cases an autonomous unit is dedicated to international students and international recruitment can exist separate from the main university administration.
  • Some universities have off-shore administrative staff and/or marketing staff and/or offices aiding their activities in that country.

Program delivery

Universities have begun to develop means of delivering their programs that increase access for international students such as:

  • flexible web-based delivery (including distance education),· off-shore campuses,
  • off-shore twinning arrangements,
  • off-shore partners that deliver all or part of their course(s).

In some cases, regional Australian universities have established metropolitan campuses due to the attraction of the larger cities to international students rather than less popular rural and smaller town environments.

How Good Are Australian Universities?

Australia education system (especially our universities) is responsible for developing a culture of innovation and discovery.

This culture of innovation aims to:

  • make the best use of national and international information networks,
  • encourage creativity in all forms of research,
  • promote collaboration between university researchers and industry,
  • disseminate the outcomes of research to the wider community.

Australian scientists and researchers have been responsible for many advances in business and industry, and have made significant contributions in medical science. Australia has been a pioneer in solar energy research and other potential energy sources. Australian advances in technology include the development of the black box flight recorder, bionic ear implants, a heart pacemaker, the vaccine for cancer of the cervix and computer hardware and software. Australia is also at the forefront of producing new technologies such as wave-piercing ocean catamarans, solar-powered cars and the revolutionary orbital engine.

Australians have won prestigious international awards including eight Nobel prizes: 2005 Medicine
1995 Medicine
1975 Chemistry

1973 Literature 1963 Medicine 1960 Medicine 1945 Medicine 1915 Physics

Significant Australian inventions include:

  • Penicillin – (Howard Walter Florey)
  • Ultrasound scanners – (Sonography)
  • Radio telescopes
  • Photovoltaic cells (Solar cells)
  • The Xerox photocopying process
  • The Electric Drill
  • Postage stamps
  • Regular ‘around the world’ airline services
  • The inflatable aircraft escape slide
  • The automatic letter-sorting machine
  • The two stroke lawn mower
  • The rotary hoist washing line (hills hoist)
  • Lithium as a treatment for manic depression
  • Latex gloves

Post-Secondary School Courses and Careers


Agents often need to explain the relevance of a given course to a student in relationship to their proposed career path. This section provides an overview of courses and career pathways available through Australian TAFE colleges, private colleges and universities in the following disciplines:

  • Business and Economics;
  • Law;
  • Agriculture, Environment and Veterinary Science;
  • Health Sciences;
  • Science;
  • Engineering and Technology;
  • Architecture and Building;
  • Creative Industries;
  • Humanities, Social Science and Education.

Information on programs and entry requirements in this section are general and typical. Councilor should refer to the relevant institution for specific requirements for programs they offer.

When referring to entry requirements, this section uses: Points awarded for A-level subjects:













For example, a university may require an entry requirement of B-B-C in 3 subjects, which equals 11 points (= 4 + 4 + 3). Note that AS-levels are equivalent to half points (eg. A = 2.5).

Focus Questions

  1. How do the entry requirements for Diploma and Advanced Diploma courses tend to differ from Bachelor degree courses?
  2. For each of the disciplines listed above, what are some of the specialisations that students could study and what careers might they lead to?
  3. What are some professional associations that students could join upon completing their undergraduate studies?

Useful Information Government sites

  • Australia – Country Information (DFAT)
  • Australian Demographic Statistics, March 2011 (ABS)
  • Public Holidays

Tourism sites

  • Australian Capital Tourism Corporation
  • Tourism New South Wales
  • Northern Territory Tourism Commission
  • Tourism Queensland
  • South Australian Tourism Commission
  • Tourism Tasmania
  • Tourism Victoria
  • Western Australian Tourism Commission

Weather Information

  • Rainfall and Temperature graphs (BOM)
  • you also can find weather information about cities around the world from World Climate.

Standard Times

Australia has both Standard Times and Daylight Saving Times (note that GMT stands for Greenwich Mean Time).






Eastern Standard Time (EST)

New South Wales Australian Capital Territory Victoria

+ 10


Central Standard Time (CST)

South Australia Northern Territory

+ 9.5


Western Standard Time (WST)

Western Australia




Daylight Saving Times





Eastern Daylight/Summer Time (EDT)

New South Wales Australian Capital Territory Victoria

+ 11


Central Daylight/Summer Time (CDT)

South Australia

+ 10.5


Western Daylight/Summer Time (WDT)

Western Australia

+ 9.0


No Daylight Saving Times – use Standard Times

Queensland Northern Territory

+ 10 + 9.5

7:00pm 6:30pm

Refer to the Bureau of Meteorology for the start and finish dates of daylight saving times.