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Posted on 27 Feb '20

9 Things You Didn’t Know About Postgraduate Study Down Under

There’s an awful lot that is familiar about postgraduate study in Australia and New Zealand. After all, our antipodean cousins modelled their universities on UK higher education, with a recognisable range of MA, MSc and PhD qualifications.

But there are plenty of surprises to be found at Australian and New Zealand universities. Even if you’ve never really considered heading ‘Down Under’ for a Masters or PhD, we think that they’re well worth including in your search (430,000 current international students can’t be wrong!).

Want to find out more from the universities themselves? You’re in luck – Study Options, the official application service for UK students in Australia / New Zealand, is hosting two free open days in London on 20 and 21 March.

Come and meet representatives from UNSW Sydney, along with some of the region’s other top universities.

In the meantime, we’ve put together nine things that might surprise you about Masters and PhD study in Australia and New Zealand.

#1 You can get a government scholarship to study in Australia

There are currently a couple of excellent Australian scholarship opportunities that UK postgrads can take advantage of.

The first of these is the Destination Australia scheme, which provides an annual stipend of AUD $15,000 (£7,750) for the duration of a Masters or PhD. In order to be eligible, you must be studying at a designated education provider in ‘regional Australia’ – outside of the country’s major metropolitan areas. You should make your application through your prospective university.

If you’re interested in studying a research Masters or a PhD, you could apply for funding through a Research Training Program (RTP) scholarship. This is how the Australian Government funds postgraduate research students, including internationals – with up to AUD $30,000 (£15,500) available, plus a tuition fee waiver.

#2 Universities often have international scholarships too

Universities themselves are another source of funding for international postgraduates in Australia and New Zealand. These institutions want to attract the most talented students – like you! – and most have dedicated scholarship programmes offering tuition fee waivers, stipends and travel allowances.

You can find out more in our guide to Australian Masters funding or ask them universities themselves at Study Options’ open days in London.

The official Study in New Zealand portal also maintains a useful database of scholarships at New Zealand universities.

#3 International students don’t pay extra for a PhD in New Zealand

New Zealand doesn’t have an international student rate for its PhD programmes, making it a pretty affordable place for doctoral candidates.

This means you’ll pay fees at the same rate as domestic students, who are typically charged between NZD $6,500 and NZD $9,000 per year (£3,210 to £4,445), depending on the subject. Broadly speaking, these fees are comparable to those in the UK, where the average PhD tuition fee is £4,327.

#4 There’s (usually) no PhD viva in Australia

You know how we said the Australian university system was largely modelled on the UK’s? Well, there’s one key area in which the two countries diverge: the PhD viva voce.

If you’re studying a PhD at an Australian institution, it’s unlikely that you’ll be required to complete a viva voce before receiving your doctorate. The main reason for this is logistical: the huge distances between cities (and universities) mean that it’s difficult to arrange for independent examiners to attend a viva.

So, if you don’t fancy livin’ la viva voce, why not head Down Under for your PhD?

#5 Quality, not quantity for New Zealand’s universities

Both Australia and New Zealand are renowned for the quality of their universities, but New Zealand is unique in that every single one of its eight universities is ranked among the top 500 in the world (according to the QS World University Rankings).

#6 Different academic years

Unlike anglophone destinations in the northern hemisphere, the academic year in Australia and New Zealand begins in February.

This could be ideal if you’re hoping to change direction by embarking on a postgraduate programme at the beginning of the calendar year (rather than in September or October).

#7 Unique research opportunities

Studying in Australia or New Zealand opens up a whole load of research opportunities that simply aren’t possible anywhere else in the world.

Interested in Marine Biology? Where better to conduct your research than the Great Barrier Reef? If you’re into Geology, New Zealand’s position between the Australian and Pacific tectonic plates makes it a hotbed (quite literally!) of geothermal activity, volcanoes and earthquakes.

Similarly, Australia and New Zealand’s rich Indigenous heritage – Aboriginal and Māori, respectively – provides unique opportunities to engage with a host of social, economic and cultural topics.

#8 Cosmopolitan cities and excellent quality of life

Australia and New Zealand are typically among the countries with the highest quality of life in the world. Indeed, many of their famously cosmopolitan cities rank well in various ‘liveability’ metrics.

Melbourne – home to the University of Melbourne – is a UNESCO World City of Literature with a huge passion for sports, hosting the Australian rules football AFL Grand Final every year in the 100,000-capacity Melbourne Cricket Ground.

The University of Sydney, UNSW Sydney and Macquarie University are all based in Australia’s largest city, which is known for its diversity, iconic architecture and surf-friendly beaches.

Canberra is the political capital of Australia and the location of the Australian National University. This young city – established in 1913 – is famous for modernist architecture and stunning nature, with plenty of lakes and waterfalls within easy reach of the centre.

Auckland, New Zealand’s largest city, is a major financial hub with a global outlook, home to the University of Auckland and several other higher education institutions.

If you’re looking for something that feels a little like home, Dunedin on New Zealand’s South Island has a decidedly Scottish flavour (it takes its name from the Scottish Gaelic word for Edinburgh!). The University of Otago gives the city a big student population.

Many of these universities will be exhibiting at the Study Options open days in March – if you’d like to find out more about Australia and New Zealand’s stunning cities, why not come along?

#9 You might be able to stay. . .

If you want to extend your stay in Australasia after finishing your studies, Australia and New Zealand have generous post-study work visa schemes that allow you to remain in the country for a set period and find employment.

Masters and PhD graduates in Australia can stay for up to four years. In New Zealand, it’s three.


Tempted by postgraduate study in Australia or New Zealand? Don’t forget that Study Options are hosting two open days for Australian and New Zealand universities on Friday 20 March and Saturday 21 March at Australia House in London.

This is a great chance to meet face-to-face with excellent universities like UNSW Sydney and find out about the exciting postgraduate opportunities on offer Down Under.




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Last Updated: 27 February 2020