A practical guide to the university research process

If you’re thinking about studying in Australia you’ll know that there are a lot of decisions that need to be made before you leave your home country. You need to consider where in Australia you would like to study, which university you see yourself attending and what course you wish to study. If you’re currently researching your options, we answer some common questions.

What are the most important things to consider when choosing a university?

This really depends on your individual needs and interests. Some students value being in the heart of the city; for others, it’s subject availability that’s a major factor in choosing a university. If you are looking to pursue an academic field or a research degree, you may choose an institution that specialises in your area of interest or make your selection based on potential supervisors. Those students looking to study through student exchange may be limited to institutions that have a partnership with their home institution.

How do universities typically differ?

Australian universities often fall into one of two categories. The first are old, established institutions with strong research capacity. These universities tend to have a heavy focus on pure academic disciplines and may offer a number of general undergraduate degrees, such as bachelor degrees in arts, business and science, with a broad selection of postgraduate options. The second group is made up of newer universities — some that have grown from small technical colleges. These universities generally have a stronger focus on providing a practical education to prepare students to enter their chosen industry and usually offer a greater range of specialised courses. Of course, there are many differences between universities even within these groups — this is why thorough research is important.

Is university performance an important factor?

While university performance is certainly worth looking into, it shouldn’t be the only factor you consider when making your decision. There is no set way to rank institutions — different factors appeal to different people. Sometimes the most prestigious university won’t be the right fit for you — perhaps it’s a lesser-known university that offers the best course for your needs. Most ranking systems award universities individual rankings for different categories, such as specific subjects or faculties, research output and facilities, so you can see how each institution performs in areas that are important to you.

How will my decision affect the outcomes I want to achieve?

It is important to research potential universities thoroughly to ensure that the course you choose will lead to your desired outcome. For example, if you’re looking to enter a regulated profession, you will need to make sure the course is accredited by the relevant industry bodies. If you’re hoping to use one course as a pathway to another, you will need to check if you will be awarded credit for your studies. You may also look to see if potential courses provide the opportunity for you to purse specialisations of interest, if there are any opportunities for work experience within the course and if the course offers a pathway to further study.

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