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Can International Students Pursue Online Programs? The Benefits of Starting Your Degree Overseas

With border restrictions still in place, many current and future international students are unable to travel to Australia. If COVID-19 has disrupted your plans to study in Australia this year, you might be wondering whether you can instead start your studies with an Australian educational institution online. 

We’ve put together a guide to starting studies online, student visas for online courses and the benefits of distance learning in Australia for international students. 

Can international students take online classes from overseas?

Yes, you can start your studies with an Australian institution from overseas – and there are many benefits to doing so (we’ll go through these a little later on).

As the beginning of your course will be undertaken entirely online, it might be worth getting advice from your educational institution on which units to enrol in for this period. You may want to start with units that don’t require in-person attendance and try to select class times that suit your time zone – unless you’re up for taking a class in the middle of the night!

Do I need a visa to study from overseas?

No. While travel restrictions remain in place, undergraduate and graduate coursework students do not need a visa to undertake online studies with an Australian educational institution. 

A student visa is only required to enter Australia and to undertake an eligible course of study within the country. You will need to apply for a student visa once the travel restrictions have been lifted so that you can continue your studies on campus in Australia. 

The Australian Government is currently accepting visa applications from students enrolled at an Australian educational institution so that these students can travel to Australia as soon as the borders reopen and it is safe to do so. 

The benefits of starting your degree overseas 

  • Jumpstarting your course

The pandemic has proven to be extremely unpredictable, and things can change at any time. Undergraduate courses are usually between three and four years long, and if you choose to undertake a postgraduate course, you might be studying for several more years. 

By starting your course overseas, you don’t have to unnecessarily delay your study plans, and instead, regain control over your education journey. 

  • Ease of entry into Australia once borders open 

The Australian Government and Australian educational institutions are eager for international students to return to Australia. If you are already enrolled at an Australian educational institution, you may find it much easier to enter Australia once borders reopen. The Australian Government is already granting visas to international students who are overseas in preparation for their entry into Australia. 

  • COVID-19 safe zone 

Currently, Australia is one of the safest places in the world. The country has strict measures in place to make sure the spread of the virus doesn’t get out of control, and compared to many other countries, infection rates are relatively low. This is particularly true for regional areas, such as Newcastle, which have experienced lower case numbers than major cities in Australia.

  • Offshore scholarship opportunities 

Starting your Australian degree overseas may actually be more affordable long-term. This is because some universities are offering scholarships and fee reductions for international students who can’t enter Australia due to border restrictions. 

The University of Newcastle, for example, has a Study from Home Fee Waiver for students who commence their studies offshore. These students can receive a discount of up to 20 per cent off their university fees during this period. The University also offers a wide range of other scholarships for international students. You can see their full list of scholarships here

  • Engaging with students from across the world 

Starting your course overseas will give you the chance to connect and study with students from all over the world. Your online classes will be a mix of local and international students in a similar situation to you. Engaging with other students is not only a fascinating and rewarding experience, but once Australian borders reopen, you will have already built connections with your classmates. 

Ludwina’s study experience

Ludwina, an international student from Indonesia, is currently studying a Bachelor of Food Science and Human Nutrition as part of a dual-degree program with the Universitas Pelita Harapan in Indonesia and the University of Newcastle in Australia. As her University of Newcastle studies commenced during the pandemic, she has had to complete her studies online. 

While Ludwina had never stepped onto the University’s Australian campus or met her classmates in person, she didn’t let the barrier of distance stop her from engaging with other students. She took part in the University of Newcastle’s annual food competition, Food Expo, and connected with her teammates online, maintaining almost daily contact during the competition period. Despite the physical distance, the students worked together really well and ended up winning the People’s Choice award for 2020. 

“I loved working with my teammates,” she says. “They were all very nice and I was also able to learn a lot from them. It was so exciting and rewarding to win the award after all the hard work we put into the project.”