How to pick a university in Australia

Suggested university selection criteria

  • How should I choose a university ?
  • Should I apply to a uni with lower entrance admission requirements or famous one?
  • Which university is best for the course I wish to apply to ?
  • Which universities have less strict admission requirements  ?
  • Which course or degree should I select ? ieHow to  pick a degree course subject ?
  • What criteria do I need to make an informed decision instead of a whimsical one?

Tertiary education in Australia is primarily provided by 39 Australian universities  across Australia offering a wide range of bachelor, undergraduate, postgrad,  graduate diploma, master and doctoral / Ph.D and research courses. Australian students have an excellent choice of places and colleges to study at for university education.

Which University to  go to?

Do future university students choose a particular Australian universities for the right reasons? Many Aussie secondary school counsellors, career advisers, students and parents overstate the importance on the perceived reputation or rank  of a university.  Many are  blindly fixated about applying to  the ‘” top university ” for a specific subject or  the best degree program available, when in reality  in most cases, such reputation has little effect on one’s employablity in the Australian job market. In fact the top ranking or “best” reputation  of any particular degree or university is often arbitrary and based on controversial or debate criteria. Any Employment Recruiter specializing in helping Australian graduates find  employment in Australia will concur. Most Australian employers are just not fussed as  to which Australian universities a job applicant grads from. What matters most is that you passed with a degree from one of the many Australian universities  or colleges or TAFE institutions  in Australia.

What employers look for at an interview :

  • if you have a well  structured resume / CV  that  highlights your skills clearly and succinctly
  • if you present well at an interview ie. friendly, confident, approachable, responsive
  • demonstrated good work ethic
  • demonstrate people skills
  • if you communicate clearly and in good English
  • demonstrated   “can do” attitude
  • have good character and personality
  • if you have a suitable bachelor or undergraduate degree  qualifications
  • have reasonable grades at University

Most teachers and parents worry unnecessarily about their a student’s need to gain admission to the “ best universities”.  Know this,  all universities in Australia are regulated and monitored by the government. Whilst funding, equipment  & facilities and calibre of teaching  varies, it remains all such providers of tertiary education are good enough to be recognized and accepted by the Australian Government, regardless if it is recognized by any foreign government especially that of the home country  for overseas students. Ranking is often based on political and  bureaucratic reasons, less so on merit and most employers don’t care about  this. You may have heard someone tell you such and such a Australian university has a high rank  in global university ranking  of the world etc. A few of these ranking surveys are indirectly funded by private companies with vested interest.  Furthermore, the  rankings are not consistent  across surveys. Many are based on highly debatable or subjective criteria that have little direct  impact on teaching quality or whether you will get a job when you graduate. It is up to you to decide if  these comparisons are relevant or accurate at all to getting a great education in an Australian University that is not famous.

Eg.  A university that has :

  • more  professors from overseas
  • more place for  international students
  • more professors who have published papers
  • better reviews by CEO’s of  select  companies
  • more Nobel or Field prize winners

…. may get a higher ranking, depending on which of the many surveys you are  looking at. What has this got to do with teaching quality ? In my opinion, not much . Such rankings are not scientific or objective and are only partially relying on  objective, relevant  and measurable factors such as financial funding, teacher-student ratio and graduate employment rates. It is a case of comparing apples and oranges.

A list of articles about problems of ranking  “top” or ‘best’  universities and its REAL education significance ( or lack of ) :-

My personal university selection criteria is :

  • Does this Australian university offer the degree- subject I wish to study?
  • Which university is the easiest (lowest cut off ) to get into for Engineering, Accounting, Law, Medicine, Computer science  etc given my not-so-high ATAR or secondary school grades?
  • Do I have a better chance of  gaining admission at a  famous university or a lesser known one with  lower cutoff ?
  • Will my high school grades be sufficient for me to gain admission here ?
  • ( “Famous” universities are harder to get in as more people apply for fewer places, so the cutoff point is  higher. It does not necessarily mean the education quality is necessarily superior at famous universities)
  • Is it a 3 or 4 year  degree program ?
  • Is this uni  located in a big or small city ?
  • Is this university  in the warm or cold part of Australia?
  • Is this univ  near a beach or a desert?
  • Does the university have it’s own campus or is it scattered across the city?
  • Do I plan on having a part time job while studying at univ   ?
    ( Such jobs are easier to find in bigger cities )
  • Do I wish to go to a big city university in Australia  where there may be  20-25% foreign students or  a country side  university where there are less foreign students, as this will give me a better chance to mix with the locals?
  • Have you spoken to anyone who might have studied or is studying  at any universities recently, especially in the degree  of interest?
  • How far is this university away from my home or place  of dwelling?

( Do I need to fly,  train or bus to see mom ?  I’m thinking about my  laundry !)


  To see other  Australian university degree courses, try here.