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Higher education - Postgraduate

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

Qualifications and entrance requirements

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.

Entry into most higher education (university) 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 universities and higher education providers.

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

  • Graduate certificate/diploma: 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 of full-time study for the graduate certificate and twelve months of full-time study for the graduate diploma. Entrance usually requires a bachelor degree or advanced diploma.
  • Masters degree: provides a mastery or high-order overview of a relevant field of study or area of professional practice. Typically they involve two years of study after a bachelor degree, or one year of study after a bachelor degree (honours). The masters degree may be offered in three formats:
  • Coursework masters: consists 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 diploma.
  • Research masters: consists of at least two-thirds research with a substantial thesis, which is often externally assessed. Entry normally requires a bachelor degree (honours) or masters preliminary year, a research-based graduate diploma or equivalent research experience.
  • Professional masters: may consist of a work-based project. Entry requires a relevant qualification and professional experience, or extensive relevant professional experience.
  • Doctoral degree: recognises a considerable original contribution to a given field in the form of new knowledge or the adaptation, application and interpretation of existing knowledge. The doctoral degree may be offered in two formats:
  • Research doctorate: consists mainly of supervised research. Entry requires a research or part-research masters degree or a bachelor degree (honours).
  • Professional doctorate: consists of varying combinations of coursework and research. Entry typically requires a combined research and coursework masters degree or a bachelor degree (honours). In addition, considerable professional practice experience is required either before or during the course.
Starting dates

These 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, though some education providers operate on a trimester system and/or offer summer schools from December to February.

Postgraduate 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 each year. Some institutions also have mid-year enrolment and intake (usually in July) for certain courses. Students studying towards a doctoral degree or other research-based award may be able to negotiate an alternative starting date with their project supervisor.

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