Studying Down Under

Studying Down Under

More British students than ever are looking to combine living the famous Antipodean lifestyle with getting a good qualification

Trips to Australia and New Zealand aren’t just about holidays, gap years and migration. Over recent years, more and more people have been going Down Under to study. The numbers of British and Irish students travelling to Australasia for study for undergraduate or postgraduate degrees at university, or vocational or specialist training courses at college, is growing steadily year by year.

The first question from those not familiar with Antipodean education is usually, “But what can I study there?” The short answer to that is: pretty much anything you can study in the UK.

Students go to Australia and New Zealand to take up places on a huge variety of courses, from degrees in marine biology, teaching, management or environmental science to diplomas in beauty therapy, veterinary nursing, wine-making or a trade.


So why do people go all the way to the other side of the world to do a course that might be available in their home town?

There’s a variety of reasons. For many, particularly the younger students, it’s the experience that’s the draw. They want to combine living the famous Antipodean lifestyle with getting a good qualification. This was what motivated Christopher, 19, who’s about to start the second year of his degree in finance in Sydney.

“Lots of my friends were planning to spend their gap years in Australia. I wanted to travel, but I also wanted to get on and do my degree rather than spending a year doing bar work or picking fruit.” He’s found that his Australian student life gives him the perfect combination: “This means I get to live in another country for three years and travel as much as I want during the holidays – perfect!”

Others are already thinking ahead to how their experience will help them in the job market in future. “Everyone seems to do further qualifications after school these days, but I wanted to do something different,” says Emma, who is due to start a degree in event management in a few weeks’ time. “I think by studying overseas I’ll show people that I’ve got lots of initiative and am not afraid to take on a challenge. It’ll definitely be something different on my CV.”

For others, it’s the reputations of the courses and the institutions that appeal. Both Australia and New Zealand have world-class education systems, and their qualifications are internationally recognised and highly regarded by employers.

They also offer students the chance to gain a place on courses that are oversubscribed in the UK, such as physiotherapy, history, veterinary science, veterinary nursing, marine science and teacher training. Entry requirements are just as rigorous, but there aren’t so many people chasing so few places, so students can stand a higher chance of getting in.

As both Australia and New Zealand’s education systems are based on the British system, many aspects will seem very familiar to students from the UK and Ireland. The similarities mean that UK students can apply to undergraduate courses with their A-Levels, without having to sit extra exams, and postgraduate students can apply using their UK Bachelors degrees. Colleges (and some of the universities) are happy to consider applications from students with alternative academic backgrounds, such as BTEC National Diplomas.

The similarities don’t end with entry requirements. The look of university and college campuses are much the same, and student life revolves around the same things too – social clubs, sports clubs and nightlife – just in better weather!

Qualifications take the same number of years to complete and are taught in much the same way as they would be in the UK, by a combination of lectures, seminars, coursework and exams, with practical teaching where required.


In order to go to Australia or New Zealand to study you will need a student visa. There are no age restrictions on student visas. You simply have to have an offer of study from a recognised education provider (such as a university or college) in Australian or NZ.

A study visa is given for the length of the course, and will also usually allow people a few months before it starts and after it finishes to travel around. If the course is more than 12 months long (Australia) or 24 months long (New Zealand) you can also get a variation on the conditions of your visa, which will allow you to work up to 20 hours per week during term time and as much as you like during holidays.

The biggest consideration to studying abroad, however, is the cost. As international students, Brits and Irish are liable to pay full international tuition fees. These are individually set by the institutions so do vary hugely depending on what you want to study and where you want to study it, but generally an undergraduate degree or postgraduate degree will cost from around £8,000 upward per year; while a diploma course will cost around £6,000 per year.

While there are some scholarships available at postgraduate research level, pretty much everyone else will need to fund their study themselves, and you can’t apply for a student loan Down Under unless you are an Australian or New Zealand citizen.

While tuition fees may be higher, the cost of living is often lower. Australian Immigration recommend that international students should have A$18,000 (£10,000) per year for living expenses but rent for a room in a house in the smaller cities (such as Perth and Adelaide) can start from around £65 per week.

In New Zealand the cost of living tends to be lower – at Otago University in Dunedin, fees to live in a fully-catered hall of residence (meals and utilities included) start from just £110 per week. Many regard the cost as worth it.

David is due to sit his A-Levels in June 2010, and is determined to study at an Australian university after that. “It was a big decision to make, not least because of the amount of money involved,” he says. “But I’d be paying well over £3,000 per year if I went to university in the UK. I’ve tried to consider everything – the university reputations, the content of the course, the overall experience – and Australia just seems to look like overall better value for money to me!”

So, can doing a qualification in Australia or New Zealand allow you to stay in the country on a more permanent basis after you finish your studies?

There is no easy answer to this one, as it depends on what course you study, and where you study it. Anyone who is interested in applying for a permanent visa after completing their studies should check the Department of Immigration website for each country (;

The UK’s only event for studying in Australia & New Zealand. Best advice for studying down under


Study Options is a free, independent, expert service for people looking to study in Australia and New Zealand. It is the official representative of Australian and New Zealand universities and colleges in the UK and Ireland, and can help to make sure that your application process is straightforward and stress-free. Study Options is the only organisation in the UK that focuses solely on Australian and New Zealand education and can help with every stage of the process, from providing information about courses available, the details you need about the universities and colleges that offer them, and practical information about how to put together and submit your application to study in Australia and New Zealand.
Study Options: 159-161 Temple Chambers, 3-7 Temple Avenue London, EC4Y 0DA; Tel: 020 7353 7200; Web:

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