The six states and two territories of Australia are responsible for providing higher education to their residents, but the federal government pays about 40 percent of the costs.

Country Overview

Australia is an island continent with a desert interior and a coastline of mountains, hills, tropical rainforests, and serpentine beaches. It is known worldwide for its coral reefs. It was colonized by the British Empire in the late 1700s – some 40,000 years after aboriginal settlers from Southeast Asia began to inhabit the island. In 1901 six British colonies formed a common federal state that was largely independent by World War II. To this day, however, Australia remains part of the British Commonwealth. Before the influx of the first European settlers, many of whom were convicts, the indigenous Aboriginal population numbered a few hundred thousand. Their numbers fell to 60,000 (their descendants represented less than 3 percent of the total population of 21.3 million in 2009) at one point during the two centuries of British colonization, a period remembered for its expropriation and discrimination against Aboriginal peoples, something for which the Australian government apologized in 2008.


The climate of Australia varies widely, but by far the largest part of Australia is desert or semi-arid – 40% of the landmass is covered by sand dunes. Only the south-east and south-west corners have a temperate climate and moderately fertile soil. The northern part of the country has a tropical climate, varied between tropical rainforests, grasslands, part desert.

Rainfall is highly variable, with frequent droughts lasting several seasons thought to be caused in part by the El Niño-Southern Oscillation. Occasionally a duststorm will blanket a region or even several states and there are reports of the occasional large tornado. Rising levels of salinity and desertification in some areas is ravaging the landscape.

Australia's tropical/subtropical location and cold waters off the western coast make most of western Australia a hot desert with aridity a marked feature of a greater part of the continent. These cold waters produce precious little moisture needed on the mainland. A 2005 study by Australian and American researchers investigated the desertification of the interior, and suggested that one explanation was related to human settlers who arrived about 50,000 years ago. Regular burning by these settlers could have prevented monsoons from reaching interior Australia.

Annual rainfall
A large region of Australia stretching from Western Australia's Shark Bay in the west across much of South Australia through to south-west Queensland and north-west New South Wales receives a median annual rainfall of less than 200mm (8 inches). The region with the highest median annual rainfall is Queensland's east coast between Cairns and Cardwell. The south of the country receives most of its rain in winter and the north is wettest in summer.





Overview of Higher Education

The six states and two territories of Australia are responsible for providing higher education to their residents, but the federal government pays about 40 percent of the costs. In 2007 nearly one-million students were enrolled in the country’s 42 public and two private universities.

Most students pay a portion of their tuition. The amount they pay is determined by the cost of instruction and their likely future earnings.

The country offers six postsecondary degrees: the diploma, advanced diploma, bachelor’s degree, graduate certificate/graduate diploma, master’s degree, and doctoral degree. The diploma and advanced diploma require two and three years of study, respectively. The bachelor’s degree requires three or four years; additional study of up to one year can result in a graduate certificate /graduate diploma. The master’s and doctoral degrees require an additional two and three years, respectively.
The education ministry intends by 2012 to give a national agency the power to regulate accreditation and auditing of education providers.

(Sources: BBC, The Europa World of Learning, The World Factbook)

Number of Colleges, Universities, Technical Institutes

Number of Colleges, Universities, and Technical Institutes (total): 41

Number of Colleges, Universities, and Technical Institutes (private/non-state):  2

Number of Higher Education Students

Number of students enrolled: 959,195

Number of international students enrolled: 202,448

Contact Information

Department of Education, Employment, and Workplace Relations

Levels 2, 3 & 4, 71 Northbourne Avenue, CANBERRA  ACT  2600

Website: http://www.dest.gov.au/

Phone: 02 6240 8111

E-mail: highered@deewr.gov.au

Contact: Julia Gillard, Minister for Education