The pros and cons of earning a PhD in Australia

By Annie Rose Stathes, edited by Valeri Boyle
Published April 14, 2014

The decision to earn a PhD is a huge one, and most students don’t take it lightly. Earning a PhD requires mental, financial, and often times physical (long nights or researching and writing without sleep, anyone?) investments. In order to make the numerous sacrifices worth it, graduate students must carefully consider where to earn their PhDs and in what.

Many students choose to earn their PhDs in other countries: some wish to enjoy an adventure, and many have a more strategic intent, perhaps to study in a country that will better prepare them for a future career. Those taking a more strategic approach often find themselves applying for PhD programs in Australia. Australian universities are some of the greatest in the English-speaking world, and for many students, especially those from China, India, and Malaysia, Australia provides an attractive alternative to studying in the United States or the United Kingdom.

Students who elect to earn their PhDs in Australia choose from a variety of programs in a number of disciplines offered by universities throughout the country. Each of Australia’s top-ranked public schools offer students a variety of options.

PhD programs in Australia are typically completed within 4-6 years of full-time study. Students typically complete coursework and an intensive research project and defense. Academic years at most universities in Australia are divided into semesters, and students sometimes have options to complete courses during shorter summer semesters.

There are numerous scholarships available to qualifying international students interested in earning their PhD in Australia. The government and its educational institutions are interested in increasing their international population, and for this reason, scholarships and visas for studying, working, and researching can be readily available to qualifying students. This is not always the case in the U.S. or UK.

Top Public Schools for Earning a PhD in Australia

According to the QS World University Rankings, 7 universities in Australia are ranked among the top 100 universities in the world:

  • The Australian National University is ranked 27th in the world
  • The University of Melbourne is ranked 31st in the world
  • The University of Sydney is ranked 38th in the world
  • The University of Queensland is ranked 43rd in the world
  • The University of New South Wales is ranked 52nd in the world
  • Monash University is ranked 69th in the world
  • The University of Western Australia is ranked 84th in the world

Each of these universities and others offer PhD programs to international students.

Top Benefits of Earning a PhD in Australia

  • Earning a PhD in Australia likely prepares students for careers in researching, teaching, or positions of management in the English-speaking world
  • Australia has a lower cost of living than most places in the UK and many places in the U.S., making studying in Australia a more affordable option
  • As mentioned above, the Australian government is motivated to bring international students to the country. Many students who choose to study in Australia will likely face less bureaucratic red-tape and enjoy more assistance by way of financial aid if they are qualified
  • Australia and its educational institutions may offer numerous employment, research, and internship opportunities to international students
  • Australia is a beautiful country allowing for pleasurable living during students’ time off

Annie Rose Stathes is a Colorado-based writer, teacher and political scientist. Her background is in international affairs and she holds a Master of Arts degree in Political Science.

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