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The basics
Australia: Destination Guides

The ultimate student guide to Sydney

As the capital of Australia’s premier state, New South Wales, Sydney is widely regarded as the number one destination in the country if you want sun, sea and big city living.

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Sydney is often mistaken for the capital of Australia, and for good reason! This bustling metropolis is the largest city in the country and is home to iconic landmarks like the Sydney Opera House and Harbour Bridge. It has established itself as a hub for commerce and tech innovation and continues to be one of the largest and most important seaports in the South Pacific region.


Sydney’s cultural diversity is the foundation of its cosmopolitan buzz, offering students a dizzying range of international arts, cultures, and cuisines available on their doorstep. It’s a magnet for international students, with more than 35,000 calling the city home, the most of any city in Australia.


As a student in Sydney, you’ll have great access to all the natural and cultural attractions that New South Wales has to offer. Sparkling white beaches, unbeatable surfing, world-famous wineries, and international cultural events are all within easy reach.


And, with a wide choice of internationally renowned universities to choose from, Sydney seems hard to beat when it comes to the student experience in Australia.


What is Sydney like?


Location and demographics


Sydney is on the south-eastern coast of Australia, in the state of New South Wales. It’s located about halfway between Melbourne and Brisbane, the other major cities on the east coast. Sydney is also the closest state capital to the Australian capital, Canberra.


Sydney is located right on the ocean’s edge, offering plenty of sandy beaches and surfing a stone’s throw from the city centre. The world-famous Bondi Beach is less than a 25-minute bus ride from the CBD, so you can easily catch some sun right after class.


Sydney is one of the most diverse cities in Australia. Almost 50 per cent of the city’s residents were born outside of the country, while over a third of people in Sydney speak non-English languages at home.


Culture and history 


Sydney has been occupied for at least 50,000 years, with the Aboriginal Gadigal people being its first residents. Europeans first arrived in 1788, and a new city was named after the British home secretary, Lord Sydney.


By the 19th century, Sydney was a thriving port town known for its exports of wool and gold. It’s continued to grow from there, and today is an internationally leading hotspot for culture and commerce across Asia and the world.


The city’s welcoming atmosphere and economic opportunities, alongside its huge popularity as a holiday or study destination, have made Sydney into a truly cosmopolitan city. 


What universities are in Sydney? 


Sydney is a hub for higher education. Six large universities call it home, as well as many satellite campuses from other institutions around Australia.


The University of Sydney rated 38th globally (QS World University Rankings 2022), was Australia’s first university and today is a world-leading institution offering courses in over 400 subjects.


Macquarie University has a natural oasis of a campus spread across more than 125 hectares, offering a superb location for hands-on medical degrees where students can gain clinical experience in the university’s teaching hospital.


The University of New South Wales is ranked 43rd in the world (QS 2022) and can offer you several research focused qualifications, with a particular focus on engineering and technology subjects. The university has campuses in different parts of Sydney, along with various facilities and research stations in the region around the city.


The University of Technology Sydney is one of Australia’s foremost young universities, founded less than 50 years ago. This vibrant campus university offers courses ranked in the top 50 worldwide (QS 2022) in subjects like nursing, sports, arts, and law.


Western Sydney University and the Australian Catholic University are also based in Sydney, offering a range of study options for international students.


Discover more universities in Australia.


What does Sydney offer students?


What's the transport like? 


Sydney has an efficient, easy to use public transport network that makes getting around the city and region stress-free. You’ll find regular trains, light rail, and buses around the city, as well as ferries that can help you cross Sydney’s estuaries and bays. The Opal card is all you need to get around, as the card can be loaded with money and used on all types of transport.


The city is served by several airports like Sydney Airport and Bankstown Airport, which together offer flights to nearly anywhere in Australia or the world.


What entertainment and food is there?


Sydney is a global city, and there’s no better sign of that than the incredible food culture. Whether it’s modern Australian cuisine based on fresh ingredients and fusion styles, the best Chinatown in the country or hip districts offering every cuisine of the world, you’ll find whatever you’re looking for in Sydney.


The city’s population of over 5 million also fuels an unbeatable entertainment, culture, and nightlife scene. From high-class boutiques to unique markets, cafes, bars, and nightclubs, Sydney has it all. That’s not to mention the world-class events taking place at the city’s many museums, galleries, theatres, and music venues. 


What accommodation is there in Sydney?


There are accommodation options to suit every budget and lifestyle in Sydney, as the city welcomes tens of thousands of international students a year. Campus accommodation is convenient but can be competitive, but there’s also a wealth of private rental options to choose from. These range from managed apartment blocks, with leisure facilities and social spaces, to individual flats and townhouses.


What are the public services in Sydney like? 


Study NSW is an agency that specialises in supporting international students, with a range of initiatives and resources you can use. They have info and advice around everything from accommodation to visas and other documents, translation services, and working and travelling while studying.


How much does it cost to study in Sydney?


The general cost of the city

Living in Sydney can involve higher costs than some other cities in Australia, like Brisbane or Perth, but there are plenty of ways to get the most out of your money during your time there.


Student budget

As a single person living in Sydney, your average student budget could range between AUD 750 and AUD 1,500 per week. This includes rent, utilities, food, transportation, and other living costs. It can vary significantly depending on what type of accommodation you choose, your lifestyle, and where you decide to live in Sydney.


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.


Find out about the top scholarships in Australia.


What are the attractions in Sydney?


Life in Sydney takes place on the coast, surrounded by stunning architecture, busy marinas, and sunrise over the ocean every day.  Sydney boasts a wealth of attractions for every type of traveller. You could take a tour of the harbour by boat, taking in the skyline before hopping off for a meal or a drink in the city. After class, you could hop on a bus, train or ferry and find a range of beaches like Manly, Coogee, Cronulla and Palm Beach in no time, where you can soak up some rays or learn to catch a wave.


There’s plenty away from the water’s edge too, with 19th-century shopping centres, the Sydney Tower Eye and an endless choice of bars and nightclubs to carry you into the night.


Foodies can sample a range of restaurants across the city or journey out to the world-famous wine regions of Hunter Valley, where they can sample this year’s vintage with local, organic produce.


The possibilities for day trips and weekend breaks are endless in the ‘Premier State’, New South Wales. Just a short way from the city, you’ll find the stunning sandstone cliffs of the blue mountains or the white sand beaches of the South Coast.


Sydney is the city people think of when they imagine Australia, and it’s easy to see why. If you like the idea of a buzzing urban environment surrounded by great beaches, as well as internationally recognised universities, Sydney is for you. Find your ideal course in Australia and Sydney using our course matcher tool


Study in Australia


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