Three years ago, William Sheane turned down a place at King’s College London to study maths and management. Instead, Sheane, originally from Oxford, “threw in” an application to the University of Sydney. “I was over the UK student lifestyle of getting smashed,” he says. “I’d spent five years working in bars, beaches and diving centres. I thought it was a really good opportunity to go abroad, keep doing what I wanted, but also have a more serious side to my life. I thought I’d see what happened.”
Now, at 26, with a degree in economics behind him and an honours degree – equivalent to a year of research and a thesis – on the way, he has no regrets. At least, none that come to mind as he walks to class after a quick surf, something he does almost every day.
Natasha Krichefski, 22, from London, is spending a year at the University of New South Wales as part of her Edinburgh University undergraduate music degree. “A masters out here has great appeal,” she says. “I’m seriously considering music therapy at the University of Western Sydney, although an equivalent course is also offered in London.”
In the first semester of 2006, there were 1,801 UK students like Sheane and Krichefski on undergraduate, postgraduate or exchange programmes in Australian universities. This is peanuts compared with the numbers of students from China (40,292), Malaysia (24,952) and Singapore (20,714). But Australian universities are paying more attention than might be expected to their UK student numbers.