Canberra is Australia’s capital and one of its few inland cities. It, along with the territory it occupies within New South Wales (NSW), was marked out during the early 1900s as the home for Australia’s parliament. The city is highly planned, with the design featuring an artificial lake and roads fanning out from Parliament House.
Plans for Canberra also included the Australian National University (ANU), which was constructed next to the lake. The city centre is on one side of the campus and botanical gardens on the other. A 2nd university, the University of Canberra, is a short drive away.
The city is an easy place to live in and study and attracts its fair share of international students. It has excellent infrastructure, including the best roads in the country and long networks of paths for cycling and walking. There is also plenty of space. The city is spread across a wide area, with large tracts of land set aside as parks and bush reserves.
Geography and climate
Canberra is 150 km inland of the NSW south coast. It is 280 km SW of Sydney and 660 km NE of Melbourne.
The city is built on elevated plains (about 580 metres above sea level) that were formerly eucalyptus forest. The city’s main water features, Lake Burley Griffin, was formed by damning the Molongolo River.
Canberra is subject to seasonal weather extremes. Although the air is dry and generally quite still, temperatures vary markedly across the seasons. Frosts are common in winter, with the temperature often dipping 3-4 degrees below zero overnight. Summers are warm and can produce extended spells of 30+ daytime maximums. Rainfall is relatively light and spread over the year.
Canberra’s universities have slightly different roles. ANU is a prestigious university with a strong research focus and large post-graduate program (which is popular with interstate and study abroad students). The University of Canberra is more teaching focused and satisfies local demand for university places.
The universities are fairly small by Australian standards, with a combined enrolment around 35,000. For both universities, around a quarter of students are international students.
ANU is among Australia’s top-ranked universities. It has an oustanding research reputation, is rated highly by students, and its graduates do well in terms of getting jobs or doing further study.
The University of Canberra gets high ratings for teaching quality. It offers courses in 6 main areas: Applied Science; Health; Art and Design; Business, Government and Law; Education; and Information Sciences and Engineering. Its campus is about a 10-minute drive from the city centre – near to Belconnen, one of Canberra’s major urban centres.
Canberra is a much quieter place to live in than you might expect for a city with 400,000 people. The efficient road network means people can quickly get out of Civic (the CBD) and into suburbs spreading for tens of kms in all directions.
The suburban areas are quite self sufficient. Every suburb has a mini shopping complex and there are several major shopping centres strategically positioned across the city. Suburbs also have their own parks and playgrounds.
Canberra’s suburban lifestyle doesn’t affect students very much because the universities have campus locations near Civic.
Although shopping is decentralised, the city centre is easily the most popular place for going out. Friday and Saturday nights are usually very busy. In the late hours, taxis can be hard to come by as large numbers of people travel home to outer suburbs.
Canberra has a fairly standard mixture of Asian and European restaurants, Irish and boutique bars, and nightclubs. It also has licensed clubs that are virtually free to join and offer cheap meals and drinks.
The city has an environment that is conducive to studying. It is relatively free of distractions. The bush reserves and parks give it a sense of tranquility. National monuments, Parliament House and the immaculately designed layout make you feel as though you are in an important place.