Higher Education: applying and enrolling in your chosen course
In Australia you can choose from various types of higher education providers, including government-funded universities, private universities, private providers offering industry-specific training, and specialists in on-line higher education delivery. Currently there are 43 universities in Australia so the choices can be overwhelming.
Questions to consider
It may help to consider questions such as:
- What work will I be qualified to do after completing this study?
- Will the qualification be recognised by employers?
- Do I meet the eligibility criteria for this study?
- What are the course fees, and do I have to pay the fees upfront?
- Can I get government income support?
- Where is the provider located?
- Does it have student support services, including support for students with disability?
- Does it have a good reputation?
If you are still unsure about your post-secondary options go to our Planning for Post-secondary Education pages.
There are a few different reasons to go on to higher education at university level. This includes:
- some professions require a university degree e.g., medicine, law, nursing, engineering and teaching
- increasing your future earning capacity
- broadening your skills and knowledge in a particular area
- increasing employment options
- improving your chances of promotion.
A university student is expected to develop higher level and independent skills in areas such as research, written and verbal communication, critical thinking, and problem solving.
The most common qualification to start with at university is an undergraduate degree - usually a bachelor degree, although some universities also offer Diplomas and Advanced Diplomas as pathways to bachelor programs. After completing an undergraduate degree, you might then move onto further study, such as an honours year, a masters, a graduate diploma, or a PhD. These programs are called postgraduate study.
The AQF qualifications wheel shows the different levels of qualifications. You can find more information on the AQF website
Applying to University
To apply to university as school leaver (i.e. after completing year 12) you will usually need to have an ATAR score, which means that during year 12 you completed pre-tertiary subjects identified as preparation for university study which acquire points. Usually, the more demand there is for a particular university course, the higher the ATAR score required. Ask your school or college careers adviser for more information about the ATAR scoring system for university admission.
There are a limited number of courses which may not rely on an ATAR or include additional entry requirements such as a portfolio or audition (e.g., creative arts or creative industries), or special entry requirements (e.g., teaching or medicine).
Most of the universities who participate in a centralised Tertiary Admissions Centre (TAC) in their state (i.e. QTAC - Queensland, UAC - NSW, VTAC - Victoria, TISC - WA, SATAC - SA and NT) offer educational access or special entry schemes that assist students with disability to gain admission to university study. The University of Tasmania has their own admission processes and has an equivalent scheme. The list of participating providers can be found on the Admission Centres page and you can access further information about applying and course offerings on these sites. You can also go directly to your preferred provider.
Universities use a special entry/educational access scheme to make offers of admission for school leavers in two ways:
- Set aside a certain number of places for special entry
- Allocate adjustment factors to the ATAR score e.g., these adjustments may be on the basis of equity such as disability or socioeconomic status, location, subjects undertaken at school, or elite athlete/performer status.
Adjustment factors are allocated for studying subjects relevant to the course for which you are applying. These points will change your selection ranking but not your ATAR score. The allocation of Adjustment Factors is different for each provider and course is different. The selection rank for each course may also be different across the universities you are considering.
The number and process of awarding bonus points and selection ranking can be complicated. Make sure you talk with the course selection staff at your preferred university and/or your secondary school staff for further information and clarification.
Universities can provide services and assessment adjustments for students with disability and ongoing illnesses that affect their studies, although they don’t guarantee that applicants with disability will be offered a place in a course. The types of adjustments that can be made include academic adjustments, use of technology, interpreting services, and library support. Talk to your disability services staff for more information.
If you are non-school leaver universities also offer courses via alternative entry processes. This may be based on a variety of qualifications and experience you have and could include:
- your school results (even if it was a while ago
- other post-secondary qualifications such as TAFE or VET qualifications
- Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL): where an applicant's formal and/or informal qualifications and experience are considered.
Options for non school-leavers applying to university can be complicated. Make sure you talk with the course selection staff at your preferred university for further information and clarification.
Applying to Non-University Education Providers
There are approximately 130 non-university education providers operating across Australia. Most of these providers are privately owned and funded, and offer diplomas, associate degrees and bachelor degrees, as well as some postgraduate degrees in specialised fields.
Each provider operates its own enrolment process (e.g., may use a Tertiary Admissions Centre in your state or direct application), and support services for students will differ between them, including the type and availability of learning support and academic adjustments.
For more information on available courses and student services, fees and enrolments, go to the provider’s website and search on the relevant category.
A list of all higher education providers
Applying to Open Universities Australia
Open Universities Australia (OUA) offers over 140 different courses across many different disciplines and has 12 participating universities across Australia.
In addition to undergraduate and postgraduate courses, OUA offers bridging and preparatory programs, and English language test preparation courses. Many of the undergraduate courses and units have no academic requirements or prerequisites. There are no ATAR scores required to enrol and may be able to get credit for these units when you enrol later (but check with the relevant university first).
Online learning offers flexibility in addition to accessibility, allowing you to select units across several universities and study to suit your own timetable.
A range of academic adjustments is available for students with disability once you are enrolled in a course for a minimum of 13 weeks.
OUA has an informative website with a lot of information on pathways, courses, units, fees and charges.
In addition to university courses, OUA facilitates an Open Training Institute (OTI) similar to TAFE, where you can choose to study at a certificate or diploma level.
Who to contact
Find out who to contact at your preferred university on our Key Contacts pages
Don't forget to ask them about support for students with disability as well!