With more than 600,000 international students enrolled in Australia's universities and vocational education providers, there's no debating Australia is a popular study destination. In 2015, 645,185 international students were enrolled in education programs in Australia. Of these, there were 272,095 international students enrolled in the higher education sector alone. While some of the world's best institutions call Australia home, the commercialisation of education has also led to a trend of unsavoury and illegitimate organisations, set up to fleece unsuspecting students. There have been several instances when students who make their way to Australia are ill-informed about living and studying standards as well as costs. Having being misled by those who promote these dodgy institutions, the students often find that reality is completely different, and have to live in difficult circumstances, often working long hours for low wages. So how do you distinguish between world-class and unrecognised universities? Research. There's no other way than doing complete homework, getting multiple opinions and making an informed decision. Here are a few pointers to guide you to ensure that you get the best education for the money invested in Australia.
For most of us, internet is our first port of call. Look at university websites and read course descriptions. For international students, www.australian-universities.com is a handy place to start looking for university profiles and ratings. This website can tell you how Australian universities compare with others around the world, what each university's strengths are, how good the libraries and research facilities are and what your choices are. Get familiar with the Group of 8 (www.go8.edu.au). This is a coalition of Australia's leading universities known for their professionalism, which focus on research and high education standards. They consist of: Monash University, The University of Melbourne, The University of Western Australia, The University of Adelaide, The Australian National University, The University of Sydney, The University of New South Wales and The University of Queensland. Are you considering any of these institutions? The friendly Study in Australia website (www.studyinaustralia.com.au) deals with the issues facing international students. It has a handy tool -the Study Wizard -which will help you find the best courses available for you. Every Australian institution that enrols overseas students must have a CRICOS code. This is required by the Australian Government and assures you that a college or university is legal and meets government standards. To check if your university or vocational education provider has a CRICOS code, go to www.cricos.deewr.gov.au.
Education fairs and education agents
Pick your education agent very, very carefully. For a list of registered agents, visit The Association of Australian Education Representatives. Another trusted source of information is the Australian Education Centre. Or try Australian Education International (AEI), an Australian government department that encourages people to study in Australia. Be wary of any agent trying to influence you or "sell' you a degree that does not match your skills and interests. A course an agent claims is popular might not have any practical value in the jobs market. Some genuine agents hold education fairs once or twice a year. Use these opportunities to meet with university representatives, ask questions and apply on the spot, which may attract a fee waiver.
Talk to students and faculty members
Once you have a list of potential universities, try and get in touch with students enrolled in the programmes you're interested in, or even university alumni. It is important to hear from existing students first hand on their experiences of any potential institution, so that you can make an informed choice. Contact faculty members with questions you have. Most universities have staff contact details on their websites.
Know what you're in for
Before you accept an offer, make sure you have a clear idea of how your course will be structured. How many hours will you spend in class each week? Will you have to organise a work placement? Read up about the campus you will be on and get an idea of the accommodation available around it. Most importantly, make sure you are aware of living costs and that you are only allowed to work 20 hours a week while university is in session. Do not let anyone convince you that your part-time job will pay your fees. In summary, there is a world of opportunity and learning in Australian, but it is a decision that should be made with hours of thought, discussion and research.