Many Roads Lead to Australia – Part 2


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In the first part of this article, I have discussed how Indonesian students face some barriers when trying to gain admission into an undergraduate program in an Australian university. I also covered four of nine possible pathways to an Australian undergraduate program which I have identified. As a quick reminder, the first four pathways are:

  1. Attend a High School in Australia
  2. Obtain an Australian High School Diploma in Indonesia (or elsewhere)
  3. Complete a Foundation or accredited University Preparation Program in Indonesia (or elsewhere)
  4. Complete a Foundation or Diploma Program in Australia

I also made two very important disclaimers. Firstly, it is important to reconfirm the information you get with the relevant institutions and authorities. Also, note that the information in this article is mainly directed at international students in Australia and might not apply to Australian Citizens and Permanent Residents.

Now, here are my explanations and discussions of the next five pathways which I have identified:

5. Sit Cambridge A-Level Exams or obtain an IB Diploma in Indonesia (or elsewhere)

The Cambridge A-levels and the International Baccalaureate (IB) Diploma Program are the two major international qualifications which virtually any university in Australia should accept because of the high quality and rigour of courses. Universities with high international student populations tend to have a deep understanding of these programs and have handled many domestic and international applicants with these two qualifications. The best part about this is that these two are quite readily available in Indonesia. You can find more details about these two programs in this article. It’s also worth mentioning that by A-level I do not mean the O-Level or IGCSE, both of which are usually sufficient to gain admission to some Foundation or Diploma programs (or into some community colleges in the U.S.).

Although this alternative, in my opinion, is the most academically demanding and time-consuming, it is the most rewarding as you will be far more prepared for university and you will get the full high school experience all the way to Grade 12 graduation. The biggest uncertainty, however, is the risk of not making the cut-off marks for your desired program later on. This is also a problem you might face if you choose to study an Australian High School Diploma in Indonesia or in Australia. A good tip is to look at the historical cut-off marks for your potential undergraduate programs and talk to experienced educators and consultants to see if these cut-off marks are achievable for you.

Also, with the increasing popularity of the IB Diploma in Australia, in some states a student’s IB score can now be converted into an ATAR. A perfect IB score of 45 converts to the maximum ATAR of 99.95. Also, as reported in various recent articles on the Sydney Morning Herald website, “The global average [IB score] of about 30 would translate to an ATAR of 83” and “any score above 33 translates to an ATAR above 90”. Although some universities might not opt to convert the IB scores of international students into an ATAR, the conversion is a good indication of where you might stand.

6. Complete High School in a country where the local High School Diploma is accepted

This option may only be worth considering if you have exceptional circumstances like if you happen to be a Permanent Resident of some other country (in which case you might as well go to university in that country). Among the countries which are most commonly accepted by universities in Australia are Singapore, Malaysia, China, Hong Kong and India. In this case, the process is most similar to sitting the A-level or IB.

Many Roads Lead to Australia - Part 2
University of Western Australia

7. Complete at least one year of studies at a University or Polytechnic in Indonesia (or elsewhere)

A practice that is still carried out amongst some Indonesian students aiming to study in Australia is to spend one year in a university in Indonesia or to spend one or two years in a college in the U.S. (usually in a community college) and then apply to universities in Australia as a first-year student. Unless you were able to do this without going all the way to Grade 12 of high school, this is also adding additional years to your schooling. Furthermore, you will most likely not be able to transfer any of your college or university credits, let alone start in Australia as a second-year student. This can also be a problem when you have completed one year in some university in Indonesia only to find out that the Australian university you are applying to does not recognise your Indonesian university for some reason, as has happened before. However, one advantage that might come up is that if you are very accustomed to Indonesian schooling or living in Indonesia, the year in an Indonesian university might ease your transition from high school to university as you will not have to deal with adapting to both university-style schooling and living in a foreign country all at once. Community college in the US or elsewhere is also a nice transition into university life.

8. Study an accredited Australian undergraduate program in Indonesia

There are a number of institutions in Indonesia which run undergraduate programs for or in conjunction with some foreign universities. The best example of this is Universitas Indonesia (UI) International. For some of the programs offered by UI International such as Medicine and Engineering, students spend part of their program studying in Indonesia and the other part in a foreign university which they have partnership with, many of which are in Australia. The perks of this is that you can get both an Australian degree and an Indonesian degree by studying one program. For example, UI International’s Psychology program lets you study two years in UI’s campus and another two years in The University of Queensland (UQ), earning you both a Sarjana Psikologi and a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from UQ.

Another form of this is transfer programs. These are usually offered by the same institutions that offer Foundation or University Preparation Programs in Indonesia. So this means that you complete some credits for your program in a local institution for the first year or two and then you continue your program in Australia. There are even some programs which allow you to do your entire degree in Indonesia and the only thing you need to go to Australia for is your graduation. Usually, local high school qualifications are accepted for admission into these programs. Check with each institution for the details.

Though this is a good way to get an Australian undergraduate degree, some may find that this pathway defeats the purpose. This is especially true if your main objective is to experience studying overseas. However, it is usually a cheaper option and it is the only option on this list which requires only a national high school diploma.

9. Sit the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) and obtain proof of completion of 12 years of education

Finally, we come to the last alternative which is my least recommended one. This can be an open door into some universities such as UNSW and this is a common pathway for domestic students who, due to personal circumstances, studied somewhere with no access to any other accepted qualification. However, these students are commonly backed up with SAT Subject Tests and a range of Advanced Placement (AP) courses or other accredited courses.

The main advantage is that the SAT Reasoning Test, which is from the United States, is a one-time test which is offered all year round. The SAT required here is the SAT Reasoning Test.

However, I strongly discourage this option for many reasons. My first argument would be that what constitutes as “12 years of education” can be a major issue, especially if it is in a country where the national high school diploma is not an accepted one. What constitutes as “proof” might also become an issue in light of the low credibility of our examination system, especially that of the notorious Paket C, which is no secret to anyone. Also, the SAT is indeed a very challenging test to score well in and for some students it might not be realistic to aim for the high SAT scores required for some high-demand undergraduate programs, especially given that the SAT is an aptitude test rather than a knowledge-based test; in theory you cannot really crash-study for it. Furthermore, rules regarding admission using the SAT might change when College Board changes the format of the SAT in 2016. Finally, unless a student’s circumstances are very exceptional, I do not see why this pathway could end up being someone’s only option.

So, these are your nine ways to get an Australian undergraduate education! I cannot claim that this is an exhaustive list but it covers every way I have ever heard of from Indonesian students I have met in Australia.

Also, here are a few key questions you can ask yourself when considering which pathway to choose:

  • What kind of high school diploma do I have or am I going to get?
  • What kind of marks can I get in the secondary/diploma program I am in now? Are they high enough to reach the cut-off marks for the programs I want?
  • What kind of risks am I willing to take? Do I have another plan if my Australian plan does not work out?
  • What is the main reason behind why I want to study in Australia? What is the main objective?
  • How much am I willing to spend for an Australian undergraduate education?
  • Am I prepared to add to or skip years of my education?
  • At what age am I ready and willing to leave home and move over to Australia?
  • Is there a particular city or state in Australia I am aiming to go to?
  • Is there a particular university or program I am aiming for?

A final warning: be careful when researching cut-off marks! Domestic students have higher cut-off marks than international students do in almost all pathways. Make sure you look at the right list of cut-off marks and, when making an enquiry to any institution, always mention if you are an international or a domestic student.

An old proverb goes “All roads lead to Rome”. At least now we can say, “Many roads lead to Australia”.


Content Director: Steven Tannason 

Photo Credits:  “Sydney University Main Building Panorama” courtesy of Wikipedia, “University of Western Australia” courtesy of Wikipedia

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Berita berikutnyaSekilas Tentang the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS)
After sending out numerous college applications, Yudhi now studies a Bachelor of Science in Advanced Mathematics at the University of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia. Having experienced the Singaporean, Australian, Cambridge and Indonesian curriculum across ten different schools from Kindergarten to Grade 12, Yudhi considers himself a “third-schooled kid”. This, along with other unique experiences such as helping a troubled school in Bangka to develop its curriculum and mentoring junior students in his high school, has brought him to aspire to one day help improve education in Indonesia. Yudhi enjoys writing, traveling and meeting new people. He can be reached through



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