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Australia: Destination Guides

The ultimate student guide to Newcastle

With just as much sun as Sydney, lots of surf and a vibrant arts scene, Newcastle is a small city with a super-sized culture, making it a great place to study.

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Once a large industrial town, Newcastle has reinvented itself in the 21st century to become a haven for surfers, students, and artists. It’s the second oldest city in Australia, and its community takes pride in the city’s continued development as a hub for innovative culture and cuisine.


Though it’s far smaller than nearby Sydney, Newcastle has everything you could want in a student city. With historic architecture, hundreds of days of sun a year, dozens of hip bars and restaurants and a cheaper cost of living, the city is a hidden gem.


Newcastle is in the state of New South Wales, a region filled with everything from wineries to wildlife sanctuaries, world-class surf, and bushwalking trails.


It’s also home to several notable universities, including the University of Newcastle, a campus of the University of New South Wales, and Avondale University. You’ll be able to soak up city life in Newcastle while getting an internationally recognised degree.


Newcastle is known for its laid-back attitude and has the affectionate nickname of ‘Newie’. The city is popular with artists and bohemians, and with a population of fewer than 500,000 people, it’s perfect for students looking for a less crowded urban lifestyle.


The city lies at one end of the world-famous Hunter Valley, home of internationally famous wine that is sought after the world over. When you aren’t in class, grabbing a coffee or catching a wave, you can take a day trip out to have a glass in the sun.


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What is Newcastle like?


Location and demographics


Newcastle, Australia is the second oldest city in Australia. It’s located about two hours north of Sydney, and sits on the picturesque coast of the Pacific Ocean. As a smaller harbour city, Newcastle’s residents enjoy miles of quiet, beautiful coastline within minutes. Inland from the city, a rich agricultural landscape stretches out until it reaches the rugged hills and forests of various national parks, which offer an insight into the land as it was thousands of years ago.


Culture and history 


The land in which Newcastle now stands was originally the traditional home of various Aboriginal peoples, who lived in the area for at least 6,500 years before European settlers arrived.


The area was permanently settled in 1804 by the British, and due to the large amounts of coal that could be found there, it was named Newcastle, after the English city which was also known for its coal exports.


The city thrived as an economic centre and today remains a busy port town that supports an increasingly artistic and cosmopolitan community. It’s a diverse city, with almost a third of its population born outside of Australia.


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What universities are in Newcastle?


Newcastle is home to several prominent universities that, between them, offer a range of undergraduate and postgraduate study options leading to internationally recognised qualifications.


The University of Newcastle is the city’s most renowned institution, with a ranking in the top 200 universities worldwide according to QS World University Rankings 2022. The university has been operating for over 50 years and is known for its progressive teaching model and cutting-edge facilities. It also has locations in Sydney, Port Macquarie, and Singapore. It has a student community of more than 37,000 people, offering over 250 undergraduate courses and over 150 postgraduate ones.


Avondale University is also based in Newcastle and welcomes a significant number of international students every year to pursue a globally recognised course of study. Its graduates have gone on to success across business and government roles, as well as further study at other Australian institutions.


Universities like UNSW also have campuses close to Newcastle, so there’s no shortage of empowering educational pathways to choose from.


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What does Newcastle offer students? 


What transport is there? 


You’ll be able to use a wide range of bus and ferry services to get around the city of Newcastle. Due to its smaller size compared to neighbouring Sydney, walking, and cycling are attractive options and a popular choice for city residents. You can also rent electric bikes and find yourself on the other side of town or on the water’s edge in no time.


What entertainment and food is there?


Newcastle has grown into a welcoming town that has used its industrial heritage as the foundation of its eclectic art and entertainment scene. Old warehouses and dock buildings are rapidly becoming hipster cafes, event spaces, restaurants, and bars for residents to enjoy. Newcastle sits at the meeting point of land and sea and enjoys a rich food scene based on fresh local ingredients.


This vibrant city has a great small-city nightlife, with numerous bars clubs and venues offering a wide range of entertainment. If that isn’t enough, Sydney is easily reached for an even wider selection of things to do.


What accommodation is there?


You won’t run short of accommodation options to choose from while studying in Newcastle. Halls offered by the University of Newcastle are award-winning and available across both of its campuses. Along with other institutions, you’ll be able to find a campus residence that suits your lifestyle and budget, while being close to class.


There are also privately run halls of residence, in addition to rental opportunities for an individual or group. Your university will have a dedicated accommodation team who can help you find the perfect place to live. 


What public services are there? 


In addition to the support services offered by your university, the Australian government offers a range of supporting services for overseas students in Newcastle. You can get help from associations like the Council of International Students Australia (CISA), which work to represent the interests of international students and provide various services and resources to help them thrive.


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How much does it cost to study in Newcastle?


The general cost of the city


Newcastle offers a student lifestyle at a reduced cost compared to nearby cities like Sydney. Accommodation, transport, and other everyday costs will cost you less, so your student budget will go further. Find out what the living costs are like in Australia with our detailed guide. 


Student budget


As a single international student living in Newcastle, you could expect to spend between AUD 500 and AUD 1,200 a week, depending on your lifestyle and habits. This estimate includes rent, utilities, food, transportation, and most other living costs. 


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Financial requirements


The Australian Department for Home Affairs asks international students to demonstrate that they can access a minimum of AUD 21,041 per year before starting their studies in Australia. This is equivalent to AUD 1,753 per month or about AUD 405 a week.


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What are the attractions in Newcastle?


There are many things to do in Newcastle during your downtime as a student. From outdoor pursuits to arts, music and fantastic food, there’s always something going on in the city.


One of the city’s most popular destinations for visitors and locals alike is Merewether beach, which is known for its excellent surf, wide sand beach and a massive sea pool. You’ll be able to spend many a sunny evening relaxing here or riding the waves.


Newcastle has developed a thriving arts scene, responding positively to the changes that history brings. You’ll be able to check out places like Lock-Up, a former 19th-century police station that now houses resident artists rather than inmates.


A little way out of the city, you can find wildlife sanctuaries like Blackbutt Reserve and even more fantastic surfing, windsurfing, and walking spots like Nobby’s Beach.


Back in Newcastle, its vibrant population have created a great café and bar scene for those days when you just want to wander around and relax.


Newcastle is a hidden gem of the Australian east coast, offering students a laid-back university experience on the ocean’s edge while being just a short trip from the bustling metropolis of Sydney. Discover your ideal course in Australia using our course matcher tool


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