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Graduate Study in Australia: Guide for International Students

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This article is adapted from the QS Top Grad School Guide, available to read online here.

Many students dream of taking a gap year in Australia, but how about studying there instead? From the bright lights of Sydney to the café culture of Melbourne and the natural beauty of Perth, this 7,692,024km² island has a diverse terrain, character and appeal that keeps international students returning year after year.

Higher education in Australia 


Australian universities are widely respected around the world, and attract students in many academic disciplines. Australia remains an especially popular choice for those studying natural sciences such as biology, zoology and chemistry, as well as mathematics, engineering, the social sciences and medical fields. Overall, international students account for almost a quarter of enrolments, and at some universities they constitute close to half of the student body. This makes for a diverse experience, with classes and campus life taking on a truly global outlook.

Particularly famous around the world are the elite “Group of Eight” – a kind of equivalent to the US Ivy League or UK Russell Group – which comprises the Australian National University (ANU), University of MelbourneUniversity of SydneyUniversity of QueenslandUniversity of New South WalesMonash University, the University of Western Australia and the University of Adelaide. All eight of these hold strong positions in the QS World University Rankings® 2019, with a further 29 Australian universities featured in the ranking. Click here to discover more top Australian universities.

In total Australia is home to 43 universities, of which the majority are public and just two private. Most Australian universities are self-accrediting institutions running under legislation set either by the state or territory. Three levels of degree are offered: bachelor’s (three to five years), master’s (one or two years) and doctorate (three to four years). In general Australian universities offer excellent facilities and plenty of activities for students to get involved in.

There are also over 1,100 accredited vocational and technical higher education institutions in Australia. These offer technical and further education (TAFE) and vocational education and training (VET). Here you can study short courses, certificates I through IV, diplomas, and advanced diplomas in industry training designed to prepare you for a specific job. 

As in many countries, pursuing an internship alongside study is encouraged in Australia. For some courses, such as education, nursing, engineering, IT, accounting and communication, completing work experience may be a requirement. Internships can be pretty competitive, so get your applications in early to ensure you get a good place.

Applications & visas

University of Sydney

Each higher education institution is unique in the programs offered, entry requirements, cost and lifestyle. Do your research thoroughly, and then apply to each of your chosen universities by following the information provided on the official website. In addition to submitting your academic record, you may also need to provide proof of proficiency in the English language, as well as completing any set tests or interviews.

The beginning of the academic year in Australia is February, although it may also be possible to commence studies in July, at the start of the second semester. You can usually apply between three and 18 months before a course starts, but the earlier the better.

You will need a visa to study in Australia. Australian student visas should be applied for online through the Department of Home Affairs. You’ll need to prove that you’re a genuine student, of good character, proficient in English, in good health and that you have enough money to support yourself while you study in Australia. Find about more about applying for your visa here.

Tuition fees, living costs & funding


The cost of studying in Australia varies significantly depending on the institution, study level and subject. Programs in fields such as engineering and medicine are typically at the higher end of the scale. As a rough guideline, you can expect master’s degrees to cost around AU$20,000-37,000 (~US$15,000-26,800) per year, and doctoral degrees in the region of AU$14,000-37,000 (~US$10,140-26,800).

Living expenses will vary depending on where you’re based and the type of lifestyle you indulge in. Most Australian universities provide guidelines for incoming students to help with budgeting.

The Department of Home Affairs requires international students to have at least AU$20,290 (~US$14,700) per year to cover living expenses, with additional funds required if accompanied by a partner and/or children. Most student visas allow you work for up to 40 hours per fortnight during term time and full time during holidays, so it may be possible to supplement your finances with a part-time job, though this shouldn’t be relied upon.

The Australian government is active in supporting international students to study in Australia, offering a selection of scholarships, grants and other financial aid. Major government-funded schemes include the Australia Awards and the International Postgraduate Research Scholarships (IPRS) program. Many other organizations and individual universities also offer scholarships for international students, and a searchable database is available on the government website Study in Australia.

Post-graduation careers

If you want to stay in Australia after you’ve graduated, you’ll need to get a work visa. If you’re under 50 years old, have studied a CRICOS-registered course in Australia for at least two years, and can pick an occupation on the Medium and Long-term Strategic Skills List (MLTSSL)  you can apply for a Temporary Graduate Visa (subclass 485), under the Graduate Work stream. This allows you to stay in Australia for another 18 months after the issue date.

The other visa stream, for post-study work, is for graduates of any field of study. It is valid for two years if you studied a master’s by coursework, three years if you studied a master’s by research, and four years if you studied a PhD. Find out more about staying in Australia after graduating here.

A version of this article was originally published in January 2015. It was last updated in November 2018. 

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Raxmatillo K, Karyza L & 135 others saved this
Written by Laura Bridgestock
The former editor of TopUniversities.com, Laura oversaw the site's editorial content and student forums. She also edited the QS Top Grad School Guide and contributed to market research reports, including 'How Do Students Use Rankings?'

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Hello, i heard, that in Australia higher education is highly available and widespread. A site claims that i Australia the governments expenditure on education is 4.5% of GDP. Is this true?

Hello Luara, I'm Yusuf from Nigeria. I would like to know if there are partial or full scholarships for a PhD programme in Sports management/administration. Thanks in anticipation.

Hi my name is garry and am from Spain I left my high school because am not to learning Spanish.. I like to learning English in Australia please if you know how to I apply in English university plz reply me back

hello i am from Tajikistan and i want to find scholorship to study bechelor of civil engineering in USA Canada or Australia can you suggest me what can i do to increase my chance to get it does sat subject or other certificates help to find it how much must be my ielts score ?

HI, Please help me i really want to know about full or partial scholarships for MBBS in australia plz guide me.

hello Laura i am from Ethiopia I would like to know if there are full or partial scholarships to study from Agriculture & Forestrythe Australian governmen.

Hello Laura. I would like to know if there are full or partial scholarships to study english from the Australian government

Hi Rahel, we've included scholarships for Australia in our list of agriculture scholarships around the world, and we also have a list of general scholarships to study in Australia.

Hi Sabrina C, Thank you for your cooperation and I am waiting for your reply

Hi, I am Ms. Phyo. If I have a chance, I want to learn. Moreover, I would like to come to your country and study more about this. Besides, I want to attend in Australia. I want to know for Ph.D

Hello Laura. I would like to know if there are full or partial scholarships to study english from the Australian government

Hi Oscar, the Australian government do offer scholarships for international students - you can view these and a range of other scholarship options here. Hope this helps! 

very useful article.

Hello, I've done a 4 Year B. Ed Social Studies Education, I want to do my Masters. I want to know all the requirements for the Masters and phd for international students, please.

hi. I've done M.tech in IT and i want to do phd in Australia. i want to know all the requirements for phd and as well as for the international students.

Hi I've recently completed my Bachelors in Biomedical Engineering and looking for full bright scholarship programs in Australia for Ms program in related coarses.

Hi Mahnoor, please take a look at our list of scholarships to study in Australia.

Hey I'm Abdul here I have an aggregate of 66% in bachelor of engineering in mechanical engineering what will be the best option for university I opt for

Hi Abdul, if you'd like to study a masters in mechanical engineering at an Australian university, you may like to consult our latest rankings for this subject. Hope this is helpful!

I'm planning to take mbis in Australia how about job opportunities post study in related field when compared to Canada

My name is Terry from Nigeria and I am interested in having any useful information about a scholarship masters programme in clinical psychology.

Hi Terry, here's a link to our list of psychology scholarships. Good luck!

i am a ghanaian student who is interested in phd computer analysis system/networking

My name is OYEKUNLE wasiu OLUWASANJO a graduate of computer engineering and I want to proceed for my mater degree in networking in anyway you can be of help

I am a Nigerian interested in a phd program in agricultural education, agric extension, rural entrepreneurship and rural development

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Hi Ms. Laura,

It is indeed a very informative post published by you with the top 10 universities of Australia listed along with other important points to consider while studying in Australia. I am now studying MIT (Adv) 2 years course at the Queensland University of Technology (QUT) which is currently ranked at 285 in the world and No. 13 in Australia. It is really a world-class university and experience.

what are the qualifications required to do MS in Mechanical Engineering for getting in top universities

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Great thanks,hope to see you then