Lifestyle lures Brits to study Down Under

November 15, 2002

The number of students leaving Britain's rainy shores to study at Australian universities has leapt by 44 per cent in the past year, new figures show.

This year, 1,710 UK students opted for courses offered Down Under, compared with 1,186 last year.

The rise has coincided with a new marketing campaign in Europe by IDP Education Australia, the organisation run by Australian state universities to promote their courses. IDP has helped 1,000 people to apply for places since opening offices in the UK in December last year.

But according to IDP and students who have chosen to study in Australia, the increase has a lot to do with a growing tendency for prospective fee-paying students to "shop around" for courses worldwide, assisted by the internet.

Claire Wright, who is studying for a certificate in horticulture at the Cooloola and Sunshine Institute in Nambour near Brisbane after gaining a masters in natural resources studies at the University of Queensland, said:

"Maybe UK students are beginning to feel that if they are going to have to pay fees anyway, they might as well look further afield for the kind of courses and lifestyle they would like."

While courses in Australian higher education can range from A$10,000 (£3,525) to $30,000 a year, students are also factoring into their calculations the cost of living, estimated to be about three times lower than in the UK.

Highly flexible and often tailor-made programmes - particularly attractive to would-be postgraduates who account for about three-quarters of inquiries to IDP - along with "lifestyle choices", are also considered key parts of the Australian package.

High-quality facilities, an open and friendly style of teaching, relatively small class sizes and Australia's position as a gateway to Asia, are other perceived benefits.

Two-thirds of UK students at Australian universities are on courses in health, arts, humanities or business and administration, while just over a fifth are on information technology courses.

Dee Roach, director of IDP's UK office, said the variety of courses on offer in Australia took many UK applicants by surprise.

"The courses are often in the same mode of study as in the UK, but with the kind of flexibility that you find in the American system. For many students, it is also a question of lifestyle choices. The cost of living in Australia is so much lower, and many feel they can get a better quality of life as well as more opportunities," she said.

For 20-year-old Natalie Talisman, the decision to study for a BA in media and communication at the University of New South Wales came after her application to read media studies at Bournemouth University was turned down.

She searched for an alternative on the internet and was surprised to find how easy it was to apply for courses in Australia.

Although her course, including accommodation, will cost about £25,000 over three years, she believes she can offset some of it against a lower cost of living.

She said: "The quality of life in Australia is a hundred times better. You can afford to live on a bar wage, which you could never do in the UK."

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