In many ways, PhD research in Australia is much like PhD research in the UK. The weather will probably be a bit nicer (OK, a lot nicer) and your friends may be slightly more jealous. But actually working on your doctorate will be a similar experience to that of students in other popular study destinations.
The Australian PhD is normally a pure research qualification. Some programmes may include taught modules or training units, but these will be focussed on progression and professional development, rather than formal assessment.
You'll spend most of your time working towards an independent doctoral thesis offering a substantial original contribution to knowledge in your field. You'll begin with a literature review, evaluating existing scholarship related to your topic. From there you'll move on to your own original research, analysing source materials, producing experimental results or collecting survey data as appropriate to your subject (and project).
Throughout, you'll have the support of at least one expert supervisor. This will be an academic with experience related to your topic. They'll be a big part of your PhD experience. In fact, Australian supervisors play an important role right from the PhD application stage.
In Australia, a full-time PhD normally takes three years. Some students take longer, but this usually depends on registration and funding arrangements.
Part-time PhDs in Australia can take up to six years, but this mode of study isn't normally available to international students. The conditions of an Australian student visa mean that you must study full-time.
Assessment and examination
At the end of your PhD you will submit a written thesis summarising your findings and the evidence for them. This is normally around 100,000 words in length, but may be slightly longer or shorter. In some fields (such as creative arts) your thesis may be accompanied by a practical project or presentation.
Unlike in other countries, there is often no viva voce for an Australian PhD.
A viva is an oral examination, or 'defence', in which examiners interview a candidate and ask questions about their thesis. Australia's relative geographical isolation has historically made it difficult to arrange this. Instead your work will be sent to two or three external examiners with relevant expertise in your field.
Each will receive a copy of your thesis and study it in detail before returning a written report to your university. This process can take several months, but a timeline should be agreed in advance.
Some Australian universities are adopting a more conventional viva, but this usually takes place via online video-conferencing rather than involving a face-to-face interview.
Your PhD result will depend on the recommendation of your examiners. You may be awarded the doctorate without corrections, asked to make changes to your thesis, or (very rarely) denied the PhD.