Q & A
We have collected the most frequently asked questions, together with answers, about studying and living in Australia. We welcome your comments on any of the topics under each of the subject headings, found in the menu on the right-hand side.
Studying Law in Australia
Interested in law studies? Check out this handy online resource from the Council of Australian Law Deans to help you understand how this works in Australia.
Message from Chair, Council of Australian Law Deans:
Australia has 32 law schools offering undergraduate and postgraduate degrees that are recognised in Australia and in many other countries. It is well-known that graduates of Australian law schools are much sought after by employers around the world. The main reason for this is the very high quality of the legal education they receive[... ]
Law teachers and domestic students warmly welcome our international students who have added new and exciting dimensions to Australian legal education[...]
I believe that Studying Law in Australia, sponsored by the International Legal Services Advisory Council (ILSAC) and supported by all Australia’s law deans, is one very important way of making you welcome. You can read more by exploring the website: http://www.cald.asn.au/slia.
Professor William Ford
Chair, Council of Australian Law Deans
What does undergraduate and postgraduate mean?
Higher education in Australia refers to university and non-university higher education institutions which award degree or sub-degree qualifications. The three main cycles of higher education are Bachelor, Master and Doctoral studies.
Undergraduate refers to a first or bachelor degree, which can typically take a minimum of three years (Bachelor of Arts) up to six years (Bachelor of Medicine). It also includes an Associate degree, Advanced diploma and Diploma.
Postgraduate refers to a specialist second degree, which requires that you have an undergraduate qualification to be admitted into the course. This encompasses a Doctorate, Master degree, Postgraduate diploma or certificate (often referred to as a Graduate certificate or diploma).
How does the Australian uni points system compare to ECTS?
Australian institutions recognise the European Credit Transfer and Accumulation System (ECTS*). Generally speaking, a full-time undergraduate study load per semester (12 points at Macquarie University, 18 points at Flinders University, 24 points at the University of Sydney, or 50 points at the University of Melbourne) is equivalent to 30 ECTS.
Each institution has its own way of allocating points per subject. For example, at Macquarie University a 3 credit point subject is equivalent to 7.5 ECTS, while at the University of Sydney a 6 credit point subject is equivalent to 7.5 ECTS credits.
A full-time arts student at the University of Sydney would usually take units of study worth a total of 48 credit points per year (24 credit points per semester). A three-year degree x 48 credit points per year equals 144 credit points in total.
*60 ECTS credits measures the full-time student load for one academic year. A full-time load equals 1500-1800 hours per year, so one credit equals around 25-30 learning hours.
Do I need to take an English-language test?
It will depend on your previous educational experience. If you have completed your secondary education in an English speaking country or have a qualification or degree undertaken and assessed in English you do not have to sit a test. You must, however, provide a statement or certificate confirming this.
Other applicants, who do not have a certificate verifying their English language proficiency, will need to sit an English-language test. There are a number of officially recognised tests including IELTS, TOEFL, and CULT. You must have undertaken the test no more than two year prior to commencing your course.
Day to day living
How much will it cost to live in Australia?
It’s difficult to put an exact figure on your living expenses in Australia as it will vary according to the state and city. Some larger universities estimate the cost of living at approximately A$20,000 per year including accommodation, food, textbooks, health cover, phone/internet, transport and excluding tuition fees, buying clothing, medicines etc. However, the cost of living in Tasmania, for example, is estimated at between A$12,000 - A$14,500 a year.
The Australian Department of Immigration and Citizenship Affairs (DIAC) uses the following as a guide when assessing Student Visa applications (excluding study fees).
Living costs of A$18,000 per year if you are unaccompanied.
- 35% extra per year if you have a spouse with you in Australia.
- 20% extra per year if you have one child (plus A$8,000 per year for the cost of schooling, if the child is of school age).
- 15% extra per year for each additional child (plus A$8,000 for the cost of schooling, if the child is of school age).
Many universities estimate the cost of living at approximately A$20,000 per year including accommodation, food, textbooks, health cover, phone/internet, transport and excluding tuition fees, buying clothing, medicines etc.
Will it be hard to fit in?
All international students experience some form of “Cultural Transitioning” (CT) or culture shock. It can be something as simple as missing the food you would normally have at home, or speaking your own language. Maybe it’s just that you don’t understand the cultural norms.
Don’t be surprised if you feel waves of excitement, confusion, happiness and frustration in a short space of time. It’s might not feel it, but it’s normal. It’s all part of adjusting to a new life.
Try to remain positive, stay in touch with family and friends, join in campus activities, talk to students in your tutorials and practice your English, chat with ex-Alumni on Facebook, or talk over your problem with staff in the International Students’ Office. If you have a particular passion – for example salsa dancing, judo, yoga or films – search out likeminded people from clubs or associations on campus or in your local community. Remember, culture shock affects everybody and there are people there to help you.
Will I be able to find food that I like?
Shopping for food in major cities and towns is simple. As Australia is a multicultural country you’ll find that ingredients from all over the world are readily available. The big chain supermarkets such as Woolworths or Coles have everything from fresh and frozen food to spices, bread and toiletries. You’ll find them located in or near large commercial shopping centres, or on main shopping streets.
All of the capital cities have a fresh produce market selling fruit and vegetables, meat, seafood etc. As well, you’ll find specialist grocers and delicatessens which stock a range of European products. And, there are some great restaurants throughout Australia, if your budget can bear it.
Can I use my mobile phone in Australia?
It depends on your phone. Australia uses the GSM system. Check with your home telephone provider before you leave to make sure your handset will work in Australia, and ensure it is not blocked to other service providers. Then when you arrive in Australia, just buy a pre-paid SIM card.
The major mobile phone providers are Vodafone, Optus, Telstra, Virgin Mobile and Three. Some offer special deals for international calls, so make sure you shop around.
If you don’t already have your own mobile phone, you can sign up for a monthly rental plan after you arrive but be aware that these are usually for a minimum of 12 months. It’s also possible to order and pay online for a phone so that it’s waiting for you when you arrive.
If you don’t want to be locked into a contract, consider buying a second hand mobile phone. International students who are leaving Australia often want to sell their phones so check notice boards around campus.
VoIP is also widely available.
Can I text easily?
Australians were expected to send out 25 billion text messages in 2009, so yes, sending an SMS is really easy. Mobile phone operators, as a rule, include it in their pre-paid and post paid plans; it’s not an extra.
Accessing the web, video, music and information on mobile phones n Australia is well and truly mainstream. To large extent, using mobiles phone for just calls and texting is a thing of the past, with a third of Australians now checking emails on their handsets and more than 70% accessing mobile entertainment and information services. And, the use of mobile phone services continues to grow.
Is it easy to find Internet access?
Australia has one of the highest levels of Internet usage in the world, and use of Wi-Fi has almost tripled in the last year or so; many institutions offer Wi-Fi connections on campus. As well, there are Internet cafes and kiosks at airports and shopping centres, or you can buy an Internet pre-pay card, available from newsagencies, that gives you Internet access on your computer for a fixed period of time.
As a rule, the best Internet deals usually mean using the same provider that supplies your mobile or home phone service. Providers include Telstra, Optus, iPrimus, AAPT.
Some institutions allot email accounts to students when they enrol; email can then be accessed through their student portal. All notices from the institution will be sent here so be sure to check it regularly.
Is it easy to open a bank account?
Yes, it’s a simple process. You can even do this online before you leave home. The Commonwealth Bank, for example, has an online application form which can be submitted and processed prior to your arrival in Australia.
Otherwise, if you have been in Australia for less than six weeks, you only need your passport as identification to open a bank account. It should normally take about 15 minutes. If you have been in Australia for longer than six weeks, you will need some further identification. The bank can advise you.
It’s a good idea to open an account that has access to an automated teller machine (ATM) via a card. Cash is then accessible 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and you can also buy items at supermarkets or petrol stations with your ATM card (this is known as EFTPOS). Almost all withdrawals and deposits can be done through the ATM, over the telephone or via the Internet.
How do I transfer money from overseas?
In these global times, it’s very easy to transfer money to Australia. You can do it via a bank draft, an International Money Transfer or Money Order into your local bank account or via a credit card. Fees do apply.
If sending money from overseas to an Australian bank account, you need to provide your overseas bank with the following details:
- your Australian bank account name
- your Australian bank BSB (branch number) and account number (your BSB is the first six numbers that appear before your account number)
- where your account is with the relevant bank and the Australian SWIFT Code
If you decide to bring cash into Australia, be aware that if you are carrying a total of A$10,000 or more in cash of any currency, you must declare the money on your Incoming Passenger Card and when questioned by Australian Customs Officials upon arrival. A failure to do so may result in the money being confiscated and you being arrested. It is not an offence to bring this money into Australia. The offence is not declaring the money.
Is it easy to find rental accommodation off-campus?
It all depends on where you’d like to live in your new city. The reality is that competition for areas near universities is always strong and you should allow yourself at least 4 weeks before your classes begin to find suitable rental accommodation. The type of accommodation can be either a shared house or apartment, or a private rental where you sign the lease and take full responsibility for payment of all rent.
Before signing a lease, it is very important that you understand what your responsibilities are. If you have any concerns, or do not understand a lease, ask an International Student Adviser to clearly explain it before you sign it.
It’s a good idea to dress well for meetings or inspections as first impressions do count; prospective landlords or their agents like to be reassured that their property will be looked after. Check out our tips in “Accommodation”.
Will someone be there to meet me when I arrive?
The International Student Services section of your institution can arrange for a representative to be at the airport or train station to take you to your pre-arranged accommodation. A fee is sometimes charged for this service. Contact the institution for additional information on their meet and greet programs.
It is best to send any information/application form to be met to the institution with at least 48 hours notice of a mid week arrival and 72 hours if you are arriving on a weekend.
If you are arriving with family members or friends, be sure to alert the institution to the number of people. If there is not sufficient room in the official transfer vehicle, make sure your friends have enough Australian currency to pay for a taxi or an airport shuttle bus.
Should I buy a car?
You can buy a car relatively easily but be warned that it can be an expensive option, even if the cost of the car is cheap. Consider the hidden costs such as registration fees, insurance, petrol and maintenance costs, repairs, parking fees, stamp duty, registration transfer fees, and joining an emergency roadside service (essential for breakdowns).
As a rule, there is huge demand for parking spaces at university campuses, and there are on-campus parking officials that will issue parking tickets if cars are illegally parked, or do not have permits or vouchers displayed.
Is there good public transport?
Australia is vast and many of its cities are spread out. Major cities and towns have efficient public transport to get people from place to place easily and affordably, and there are many forms including buses, trains, trams, light rail and ferries. You can also think about walking or cycling once you’ve settled into your surroundings.
All the capital cities have a public transport network comprising buses, trains, and in some cases, ferries. Check out services and timetables for:
Full-time tertiary students are eligible for ‘concession’ (student discount) fares in some states. You need a valid student ID card to buy and use a student concession ticket in those states.
If you’re studying somewhere like Canberra consider buying a bicycle as there is a great network of bike paths. It’s cheap, healthy, fast and environmentally friendly!
Can I work?
Permission to work is automatically given when your student visa is granted but you can only commence work after your course has started. You are allowed to work a maximum of 20 hours a week during the term and unlimited hours during semester breaks. You will need a Tax File Number (TFN) from the Australian Taxation Office to work.
All your visa information is held electronically and you can access it at any time using the Visa Entitlement Verification Online (VEVO) system. Employers, banks and government services can also check details about your visa entitlements on VEVO once they have your permission.
Additional information is available from the Department of Immigration and Citizenship on www.immi.gov.au.
Is it easy to find work?
It really depends on the kind of job you’re seeking. Casual work in pubs, bars and restaurants and retail stores can be reasonably easy to come by whereas a casual position in a business organisation that fits in with your study schedule can be harder to find.
You can contact companies directly once you commence studying to see what openings they have and whether they employ students. You might consider doing an unpaid internship as it could possibly lead to some paid part-time employment.
Talk to the Careers Officer or Student Development Officer at your institution for advice, and consult any online job listings they maintain. In addition, check the employment section of daily newspapers.
Do I have to pay taxes?
Yes. Australia has the PAYG (Pay As You Go) system and once you obtain your Tax File Number (TFN) from the Australian Taxation Office and complete a tax declaration with your employer, you will be taxed according to the amount of money you earn.
Typically, casual or part-time jobs are taxed at the lowest rate. For example, if you earn over A$6,000 and under $A34,000 tax will be 15c in A$1. F you earn under A$6,000, you will not be taxed. You are eligible for a refund of some of the taxes you pay in Australia but you need to complete a Tax File Return covering the relevant period.
Your TFN is confidential and should only be given to your bank and employer. If you don’t tell the bank your TFN, they are legally obliged to take the maximum rate of tax (approximately 50%) from any interest you earn on your bank savings.
Australian Taxation Office: www.ato.gov.au
Will all of the money I pay in medical costs be refunded?
It will depend on the details of your policy benefits. All standard OSHC policies cover 100% of the 'scheduled' fee for medical services provided by doctors, pathology, and x-rays, however, doctors in Australia can charge more than this fee for their services.
If the amount charged by the doctor is higher than the 'scheduled' OSHC fee, you will have to pay the difference (the gap). Ask the receptionist or the doctor if they charge the scheduled fee or if there is a further gap charge?
Is dental work covered?
No, dental work is not covered in the basic OSHC package. You will need to take out 'extras' (additional) private health cover on top of OSHC to cover services such as dental, optical, chiropractic, osteopathy, physiotherapy, clinical psychology, or treatment for a pre-existing medical condition.
If you prefer, you can opt to take out international travel insurance or general treatment cover with an Australian private health insurer to cover these extra treatments. A list of providers is available at www.privatehealth.gov.au.
Do I need to take out medical/health insurance?
Yes, it is a condition of your Australian student visa. As an international student you are not eligible for Medicare (the Australian government's public health insurance system). The Department of Immigration and Citizenship requires you (and your family) to maintain Overseas Student Health Cover (OSHC) for the duration of your time on a student visa. OSHC covers the costs of medical and hospital care that you might need while in Australia, and will also pay for emergency ambulance transport and many prescription drugs.
There are five providers of OSHC in Australia:
Membership of a health insurance scheme in your home country does not exempt you from paying OSHC, although there are some exceptions. Due to special inter-governmental arrangements Swedish students covered by MARSH, Norwegian students covered by the National Norwegian Insurance Scheme, and New Zealand students in Australia on a non-Student visa with entitlements under the Reciprocal Health Care Agreement between Australia and New Zealand do not need to take out OSHC.
Government extends support for international education
Joint media release with Chris Evans - Minister for Tertiary Education, Skills, Jobs and Workplace Relations and Chris Bowen - Minister for Immigration and Citizenship. Date: 30 November 2011.
The Minister for Tertiary Education, Skills, Jobs and Workplace Relations, Senator Chris Evans, and the Minister for Immigration and Citizenship, Chris Bowen MP, today announced more international students will be eligible for an extension of post-study work arrangements as part of the government's ongoing commitment to support the international education sector.
The government recently announced post-study work arrangements for university graduates in response to the Knight Review of the Student Visa program.
'We are pleased to be extending post-study work arrangements to Bachelor or higher degree graduates from other education providers accredited to offer degree level programs, in addition to university graduates,' Mr Bowen said.
'Graduates who complete their degrees after at least two academic years' study in Australia will be able to access post-study work arrangements from 2013, in time for students who are applying for their Student Visas now.'
Currently, more than 80 per cent of international students enrolled at the Bachelor degree level or above are eligible for the existing temporary skilled graduate visa, which provides an 18-month stay in Australia with work rights.
'These changes bring Australia into line with arrangements in other countries and enable education providers to offer a more competitive package to international students who are seeking good quality and long-term study in Australia, regardless of their field of interest,' Senator Evans said.
'The new arrangements extend the stay period to two years, while Masters by research or PhD students will be eligible for stays of three and four years respectively, reflecting the importance of the role of research in fostering innovation in the Australian economy.'
For students who obtain qualifications other than a Bachelor degree or above, the existing temporary skilled graduate visa, which provides for a stay of 18 months for those with qualifications in eligible fields of study, will still be available.
Information on the Knight Review can be found at DIAC website.
Student Visa Program Review Update to boost International Education Sector in Australia
The Minister for Tertiary Education, Skills, Jobs and Workplace Relations, Senator Chris Evans, and the Minister for Immigration and Citizenship, Chris Bowen MP, today announced a suite of measures to enhance competitiveness in Australia’s international education sector.
The new measures are in response to the report by the Hon Michael Knight AO, Strategic Review of the Student Visa Program 2011, which was released today.
“Our international education sector is world class, and the reforms announced today will help entrench Australia as a preferred destination for international students,” Senator Evans said.
“The reforms will assist in ensuring Australia remains an attractive study option and will offer practical support for international education providers that have been under pressure as a result of the high Australian dollar.”
Recognising that the Australian university sector has a track record of providing high quality international education at lower levels of risk, the Government will introduce new streamlined visa processing arrangements for a range of Australian university courses for faster, easier visa access for prospective students in time for second semester next year.
The streamlined arrangements will apply to international students enrolled in courses at the level of bachelor degree or higher.
These students, regardless of their country of origin, will be treated as though they are lower risk, similar to the current Assessment Level (AL) 1 requirements.
“Our consultations found that the financial requirements for Student Visas were too onerous, so we are reducing the financial requirements for some applicants, with students now needing around $36,000 less in the bank when applying for a visa,” Mr Bowen said.
“This reduction in the AL financial requirements will particularly assist a significant number of Vocational Education and Training and private education providers.”
A two- to four-year post-study work visa will also be available for university graduates depending on the level of study completed. Other work visa options, such as the Temporary Skilled 457 visa and the Skilled Graduate Visa, continue to be available to graduates and to employers looking to meet genuine skills needs.
“Students are increasingly looking to augment their studies with graduate work experience and this further post-study work visa option will offer university students a more complete study experience in Australia,” Senator Evans said.
The Government will also undertake a fundamental review of the Student Visa risk management framework, the ALs, to report by mid-2012. The AL framework review will specifically explore a provider risk model, in consultation with an external reference group.
The Government will consider options for the early implementation of the findings of the AL framework review, targeting a small number of high quality education providers – including TAFEs – to recognise the lower migration risks associated with them.
“We need to move to a more targeted approach to assessing and responding to immigration risk in the Student Visa program that recognises and rewards high-quality education providers,” Mr Bowen said.
These reforms will be made possible through a new ‘genuine temporary entrant’ requirement for all Student Visa applicants that will enable the Department of Immigration and Citizenship to better assess applications.
As part of the response to the Knight Review, the Government will also:
- Allow all English language students to apply for a visa without first meeting minimum English skills requirements;
- Extend the time a PhD student can stay in Australia while their thesis is marked;
- Establish an Education Visa Advisory Group to improve information flow between the Australian Government and the international education sector; and
- Repeal the automatic cancellation and mandatory cancellation provisions for student visas.
Australia is widely recognised for the delivery of high quality, internationally recognised qualifications by a diverse range of international education providers. Australia’s international education sector has undergone rapid growth over the past decade, with the number of Student Visas more than doubling from 108,000 in 1997-98 to 269,828 in 2009-10.
In December 2010, the Government commissioned the Hon Michael Knight AO to review the Student Visa program to enhance the quality, integrity and competitiveness of Australia’s international education sector. Mr Knight consulted with almost 300 stakeholders in Australia, India, China and Malaysia, and considered more than 200 submissions.
The Government has accepted all 41 recommendations in the Knight Review, with the majority proposed to be implemented through 2012-13 so that key recommendations can come into effect before second semester 2012.
These measures build on the Government’s immigration reforms that strengthen pathways to studying in Australia and complement recent steps to strengthen Australia’s international education sector, including the Baird Review of the Education Services for Overseas Students (ESOS) Act 2000 and the release of the Council of Australian Governments’ (COAG) International Students Strategy for Australia.
Mr Knight’s report, the terms of reference for the AL review and a range of fact sheets can be found on the Department of Immigration and Citizenship’s website at http://www.immi.gov.au/students/knight/
Source: Media Release, 22 September 2011: Boost to International Education Sector in response to Knight Review
SENATOR CHRIS EVANS
MINISTER FOR TERTIARY EDUCATION, SKILLS, JOBS AND WORKPLACE RELATIONS
CHRIS BOWEN MP
MINISTER FOR IMMIGRATION AND CITIZENSHIP
How do I obtain a visa?
If you intend to enrol on a formal course of study in Australia you will need to apply for a student visa through your nearest Australian High Commission (for Indian Ocean islands and Africa, Australian High Commissions are located in Port Louis, Pretoria, Nairobi, Abuja, Accra, Harare and Addis Ababa). A student visa can only be granted to a student enrolled in a registered, full-time course in Australia.
All courses for international students, and the Australian education and training institutions that offer them must be registered with the Australian Government.
To be granted a student visa you will need to:
1. Complete the required application form and submit with:
- Supporting Documentation
- Application fee
2. Satisfy visa requirements (provide evidence of appropriate pre requisite qualifications, good health, acceptable level of written and spoken English and sufficient funds)
For students qualifying for a Level 1 visa classification (all students from Reunion island and some students in specific categories from Africa and Indian Ocean) applications can be made online: www.immi.gov.au/e_visa/students.htm
Visa processing time can take 4-8 weeks, so you are encouraged to lodge your applications as soon as possible once you have obtained all the required documentation.
For further information on visas processed in Africa and Indian Ocean, contact the visa section at the Australian High Commission of your location
Where do I obtain information on student visa applications?
Mauritius/ Indian Ocean Islands
If you have already obtained a letter of offer from the University or college of your choice in Australia, you may also collect a "Student Package" from the Visa office at the Australian High Commission office in Port Louis.
Opening hours for the Visa section for collection of these student packages are:
Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday from 9:00 to 10:00 am.
Please refer to the "Visas" section for details
Your agent or careers guidance counsellor could also provide you with relevant information.
For full details on the procedures and process, you may consult the website www.immi.gov.au/students
Who can help me to certify my documents?
Your documents can be certified in Africa and Indian Ocean by specific authorities as listed below. For further information, please contact the Australian High Commission during the time frame indicated.
Only one of the following bodies may certify your documents in Africa and Indian Ocean:
- Ministry of Education
- Any representative of the legal profession
Please ensure that all copies also bear the stamp of the legal professional who certified the documents.
If you have any further questions, please contact the Visa department at the Australian High Commission of your location