Studying for a degree in New Zealand and Australia – Study Options and University of Otago

Study Options is essentially like UCAS for any students who want to apply for Australian and New Zealand universities. Do you have Australian or New Zealand citizenship? Do you hold passports for either of the countries? That’s good if you do. That makes things nice and straight forward.

The first thing to know here is actually even though these universities are so far away. The university experience is actually not as different as you might expect. Both of these countries have UK based education systems. Australian and New Zealand students attend high school, attend secondary school, for the same number of years that we do in the UK. Their school leaving qualifications are directly equivalent to A Levels, International Baccalaureate and so on and so forth. That means that the systems are very easy to move between. So for example it’s very common to have a student do their secondary school education in the UK, then move to Australia or New Zealand to do their bachelors degree, and then potentially come back to the UK to do a masters or a PhD, and so on and so forth, as well as obviously coming back home to get some work.

I think that the straightforwardness of moving between the systems is obviously a very reassuring point because there’s that instant feeling of familiarity really when you’re starting to look at this. But there is also some very practical advantages to it as well. It means that there is very strong recognition of any qualification awarded by an Australian or New Zealand university back here in the UK from an employers point of view, but also by other universities around the world as well.

That also holds true if any of you are considering doing professional qualifications, so for example Engineering, Medicine, Dentistry, Nursing, Social Work, Law, so on and so forth. Those professions obviously tend to have very close links, the regulatory bodies of them sorry I meant. Which means that for example if you study to become a vet in Australia or New Zealand you can come straight back to the UK and work without any need for further tests or any further study.

There are some very practical advantages to the similarities. In summary, essentially many features of university life, and certainly the qualifications that you come out with, are going to be very much the same as studying in the UK, and certainly the degree, the qualification that you emerge with, is going to be the exact equivalent of a UK awarded degree.

I’ve just got a picture up here of the University of Adelaide. So the University of Adelaide is part of what’s called the Group of 8. These are the leading Australian institutions in terms of international rankings, so I’ll come onto rankings a little bit more in just a second, but the Australians do have this group that they regard as equal to the UK Russell Group or the US Ivy League for example. Okay, one key difference to be aware of is that the structure of undergraduate degrees in Australia and New Zealand is much broader and much more flexible than you typically find in the UK.

Now by that I mean, I have a little diagram here just to explain it a little bit more clearly, when you enroll on say a Bachelor of Arts, you have to declare your major subject, so for example I’m going to major in History, I’m a Bachelor of Arts student. The first courses that I have to program into my timetable every year are core compulsory courses that every History student has to take. So say for example there are those two little courses in pale blue, just there on the bottom line of the diagram.

Once I’ve fulfilled the requirements of my major however, I’m then free to take courses, to take papers, from elsewhere within the faculty of Arts & Humanities. So for example perhaps I want to take some International Relations papers, I want to take some Politics papers, maybe a language. I’d be able to slot those papers in to the next sections of my timetable.

Now, a Bachelor of Arts degree is actually the most flexible degree of any of the undergraduate degrees, so many of them will actually allow you to take papers from other faculties elsewhere in the university, not just your own, provided you meet subject prerequisites. This means that effectively the system allows you to build a degree that’s quite unique to you, to your interests, to your academic strengths, but also to your career aspirations going forwards, and it’s a very, very flexible system as you can see from this.

Another advantage, when you declare your major, say for example you get to the university and you think ‘actually I don’t enjoy History as much as I enjoy International Relations’, it’s very straightforward to change your major during that first year of study. In the UK you’d probably have to actually withdraw from your first course and reapply for your second choice. In Australia and New Zealand you simply switch your major during that first year of study, and that’s a very straight forward process.

The broad ethos I suppose of the education system is really that they want to educate somebody, who is for example a scientist first and foremost, who happens to have a specialisation in physics, or a business person who happens to have a specialisation in human resources management. I think that broad based approach has some real merits when it comes to potentially dealing with career challenges further on down the line.

Obviously no one really knows what changes or challenges are going to come up in their career, and this broad foundation really does put you in very good stead for being able to deal with those. Now one thing to emphasise, that system is only applicable to generalist degrees, so Bachelor of Arts, Bachelor of Commerce, Bachelor of Science.

If you’re going to do a professional course such as say the Bachelor of Engineering, or the Bachelor of Surgery/ Bachelor of Medicine, you’re going to be following a very set structured study program. There is going to be very little opportunity, or even no opportunity, to take elective subjects. However I think you can see here the same principle of broad based education coming through.

So a Bachelor of Engineering in Australia or New Zealand is a four year program. During the first year the whole cohort, the whole engineering cohort
takes these papers, these introductory engineering papers before then splitting off into their specialisations in second, third, and fourth year. So you will split into a civil stream, a mechanical engineering stream, and so on and so forth. But that first year everybody undertakes those papers. Another key difference to be aware of. The teaching culture is quite different in Australia and New Zealand, for undergraduate students they have a big emphasis on the importance of undergraduate teaching. In the UK we have a very strong tradition of self-directed learning at university level.

Now that is usually a euphemism for the onus being very much on the student to get down to the library and really kind of taking on that learning themselves. So you tend to have a relatively low number if contact teaching hours with academics at UK universities, particularly for say, an Arts and Humanities student.

The Australian and New Zealand system is something of a halfway house, between the UK approach and the US approach, where in America you have a very, very hand held type approach by the academics particularly in your first and second year. So the Aussies and Kiwis are somewhere in the middle, so you’re going to have a higher number of contact teaching hours than you would in the UK, but you’re going to have more independence and the onus is going to be on you far more than it would be at say a US university.

I think also there is a repeated bit of feedback that we get from our students who go to Australia and New Zealand, just to say how accessible they find the academics, how easy it is to get support if you need some extra help or if you’ve got a query about something that you’ve heard in class. So you very much see an open door policy for academic offices, peoples emails being given out very freely, and a lot of our students say they really appreciate that, they really appreciate the academic support that they receive at the universities.

The next thing, the universities have a very, very strong focus on the student experience. So they essentially offer up an enormous range of opportunities and experiences that you can choose whether or not you want to take advantage of to really maximize your time at university. Now I’ve just given a couple of examples here. Obviously student clubs and societies, you’d expect to find those at any well established university in the world really, but you’ll also find that these universities offer you the chance to get involved with community projects, with volunteering in your local community, they also have very strong outbound exchange networks with other universities around the globe, so if you don’t feel that you’ve gone far enough already, you can certainly build in an even greater international dimension into your undergraduate degree by studying for either a semester or a full year at one of their partner institutions.

Recently we’ve seen quite a few students for example taking an exchange semester from say and Australian or New Zealand university to say one of the universities in China or elsewhere in South-East Asia to get that Asian business experience. Obviously with an eye to where they might want their career to take them going forwards. But certainly the opportunities for exchange, for example Will’s university would have a network of exchange partners that span North America, Europe, Asia, really anywhere in the world that you want to take that experience up at. Obviously I don’t think it would be a presentation about Australia and New Zealand without a few pretty pictures. The other huge
draw to these countries is the lifestyle that’s available to students. Obviously your student experience is not just about the course that you study, not just about the university you go to, it’s what else you want to do with your time once you’re not in the library, because obviously you’ll be all the time at university I’m sure.

So certainly the chance to experience the great outdoors to really experience a different lifestyle a different culture for quite an extended period of time is a huge draw for students coming from the UK. Just a quick slide about the quality of the education that’s available in Australia and New Zealand. This is obviously really key. If you’re going to go all that way and pay what is a considerable amount of money in tuition fees, you need to know that the qualification that you’re getting at the end of it is going to be well regarded and recognised
world wide. Now I could safely say that the Australian and New Zealand quality of education is absolutely excellent.

A large number of these universities feature in the international rankings systems, obviously ranking systems should always be taken with a pinch of salt but they are equally very helpful in terms of getting an idea of where certain universitiessit in the global scheme of things. We use three different ranking systems and we’d always recommend that students look at a couple of different ones to get a really balanced picture.

The three we use are the QS rankings, the Times Higher Education, and the Shanghai Jiao Tong which is issued by a Chinese university or a Chinese think-tank. The universities in Australia and New Zealand are considered to be world leaders in a very wide number of subjects areas. So if you actually drill down in those international rankings and look at subject rankings, individual subject rankings sorry, you will see how strongly regarded they are in different academic areas. A few practicalities.

The similarity between the systems again is a big advantage here. It means that the application process is very straightforward. There are no additional tests. So when you apply to these universities, you’ll be applying on the basis of your A Levels, your IB, your UK issued degree, any UK qualification. The only degrees that have additional requirements are Medicine, Dentistry, and performance-based subjects which require a portfolio or an audition-tape in some cases.

In terms of lodging your applications, that’s where my organisation comes in, that’s what we do. So once you’ve selected the courses that you might want to apply to, the universities you might want to apply to, we actually issue you the application forms that you’ll need and give you a checklist of the documents that are going to be required to put your application together. We’d like to reiterate again at this point that Study Options is a completely free service, everything that we do is funded by the universities that we work with. Okay, so a quick look at costs you’ll need to budget for tuition fees and living expenses during your time in Australia or New Zealand.

Please note that each university does set it’s own tuition fees for each individual course. So unlike the UK where we generally have pretty much a blanket cost of £9,000 a year, these universities have different fees for each individual degree that they offer. One of the really key things that we do is we issue you course lists, so if anyone wants to know, for example, what courses are available in Engineering, if you just drop us an email we can send you a list of every single engineering degree that is taught throughout Australia and New Zealand. Please look at those very carefully, it will give individual costs on those course lists, and as you’ll see there is quite a bit of variation. Not so much in New Zealand, they do tend to be a bit more uniform in what they charge, but certainly in Australia you will see quite a wide range of costs being quoted.

The other thing to think about is the difference in living costs in different locations in both countries. There is a world of difference between the living costs that you’ll incur studying in say Dunedin, where the University of Otago is located, and the living costs you’d incur in Aukland, which is New Zealand’s biggest city and has a much higher cost of living, generally speaking. You can work on a student visa in both these countries, up to 20 hours per week. Or well the Australians now say it’s 40 hours a fortnight, I’m not quite sure why they’ve changed the actual wording of that. But you can work, this is usually very helpful when it comes to meeting the cost of living, but it’s not enough to pay tuition fees, unless you are already qualified as a doctor or a physiotherapist, and you can do some very highly paid work.

General student employment is not going to pay enough to pay for your tuition fees, so you do need to have those organised and sorted before you leave the island. So this is a little snapshot of the University of Otago, just before Will leads on with his presentation. So these are our contact details, so as I said Study Options is the organisation responsible for processing applications to
Australian and New Zealand universities. We are a free service for students, and parents, and schools. We have two offices in the UK, in London and in Bristol, but we also are regular visitors to Jersey, so for example the next time I’m on the island will be in March 2014 for the Higher Education event that’s held at Hautlieu School. But please do drop us an email, give us a call with any questions that you might have, or to ask for a course list for a particular subject area, we’re really happy to send those through.

We do also hold open days for the Australian and New Zealand universities, so we tour fivec ities in the UK, that happens the first week of June and we actually have representatives with us from usually around 23-24 of the Australian and New Zealand universities. So if you guys are interested in finding out more and talking to the representatives in person, that can be a very useful event to come and attend.

A lot of New Zealand official engagements would always begin with a Maori greeting. Something unique about New Zealand, you wouldn’t necessarily see this in Australia, you wouldn’t see an Aboriginal language. New Zealand is officially a bi-cultural nation, just to throw that out there. We are maybe the last colony of the British Empire, the culture is very similar to the UK, students from Jersey who come to New Zealand would find it maybe is culturally similar and therefore familiar, but we also have this extra additional little Maori culture that I want to put in there just to get your mind thinking about

Everyone knows New Zealand’s beautiful. It’s a big draw for going to New Zealand on holiday, even studying there. It’s like having a natural laboratory, especially for the scientists, right there on your doorstep. The only reason that New Zealand is above water is because these two plates meet, and they crash into each other and that’s why we have these large beautiful mountains where they filmed The Lord Of The Rings and The Hobbit. This is just some of the unique topography of New Zealand. There is a city called Dunedin. Dunedin is Gaelic, it actually means Edinburgh of the south, it’s New Zealand’s Scottish settlement from the 19th century. The diversity of environments within our local area. The city center, university campus, everything is within 15 minutes walk. It’s a student city, 120,000 people live here, 20,000 are students.

So in that way I think it’s a nice match for Jersey, it’s not a massive city. It’s a very safe, small, student focused city, and that’s probably the best point about it. But you can see urban environment on the coast. Travel one hour inland, this is what it looks like- sheep farming land. There are a lot of sheep in New Zealand. So one hour inland, totally different rolling green hills. Two hours inland, and it looks like this, it’s very, very dry it gets hardly any rain, it’s essentially a desert. A lot of tussock grass growing there.

So this is only two hours from campus, it’s totally changed in environment. And then three hours you’re up into the mountains, an alpine environment. The Southern Hemisphere’s number one skiing and snowboarding area, these people are obviously heli-skiing. Queenstown, Monica region, if you’ve ever been there you know it’s the adventure capital of the world, it’s where bungee jumping was invented and everything like that. Four hours, you travel over the mountains onto the west coast, and then you have a subtropical rainforest where they get 4m of rain a year, 12 foot of rain a year. And that’s amazing, because two hours ago you were essentially in a desert, and then you cross over the alpine environment and you’re into a rainforest, and you also have over there glaciers, this is Franz Josef glacier, and fjords, this is Milford Sound. I used to take American international students on cruises in there, on an overnight boat cruise, and we’d go kayaking off the back with dolphins and you have penguins in there and everything like that, so it’s quite a stunning environment.

New Zealand, we have 4.3 million people. This is a breakdown by ethnicity, 68% European, 15% Maori, so the greeting that I gave you at the start, 9% Asian and 7% Pacific Islander. So we’re a bit of a hub of the south Pacific as well. Recent immigration, especially from the Asian countries. New Zealand is quite a diverse country you could say. It’s a young country, it’s very safe, one of the safest countries in the world. Progressive, egalitarian, and 1 in 4 New Zealanders was not even born in New Zealand, so we do have quite a draw of people coming from overseas to the country.

We have 8 universities in New Zealand, this is just to show you where they all are. In Auckland you have the University of Aukland, AUT, and Massey, Massey actually has three campus, one in Palmerston North and Wellingtona as well; there is Victoria in Wellington; Waikato in Hamilton; and three Universities in the South Island, Canterbury and Lincoln in Christchurch; and my university down here, University of Otago in Dunedin. Okay, Legatum Institute, they present a Prosperity Index every year, and they rank New Zealand number 1 for education in the world.

All eight of the New Zealand universities are in the top 500 universities in the world under the QS Rankings that Sarah was talking about previously. So that’s quite amazing that a very small country in the corner of the world has all of their universities in the top 500 in the world. I don’t think any other country can claim to have such a highly ranked higher education system as New Zealand can. This is to give you an idea of how many students are at our universities, so the University of Aukland is by far the largest with 32,000, and then looking down you’ve got some universities around about 20,000 down to Lincoln the smallest university in New Zealand. And Otago, the one that I’m from, let me just talk a little bit about that. Now the university of Otago is New Zealand’s oldest university. It was established in 1869 and was established on the back of a gold rush.

So in Dunedin they found gold in the hinterland in central Otago, and the city
became the economic capital of New Zealand in the 19th century. So Dunedin is pretty much the only city in New Zealand where you see a lot of old Victorian architecture throughout the whole city. It’s quite unique in that respect, including the clock tower building on campus. It’s a true university city. It’s the only true university city in all of Australia and New Zealand, so it is quite different. If you’re looking for a big city experience, Otago might not necessarily be the place you would go. So we have 120,000 students, the campus itself is in the centre of the city, everything is 15 minutes walk from where the
students live, to the campus, to the city centre. And the economy of the city is actually built on the university, it’s the largest employer in fact in the entire South Island of New Zealand, after the District Health Boards.

This is a pretty big thing, the University of Otago, in terms of South Island of New Zealand. And because of that, being an old university, the oldest university in New Zealand, large importance to the country, it’s a big draw from students throughout New Zealand. So as I said I came from 10 hours drive away, we have more students from Aukland studying at Otago than we do have students from Dunedin, the local city where we are.

So it’s essentially a big destination university, and in fact 80% of our students come from outside of Dunedin either from other parts of New Zealand, or
from around the world. Out of our 20,000 students, 2,700 are international students. So some more beautiful photos, because the campus is quite picturesque. The Huffington Post and Daily Telegraph just listed Otago, within the past year, as one of the 16 most beautiful universities in the world.

Our number one nationality I guess is American students. A lot of US students from Ivy League universities, their universities approve them to come to Otago to take a semester or two semesters, and transfer the credit back to the Ivy League university in the US. So we have a lot of these top US students coming
out for a short period at university as well. And then straight down here to number 6, 91 students from the UK, including some students from Jersey. Over the past few years Jersey students have really discovered Otago and realised that it is a fantastic destination for the reasons I’ve described. 4,000 of our students are postgraduate, so 20% of the university population, and as with most universities in New Zealand, it’s a research led university.

So you’re being taught by researchers who are leading their fields within the world. It’s not all old buildings, this is our library, a really fantastic place to study. It won international design awards. It’s really bright, not like a dingy, dark library that you would normally find at a university. In terms of rankings, Otago’s ranked in the top 1% of universities in the world. We have the top ranking in New Zealand for a single subject area, Otago is ranked 15th in the world for Psychology, it’s a real strength of ours. So that’s right up there with the top Universities in the UK, Oxford, Cambridge, and the Ivy League universities in the US. So psychology is really a flagship program of Otago.

You can see the strength in the top 100 universities in the world, for everything from Accounting and Finance through to Biological Sciences, and things like History and English Language and Literature as well. So it’s a very broad, comprehensive university. The only things that we don’t teach at Otago are things like Engineering, or Architecture, more applied subjects we don’t have, but everything else we do. This is really something quite amazing. I-student group, they’re based out in the UK, and what they do is they survey international students at any university that signs up to be a part of their survey. 7 of the 8 universities were surveyed this year, 2013. So they sent the survey out to all of our international students and they could reply, and they collate the results and give us a benchmark of telling us where we sit, in terms of all of the New Zealand universities, over a very broad range of areas.

But four broad areas are learning, living, support, and arrival, so how the students at our university and these other 6 New Zealand universities rate their experience. And Otago came out first in all four, so I think that’s really important especially for the parents here, who are thinking is your son or daughter going to go to the very opposite side of the world, to Otago, which is the farthest University from Jersey that you’ll find, are they going to get the support, are they really going to have an experience that’s not going to have you concerned. So this is quite an important aspect.

Residential Colleges. 80% of our students come from out of town, so we have a Residential College system based on the Oxford/ Cambridge model. We have 13 first year Residential Colleges. Some of them very studious students go there, they may get 6 applications for every bed, some of them, more sporty; some of them, maybe a bit more party atmosphere. So there are these 13 Residential Colleges, and they can be quite selective. To get into New Zealand universities, the general first year entry is pretty uniform, and it’s not terribly high. It’s not as high as maybe an equivalently ranked UK university, but that’s by no means a reflection of quality, it’s more capacity and that we have the capacity to take additional students in, so we allow that.

The Residential Colleges, some of them can be quite selective. This is St. Margaret’s, they will choose top academic, well-rounded students who have an interest in maybe volunteering, community involvement, sports, things like that as well in addition. This one here is Selwyn College, this is where my sister went. This is the Lindski battle, the seniors battle with the juniors in cardboard armour every year in April. It’s a little tradition they’ve had going for decades and decades. My sister went to Selwyn, she is a prime example of someone
who did a professional qualification in New Zealand, she studied Law at Otago, went to Selwyn College in first year, and now she works as a lawyer in London.

A lot ofher friends in London are actually Otago graduates who went to Selwyn College with her, so within different big cities in the world, you’re going to find these little pockets of Otago alumni who know each other because of the community atmosphere of Otago, and that’s a really nice aspect of it. And this is Knox College, it’s like a castle on the hill. Each one of these is a students bedroom. 13 Residential Colleges and quite a cool aspect of Otago, quite different and it is one big draw for students to come to Otago, getting that, not being thrust straight into the middle of a big city and having to fend for yourself, but coming into a Residential College building a new friend group on the other side of the world, and then being able to go out and go flatting- living in a house privately with your friends that you made in in the first year. And I think that’s one of the things that really supported Otago and is why we got such a good ranking in the I-student benchmarking.

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