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Overseas students: How to choose the right Australian university

A group of university students laughing together on campus
A group of university students laughing together on campus

At first glance, deciding which Australian university to attend might seem pretty simple. You just look up the international university rankings and go for the top, right?

Unfortunately it’s not that easy! Ranking is just one aspect of a university to consider (albeit a big part). This article will help you work out not only which university is going to be good for you academically, but also which university will suit the kind of experience you’re hoping to have while in Australia.
In short, which university may be right for you.

As with any big decision, too much choice can be overwhelming; here are a few pointers to help you get informed.

Check out university rankings

Ranking may be only one part of the decision, but it’s an important one. For a nation with a small population, Australia excels in global rankings, with five universities in the top 50 universities worldwide.

Check out the 2019 university rankings here.

Consider the course

Potentially more important than a university’s ranking is its areas of strength. Universities tend to excel in one or two subject areas, but not all. Find the most reputable Australian universities for your preferred area of interest.

Here are some questions to consider when deciding if a university is the right place for your particular course:

  • Does the course have in-person tutorials where you can have face to face contact, or are tutorials all online?

  • Are there online options for times when you can’t make it to a lecture or tutorial?

  • How will the course be assessed: primarily through exams or assignments?

  • Are there opportunities to get practical experience that will help you build up your work experience? Do they offer pathways for internships?

University is a peak time for building lifelong friendships, and studying abroad is no different

Talk to previous students

Few things beat direct experience. You can contact the department of your area of interest and ask to be put in touch with an ex-student (perhaps one from your home country) to discuss their experience with the course you’re intending to study.

They’ll be able to offer clearer insights on the practical realities of not only the course itself, but the ‘feel’ of the university. It may feel a bit weird to talk to a stranger, but they may have valuable insights (and possibly turn into a useful contact – or friend!).

Look at location

Location will certainly dictate a large part of your Australian experience, so it’s worth considering where the university is located. If you’re longing for weekend getaways to the beach, is the university coastal? If you tend to hyperventilate without at least seven 24-hour dining options within a block of your apartment (plus a cinema. And gym. And maybe a bit of luxury shopping) perhaps a city university would be best.

Most Australian universities are along the east coast, in Melbourne, Brisbane, Sydney and Canberra and while city living is certainly exciting in a lot of ways, don’t discount regional universities, particularly if they offer practical components not available elsewhere.

Something else to think about is how you’ll get to and from the campus. You’ll need to know if your university is close to public transport or has affordable housing nearby.

Check out its online presence

It seems obvious, but check out different university’s websites and social media feeds. Can you get a feel for the campus, points of difference and areas of excellence?

Most universities will have a page on their site dedicated to international students. How they respond to your queries is a good indicator of how helpful the university will be to you once you’re a student. Do they answer your queries promptly and in a way you find helpful?

Do they offer assistance with things like visa information and other things you’ll have to have in place before you begin your ‘student life’? You’ll need health cover in order to study in Australia and nib can help set this up and answer any of your questions quickly and easily – get in touch today (it’s one thing you can tick off the to-do list straight away)!

Does it offer a life outside of study?

This is also very important. Studying far from home will bring with it tough times and building a social network will go a long way to getting you through. In fact, research shows that social connection is up there with exercise, eating well and sleep in helping to deal with stress.

University is a peak time for building lifelong friendships, and studying abroad is no different. University clubs and societies can be a great way to make friends while doing something you love. Do some research to find out whether the university has a club relating to your interest (it could be sport, music, science, drama) and check whether it runs extra-curricular events and activities specifically for international students.

Thinking about making the move to Australia? Get health cover that meets your visa requirements in less than five minutes. Click onto our dedicated Overseas Student Health Cover page to learn more.

Are you looking to move to Australia for work? Find out more about our Overseas Visitor Health Cover options.

For more information about all things Australia, visit the dedicated Living in Australia section of The Check Up.

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