An Overview of Australian Higher Education

Australia is not only a very popular destination for tourists, but it is also a highly sought after destination for foreign students wanting to further their education. In 2017 there was a 10 percent increase in the amount of foreign students pursuing higher education in Australia, and every  year the number of international students in Australia is increasing. This is not surprising considering that many of this country’s universities rank amongst the world’s best.

If you are from outside of Australia, and you are interested in studying in this country, you should read this overview of the Australian university and vocational education system.

Rigorous Academics

Australian universities are modeled after the British university system, which is not surprising considering that Australia was one of the British Empire’s dominions. As a result, you can expect a course of rigorous, challenging academic study at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. In some professional fields there may be differences of approach between the different professional associations, so students should check with the University of wollongong or with Australian Education International at the Australian High Commission Islamabad. Many Australian universities do not require undergraduates to take classes in liberal arts, meaning that you can get your degree in three years instead of four if you are studying a STEM field.


Australian universities are self-accrediting, meaning that they have a high degree of autonomy; however, these institutions are not laws unto themselves. They still must operate within the legal and legislative framework established by the Australian government and local governments.  


Most Australian universities are funded in large part by the Australian federal government under the Higher Education Support Act of 2003. In order to be approved to receive funding, the university wanting financing must meet whatever stipulations are set forth by this law. Except for Bond University, the University of Notre Dame Australia, MCD University of Divinity, and Torrens University, most universities meet the requirements set by the Higher Education Support Act.

International Students and Scholarships

As stated earlier, Australia is a hot destination for foreign students who come mostly from China, India, Vietnam, and other nations from the Pacific Rim and former dominions and colonies of the British Empire. As of 2017, there were just over 583,000 foreign students studying in Australia.

If you are interested in studying Australia, and you are unable to pay for your education yourself, you should consider participating in one of the following scholarship programs:

  • Australia Awards Scholarships
  • Endeavour Postgraduate Scholarship Awards
  • International Postgraduate Research Scholarships (IPRS)
  • University of Sydney International Research Scholarships
  • Macquarie University International Scholarships
  • Adelaide Scholarships International

Technical and Further Education (TAFE)

One of the biggest myths floating around is that high school graduates have to immediately go to a university and get a college degree. Nothing could be further from the truth; in fact, getting a degree can actually be quite harmful to your career prospects if you study for three to four years in a major that is not in high demand. You might consider, instead, getting vocational training in one of Australia’s registered training organisations (RTO).

In one of these trade schools you can learn valuable skills in professions such as information technology, construction, hospitality, and visual arts. These jobs are in incredibly high demand in Australia and many other parts of the world, as well, and if you graduate with a certificate in IT, welding, or plumbing, you can quickly and easily find well-paying work anywhere you go.

Criticism of Higher Learning in Australia

Declining Academic Standards

While there are many benefits to studying in Australia, there are also many drawbacks, as well. One common criticism of higher learning is Australia is the fact that degrees are now being mass Australian Universities Higher Educationmarketed to the public due to the fact that universities want to increase the size of their student bodies in order to increase revenues. This has resulted in many young people who are not intellectually capable of studying in a university being admitted, and in order to get these students to graduate, universities have had to lower their academic standards.

Too Many Degrees

Recent studies have found that just over a quarter of Australian students consider themselves underemployed and that 20 percent of Australian students are only able to find part-time work. If this is true, it can only be because of the fact that too many people now have degrees, making the labor market over-competitive. Keep in mind that after three to four years of arduous study, you might find yourself working part-time at Starbucks or not employed at all.

Not Enough Emphasis on Vocational Education

In many Western countries, and even in developing countries, a lot of middle to upper-class families sneer at blue collar work, and Australia is no exception. Because of these negative attitudes to trades, more and more people try to get a degree instead of trying to get a certificate in a trade such as carpentry or plumbing. For students who are not intellectually qualified for undergraduate study, vocational education should be presented to them as an alternative to universities; unfortunately, this does not happen, and the result is a surplus of people with bachelor degrees on the Australian Universities Systemlabor market, which has driven down wages and salaries, and has increased competition for jobs that require an undergraduate degree.

Follow your dreams!

Even though the last section of this article was slightly pessimistic, no matter what you read or are told, you should do whatever it is you want to do. If you want to become the world’s next great historian, take the career path that will lead you to that goal. If you want to a toned welder on an oil rig bringing in big bucks, do it! You must do what makes you happy.