International StudentsInternational Students



Australia is being chosen as the place to study by increasing numbers of overseas students.  Of the 80,000 international students welcomed each year from all over the world - the third highest intake after the UK and USA - 12,000 come for secondary school education.

The reasons for this are many and varied, however some aspects of study within Australia stand out as decisive incentives.

Of primary importance is that the standards of educational excellence within our schools, colleges and universities are recognised on an international level.

Good grades in an Australian school are an academic passport to extend studies not only within our shores but just about anywhere else in the world.  Facilities at our educational institutions for teaching, training and research are world-class, with modern technology in laboratories and classrooms and comprehensively equipped libraries.

Teachers are recruited from all over the country and internationally, based on high academic standards which are constantly monitored by the government.  Additionally, in order for a school to deliver courses to international students it must meet special registration conditions set out by the government and regulated by the Department of Education Science and Training.

To be granted registration, institutions must comply with stringent standards of quality and ethical practice based on curriculum, teacher qualifications, and facilities including specialist equipment. Another requirement is to provide, or have access to, specialist English language support which aids academic and personal growth.

Another consideration which favours study within Australia is the lifestyle on offer to students.  This has both financial and social aspects.  On a financial level, living expenses and tuition costs in Australia are significantly less expensive than in the UK and USA.  As a result, your child can experience a higher quality of life for considerably less money than in other western countries.

Australia also offers many life enriching experiences which will contribute to your child’s education, not only in an academic sense but in a social one.  Australia is one of the most culturally diverse countries in the world with hundreds of ethnic group living across the nation.  As a result, not only are our teachers more sensitive to the needs of international students, but our society as a whole is more accepting of people from other cultures.

Our long history of teaching overseas students has created an environment which provides monitoring and support services within our schools to help deal with the practicalities of settling into and living in a new environment and successfully completing studies.  The open spaces which invite group outdoor activities and overall friendliness of the Australian people make living here hospitable and inviting, offering many opportunities to make lasting friendships.

Safety is also an extremely important issue for any parent.  Having one of the lowest crime rates in the western world, Australia is a safe country compared to many.  There is little, if any, political unrest and strict gun control laws ensure the greater safety of your child.

Quick Overview of the Options for Secondary School Education

There are two broad categories within the Australian school system – government (or public) and independent (or private).  Both receive government funding to various degrees and both have schools registered to accept international students.  Some schools and colleges cater exclusively for international students while others have a long tradition of providing student exchange programmes.

Education within a public school is largely free.  Most public schools do require a small voluntary annual fee to be paid and parents usually have to purchase uniforms and pay for excursions and some instances items such as text books.  Most public schools are co-educational, meaning both sexes are present within a class, and students are encouraged to participate in class on an equal level.

Fees vary widely between independent schools, with this being related to the level of government funding they receive.  Some schools receive only a small amount of government funding and consequently have to charge quite high fees.  The independent schools sector comprises a diverse range of schools.  While many independent schools offer a religious based education, others promote a particular philosophy of education, such as Montessori or Rudolf Steiner, or interpretation of mainstream education.  Many independent schools, particularly if of a religious nature, have single sex classes that are comprised exclusively of either boys or girls.

Both public and private schools must provide subjects in the eight essential learning areas of English, Mathematics, Social and Environmental Studies, Science, Art, Languages (other than English),Technology and Personal Development, Health and Physical Education.  Choice and diversity of subjects increase at secondary school level depending on the school attended.  Schools can also arrange private tuition and elite programmes designed to enhance the learning capabilities of talented overseas students.

Due to the popularity of Australian schools for international students, availability of space is at a premium.  It is recommended that enrolment enquiries are made as soon as possible and it is wise to ask about waiting lists.

How and Where to Apply

Before applying for a student visa, students first have to apply for and be accepted into full-time study in a course or institution registered with the Commonwealth Register of Institutions and Courses for Overseas Students (CRICOS).  This involves presenting the appropriate academic reports or records from the school your child has been attending in your home country to the school of your choice.  Once your child has been accepted, a letter of offer or Confirmation of Enrolment (CoE) will be given to you which will be required with the visa application.

Students can then apply for a visa with The Department of Home Affairs in the sector that related to their principle course of study.

The Department of Home Affairs outlines six basic steps that must be taken when applying for a student visa.  The first step involves the fulfilment of four elementary requirements:

  • Adequate health insurance (Overseas Student Health Cover or OSHC) must be taken out for the duration of time your child and their guardian (Overseas Visitor Health Cover, or OVHC) will be in the country (unless on an exchange programme).
  • You must also prove that you have no outstanding debts to the Commonwealth of Australia or show evidence that you are making appropriate repayments on those outstanding debts.
  • Good character (no criminal record) must also be proven for both guardian and child
  • Custody and welfare requirements must be established for children less than 18 years of age.  This requires the permission of all adults with legal custody of the child signing the visa application.  Any child under the age of 18 years will only be permitted to study in Australia if:
    1. They are accompanied by a parent or legal guardian.  See
    2. They stay with a suitable relative, or
    3. The education provider gives a written statement stating that the accommodation, support and welfare of the child are adequate.

The next step revolves around the health of those wishing to enter the country.  As study requires the close proximity of children in a classroom environment, health is a very important issue.  Your child and anyone else included in the visa application must therefore satisfy the health requirements specified in the Migration Regulations (see, to check if those requirements would be met).

The third step is determining which student visa your child will be travelling under and the assessment level.  For primary and secondary school courses of study, or secondary exchange student programmes, the visa to apply for is the Schools Student Visa (Subclass 571). Assessment levels are set by the passport held and determine how much additional information must be provided in the visa application. As a general rule, countries which maintain good health regulations are an assessment class one or two, however it is best to visit the Department of Immigration website as classifications are subject to change (

It is worthwhile noting here that in the case of exchange students it is the responsibility of the registered exchange organisation to obtain the correct visa for entry into Australia.  They also provide, through the Department of Education and Training, the Acceptance Advice for Secondary Exchange Students (AASES) form which, in conjunction with the visa, permits entry.  Registered organisations are also responsible for ensuring the payment of the OSHC for exchange students.  Students from overseas who study on an approved exchange programme are issued with a 560 visa and considered overseas students.

The next stage for secondary school applications involves providing evidence that the student is at least six years of age when the visa application is lodged and the submission of academic reports.  English language requirements of the school the student is attending must also be shown to be met.

One of the most important requirements in the visa application is proof of financial independence.  As a secondary student in Australia, there is extremely limited allowance to work so proof of adequate funding to pay for living expenses and tuition is essential and must be evidenced to gain a visa.  Travel costs as well as the ability to support any family members will also be taken into account.  If you would like to get an understanding of what is involved in this step, see the section below "Accomodation & Living Costs and Options" or visit:, which provides a good guideline as to minimum financial requirements.  Once again, in the case of exchange students, this requirement is waived.

The final step involves the actual submission of your application.  This process will depend largely on the assessment level indicated. Level one assessments outside Australia can usually be submitted online or your local Australian government office.

The Cost of Secondary Education in Australia

International students are charged upfront tuition fees.  Costs will vary depending on the school therefore the average costs provided below should only be used as a guide.  All school tuition fees are exempt from Australia's Goods and Services Tax (GST).

Primary & Junior Secondary Schools:   AUD$5,000 - AUD$11,000 p/year
Secondary Schools:   AUD$6,000 - AUD$13,000 p/year

English language tuition varies significantly depending on the course and institution offering the service, with charges ranging from AUD$3,500 - AUD$13,500.

Accomodation & Living Costs and Options

Not only is Australia a great place to live and study, it is also very affordable in terms of expenses.

A survey conducted by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) in 2001 found Australia’s cost of living is lower than that of Japan, Hong Kong, Singapore, Taiwan, the United States and the United Kingdom.  The survey also found that groceries cost around 54 per cent less in Sydney than in New York with utilities such as gas, electricity and water costing around half that of New York's.   Though Sydney is generally considered the most expensive city in Australia to live, followed by Melbourne, surveys show living expenses there are well down in comparison to other cities around the world.

A Worldwide 2003 Cost of Living Survey ranked Sydney 67 from a list of 144 cities ordered from most to least expensive.  Sydney was placed firmly behind other favourable learning centres such as Paris, London and New York in terms of living costs.  The Asia region also proved considerably more expensive, with Hong Kong ranked 4th, Singapore 32nd and Tokyo number one.  The survey was based on the cost of 200 standard goods and services, based on general spending habits.

While specific costs will depend greatly on where you choose to school your child within Australia, the average international student in Australia spends around AUD$320/week on the following living costs:  food, clothing, transport, travel (both international and domestic), telephone and accommodation.

Costs vary widely depending on the type of accommodation chosen.  While some secondary schools and colleges provide accommodation for international students, the places are limited, and demand is high.  Many private secondary schools not only provide accommodation but meals and laundry services for enrolled international students.  Once again, costs vary but the average is between AUD$8,000 - AUD$11,000 for one year on top of tuition fees.

It is an Australian government requirement that all students under the age of 18 years be accompanied by a guardian or carer.  If students are not to be living with parents or a relative nominated by their parents, a viable alternative is Homestay accommodation.  This is a popular option with younger students and those studying short-term English courses.

Approved by the Department of Education Science and Training, Homestay ensures the welfare needs of your child are met by living with a government approved family at a reasonable cost. Institutions maintain a register of families prepared to board international students during the academic year and ensure Homestay families are reputable and that they offer accommodation of a reasonable standard.  Charges vary from around AUD$110 - AUD$270 a week with two meals a day usually included.  Single or shared rooms will vary the overall cost accordingly as does the option of self-catering Homestay.  Farmstay offers the same services in a rural setting.  It is worth noting that, in general, living in country Australia is cheaper than in city centres, though availability of schools may become somewhat limited.

Training In English & English Language Proficiency

English language proficiency is now a requirement when applying for a student visa and Australian education institutions can only accept students with an appropriate level of English proficiency.

The International English Language Testing System (IELTS) is an internationally owned and globally recognised direct English language assessment and the only test accepted by the Australian Department of Immigration and Multicultural Affairs for student visa purposes.  Presently the preferred test for entry into Australian universities, IELTS is a highly dependable, practical and valid English language assessment primarily used by those seeking international education and professional recognition bench-marked to global standards.  Institutions set their own English language requirements and may have different IELTS entry levels for the proposed level of course than those required for a student visa.  Intending students should check the entry requirements with their proposed institution.

There are a number of courses that can be undertaken to achieve levels of English language proficiency to IELTS standard.  Students can enrol at any time during the year depending on course flexibility and English ability.  Full-time course duration can range from four to 48 weeks with courses taught at all levels, from beginner to advanced.  Generally, English language courses comprise of at least 25 hours of study each week with around 20 hours spent in the classroom and the remainder in supervised self-access study.

English Language Intensive Courses for Overseas Students (ELICOS) may be undertaken at a variety of government and private institutions as a stand-alone course, not leading to an Australian award.  Students from all over the world attend courses for periods of five to 40 weeks conducted in an environment which exposes students to English inside and outside the classroom.  ELICOS builds language confidence through encouraging students to perform authentic tasks and simulate situations to practice their English in a natural manner.  There are currently over 100 accredited and registered centres throughout Australia which teach ELICOS.  Courses are designed to include secondary school preparation, and preparation for international exams (such as the IELTS).

Health Insurance Cover

It is a pre-requisite for a student visa application to have adequate health insurance.  Due to the number of international students accepted into Australia there is a special system of health care cover for international students called Overseas Student Health Cover (OSHC), which is required for the duration of your child’s stay in Australia.  The OSHC provides medical and hospital insurance cover similar to that provided to all Australia through our Medicare system.  While OSHC will also pay for most prescription drugs and emergency ambulance transport, it does not cover specialist areas such as optical and dental or any pre-existing conditions.

To apply for OSHC, you will need to complete an application form available from registered providers.  Registered providers are health funds who have signed a deed with the Australian government to supply this specialised form of insurance cover.  Many education institutions have a preferred OSHC provider and collect OSHC premiums on the payers’ behalf.  In the case of exchange students, the educational institution will pay the premium for you.

Depending on the school your child will be attending, you will be required to join one of these registered health funds:
Medibank Private, Teachers Union Health Fund Ltd (subcontracting to Worldcare Assist), BUPA Australia and OSHC (subcontracting to Australian Health Management Group).  It is wise to check with the school you are enrolling with as some students may be exempt from OSHC.

OSHC costs depend on the length of time your child will be staying in Australia.  Premiums vary depending on the health fund but generally start from AUD$312 a year.  If a family member is accompanying the child to Australia, you will need to pay a family premium.  Remember that payment of the OSHC premium must be made before entering Australia.
Membership is confirmed on arrival in Australia whereby the registered OSHC provider will ask to see passport details for identification purposes and to ensure that the dates of cover are correct.
OSHC cover is necessary for the full period of your child’s stay in Australia, which means cover must be renewed every year or each time your child is re-enrolled.  Most schools will send renewal premiums to registered OSHC providers on your behalf, and a new membership card is issued.  Additional cover can be taken out in the form of Extra OSHC.

Student guardians must arrange for Overseas Visitor Health Cover (OVHC), which can be provided by a number of health insurance organisations.