Higher education - Postgraduate

Who offers postgraduate courses?

Australia has built a strong reputation for excellence and quality across its higher education and training programs. This global reputation is reflected in the large number of international students who choose to broaden their minds and enrich their lives by pursuing higher education courses here. Many international students elect to complete their postgraduate studies in Australia.

Courses and qualifications

Australia has a national set of qualifications that are endorsed by the Australian Government. This means that there is national and international recognition of each qualification and the level of education it represents.

Postgraduate courses are offered by universities and private colleges. Some fields are only offered by universities, such as medicine and architecture. Entry into most higher education courses in Australia is highly competitive, and a high standard of English language is required for postgraduate study. Each education provider will have different entrance requirements, so it’s important to contact individual providers to check. You can use the Institution Search to search for and contact individual higher education providers.

The main types of postgraduate qualifications offered by most higher education institutions are:

Graduate certificate/diploma: These qualifications are generally designed for specific vocational purposes — either the broadening of skills and knowledge already gained in an undergraduate program or the development of vocational skills and knowledge in a new professional area. The typical requirement is six months to a year of full-time study for the graduate certificate and one to two years of full-time study for the graduate diploma. Entry usually requires a bachelor degree or advanced diploma.

Masters degree: Masters degrees provide a mastery or high-order overview of a field of study or area of professional practice. They typically involve one to two years of full-time study. The masters degree may be offered in three formats:

  • Masters degree (coursework): These consist of coursework, project work and research in varying combinations. Entry typically requires prior completion of a bachelor degree, a bachelor degree (honours) or a graduate certificate or diploma.
  • Masters degree (research): These are at least two-thirds research and include a substantial thesis or research project, which is often externally assessed. Entry normally requires a bachelor degree (honours) or masters preliminary year.
  • Masters degree (extended): These may consist of a work-based project. Entry requires a relevant qualification and professional experience, or extensive relevant professional experience.

Doctoral degree: Doctoral degrees recognise a considerable original contribution to a given field in the form of new knowledge or the adaptation, application and interpretation of existing knowledge. They are usually completed over three or four years of full-time study. The doctoral degree may be offered in two formats:

  • Research doctorate (PhD): These consist mainly of supervised research resulting in the completion of a thesis. Entry requires a masters degree by research or a bachelor degree (honours).
  • Professional doctorate: These combine coursework and research for professionals wanting to advance their knowledge in their field without the research commitment of a PhD. Entry typically requires a masters degree by research or a bachelor degree (honours). In addition, considerable professional experience is required either before or during the course.

Average tuition costs

  • Masters degree: AUD$20,000 to $37,000 per year
  • Doctoral degree: AUD$14,000 to $37,000 per year

These figures were sourced from the Australian Government’s Study in Australia website in 2018. Please note that fees vary widely and should always be sourced from the relevant institution. Some courses, such as medicine and veterinary science, may attract higher costs.

Entry requirements

Entry into most higher education courses in Australia is highly competitive. In addition to the academic requirements specified for each qualification level (see above), applicants must also meet high-level English language requirements. Some higher education courses have additional entry requirements, such as prior knowledge in certain subjects; work experience; or the successful completion of an audition, portfolio, test or interview. Each education provider will have different entry requirements, so it’s important to contact individual providers to check.

Starting dates vary widely depending on the course. Higher education courses generally run from late February to mid-November. The academic year is typically divided into two semesters, although some institutions operate on a trimester system or offer summer schools from December to February, which can reduce the total course length. Students enrol for their courses at the beginning of the year (usually in January or February), but application dates are typically towards the end of the previous year. Some institutions also have a mid-year intake (usually in July) for certain courses.

Students studying towards a doctoral degree or other research degree may be able to negotiate an alternative starting date with their project supervisor.

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