Monday, March 3, 2014

What’s Life Like for an Indian Student in Australia?

Indians and Australians go a long way. Both honed by British imperial history, they are partners in more ways than one.

In 1950, the Colombo Plan began its decades-long commitment to sponsoring individuals from Asian countries to study or train in Australian higher-education institutions. Through this initiative, a veritable ark of Indians, much like their forebears in the British Raj, found their way to Australian shores. The vibrancy of the Indian community in Australian tertiary institutions today attests to the efficacy of the Colombo Plan.

Australia is one of the most pluralist centres of education in the world. Case in point: Four Australian institutions placed in Times Higher Education’s latest ranking of the world’s 25 “most international” universities.

What to expect

Many Indians in Australia are self-actualised people who represent the highest potential of their respective fields. People of Indian descent go on to pursue stellar careers in politics (Lisa Maria Singh, Peter Joseph Noozhumurry Varghese, Helena Carr), sports (Gurinder Singh Sandhu, Clancee Pearce, Lisa Carprini Sthalekar), journalism (Anjali Rao, Indira Naidoo), medicine (Mukesh Chandra Haikerwal), literature (Sudesh Mishra), and research (Veena Sahajwalla, Sunil Sharma).

As with any foreign country, however, Indians in Australia have to reckon with racism, which reared its ugly side in 2009 with a series of attacks on students. In spite of this, Australian immigration recently recorded a double increase in student visa applications from said country.

Working as a student in Australia

This exodus could only continue. India has a rising middle class, many of whom are raring for an education better than their country could offer. Furthermore, the Australian government has streamlined the visa process for international students, while the number of university scholarships available to foreigners continues to rise. The government also does not require any level of English proficiency from students who wish to enrol in English courses.

As a proverbial icing on the cake, Indians and other foreign students can work in Australia for two years after graduation. International students also have the option to take up employment concurrent with their education, so long as their work hours do not exceed 20 hours per week. When those two years lapse, graduates can get an employer to sponsor their stay.

Some companies are sponsorship-averse though, in view of several financial and legal deterrents. For instance, Australia’s wage board sets a higher minimum wage for international students.


It can’t be stressed enough that you need to have enough funds to tide you over your studies in Australia. A foreign student needs to have at least $18,000 a year for shelter, food and transport. You can never work enough to pay for these, let alone your tuition, especially because most part-time gigs for students barely follow minimum wage schedules. Also, an excess in working hours only ends up in a revoked visa.

Research your prospective institution beforehand. Australian institutions of good standing are listed by the government, through the Commonwealth Register of Institutions and Courses for Overseas Students. It also pays to visit the institution’s official website. As for private vocational schools, you can find info on their status in ACPET (Australian Council for Private Education and Training).

Talk to a registered migration agent. He or she can best handle your concerns on permanent residency. Refer to the Office of the Migration Agents Registration Authority (MARA).  Also, see the government’s latest guidelines on becoming a permanent skilled resident here.

Talk to friends and relatives who have studied in Australia. You can glean the most useful, relevant info from them.
Be insured. Ensure that your student visa’s Overseas Student Health Cover (OSHC) provides for the entire time of your studies in Australia.

Know your rights. International students in Australia deserve equal treatment. The Education Services for Overseas Students (ESOS) framework outlines your rights as an expatriate student in Australia.


Studying in Australia is one big opportunity to improve yourself and your home country.  If you don’t wish to apply your Australian training in your home country, that’s fine. Australia values pluralism, and there are many opportunities to live in a country that represents the best in tertiary education.

About the Author: Joel Mayer is an Australian freelance writer and blogger. He writes professionally and for fun across a wide range of niches. He enjoys sharing his knowledge with others and reviews companies like:


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