Academic expectations

Learning styles and teaching expectations can vary from culture to culture. At La Trobe, we offer assistance throughout your study to help you to learn the academic expectations of Australian universities. You can also access our Student Development Advising Program for guidance on how to make the most use of university resources.

Academic expectations

In Australia, universities expect you to learn in a certain manner and adjusting to this style can present a challenge for some students.

You may find that assessment is different here; for example, you could be expected to do a number of written assignments, as opposed to oral exams. Your lecturers will expect you to ask questions and make judgments using your research as evidence.

To help you prepare for study in Australia, go to the Student Learning site and the Counselling homepage for handy hints to help you organise your study.


‘One form of academic cheating is plagiarism, the reproducing of someone else’s words, ideas or findings and presenting them as one’s own without proper acknowledgment’ (Academic Integrity Policy, 2010, p. 1). Someone else’s ideas and findings, either their exact words or a paraphrase, could be in books, journal articles, newspapers, the internet, television, radio or in fact any spoken or written text.

To find a full description and more explanation go to the Academic Integrity and Avoiding Plagiarism site.

Plagiarism is an issue in Australian universities because of the nature of the academic culture. You will be expected to be honest in your work and to learn the conventions of academic referencing. Students are expected to be independent learners, to read widely, and to explicitly write about and refer to what they have read. When you refer to what you have been reading you are showing your lecturers you have read, understood and brought together relevant research. You are expected to use and acknowledge the research of others as evidence for your academic opinion.

Subject, course, program

The terms "subject, course, program" are used differently around the world and can cause confusion. In Australia, "course" is the word we use to describe a degree course. It can be substituted for the word "program", and these two terms are often used interchangeably. "Subject" or "Unit" is the word we use to describe the study modules within a course - typically an undergraduate business course comprises 24 subjects over 3 years.


Lectures usually present information and concepts that are central to the course. Material presented in lectures is often important to assignments and exams. To increase your understanding of the material it is important to review the lecture material, go over any supplementary reading within 24 hours and understand the material covered in lectures, not just memorise it.

Tutorials and seminars

Tutorials and seminars are like discussion groups led by an academic teacher, speaker, or a student who has researched a particular topic. The style can vary greatly between a structured format with learning aims being clear from the outset, or they can be more free-flowing giving students the opportunity to explore ideas. Tutorials and seminars are meant to be interactive, and are a great way to ask questions when you don't understand lecture material and assignments.

Contact hours

In engineering, science and technology, and health sciences units, class contact hours per week for lectures, tutorials and practical/ laboratory classes are quite high (usually 24 - 30 contact hours per week).

In arts, business and social sciences units, there are fewer formal classes (usually 12-15 contact hours per week) but you are required to spend more time on individual reading and research.


Assessment varies from unit to unit and can include, minor and major assignments (including case studies and group assignments), class presentations and examinations. Specific information regarding individual unit assessment is available in the University Handbook.

Grading scheme

  • A: 80 - 100%
  • B: 70 - 79%
  • C: 60 - 69%
  • D: 50 - 59%
  • N: Fail

For more information on grading schema, please visit the Exams and Results page.