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Education in Australia

One of the major differences here in Australia is the education system, particularly higher education or tertiary school, as they call it here. When you go to university, you essentially decide what you’re going to study before you begin. The subject you study is largely determined by how well you do on exams at the end of secondary school (high school). Certain subjects, say physics or maths (as they call it here) or medicine, require higher marks on the exams than say psychology. There is flexibility for switching, and it sounds like some universities are experimenting with American-style systems, where you pick your major after a year or two of college. But for the most part, everyone sets out in a certain subject at the beginning.

Undergraduate degrees are only three years long here in Australia. However, this is beginning to shift towards a more American-style system. Currently, you can stay for a fourth year dubbed ‘Honors’ where you get to do individual research (sort of like a senior thesis). PhDs are also a bit different as they are only three years long. And, the Government funds the PhDs. Universities collect the money when students finish their PhDs, so universities have a clear incentive for people to finish their PhDs.

Another major difference is that a lot of university students live at home. And, according to Wikipedia, there are 41 universities in Australia, only 2 of which are private. In the US, there are 4,861 colleges. (For reference, our population is about 15 times bigger than Australia’s, but we have 100 times more schools, and about 25 times more students.) With numbers like that, I think it’s safe to say that there certainly aren’t any schools like VLS in places like South Royalton here in Australia! I would venture to guess that all of the universities are in fairly sizable cities, since there really aren’t that many universities in the entire country. In fact, I’m pretty sure there are only 3 in all of South Australia (though they do have multiple campuses).

Apparently, a large report came out in 2008 (called the Bradley Report), which highlighted the lack of university-qualified students in Australia. As a result, the Government is making a major effort to increase the number of students with university degrees, with a particular emphasis on students from rural areas. I wonder if it will lead to an increase in universities, though I somehow doubt it. I also know there are some major differences in studying law here. I promise to do some research on that and report back soon!


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