Grad School in the U.K. or Australia: What to Consider

Prospective international students weighing where to pursue graduate studies may want to consider the United Kingdom and Australia. Schools in these countries can often offer a quicker, more affordable master’s degree compared to U.S. colleges and universities, without requiring the GRE or GMAT.

The UK, Australia and the U.S. all have top-ranking universities for international students to pursue their graduate education. But there are some potential differences to note.

Here are three reasons prospective international students may want to consider the UK and Australia for grad school.

Shorter Time to Degree

In the U.S., a master’s degree typically requires two years of study. However, in the UK and Australia, students can complete the degree in as little as a year. This shorter time frame can help students spend less on tuition and living expenses.

“Our one-year master’s programs give students a step up the career ladder a year earlier than the longer U.S. equivalent. Similarly, this shorter course duration means lower costs, and smaller loan repayments,” says Catherine Eames, international student recruitment manager at Imperial College London in the UK.

[Read: Is Graduate School Worth the Cost?]

Nigerian Ugwoke Sunday Paul, who completed a one-year master’s program in assisted reproduction technology at the University of Nottingham in the UK, says the shorter time helped bring savings “both in terms of physical cash and time cost.” Paul also secured a Chevening Scholarship, which the U.K. government awards to international students with demonstrated leadership skills, to help cover his expenses.

A shorter degree duration also means graduates from UK universities can enter the job market sooner. International students can remain in the country to work after they graduate but must get a graduate visa.

Master’s students can work up to two years, according to the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service, an independent charity that manages the application process for UK universities and colleges.

At Monash University in Australia, Allie Clemans, interim deputy vice chancellor for education and senior vice president, says their programs offer “flexibility to our students with many courses having multiple exit points and course durations which provide choice.”

Universities in Australia typically offer master’s programs that vary between one year, 18 months and two years.

“We offer flexible program durations for master’s degrees, ranging from one to two years, and a simple admissions process,” says Jogvan Klein, director, future students at the University of Queensland.

However, only the two-year or longer degree options allow students to apply for a post-study work visa, says Pete Ryan, head of international recruitment at the University of New South Wales in Australia. According to the Australian government’s website, this visa can be granted for up to two years.

Lower Tuition

Not only can the shorter degree duration provide international students with cost savings, but universities in the U.K. and Australia may charge lower grad school tuition than programs in the U.S., though costs can vary widely.

In the UK, for example, a one-year master of science degree in sustainability and environmental management at Middlesex University in London costs 16,800 British pounds, or roughly $21,243 for full-time international students.

[Read: 3 Ways Graduate School Pays Off]

In comparison, tuition for a two-year master of science in environmental management at the University of San Francisco in California is $26,560 for first-year students in the 2024-2025 academic year . At the University of California, Davis, annual full-time graduate tuition and fees for nonresidents for 2024-2025 is $30,242.76.

At the University of Queensland, Klein says the average cost of tuition per year is $51,000 AUD or $34,000 per year for international students.

“Tuition fees and living costs are generally lower in Australia, and combined with a favorable exchange rate for U.S. students, Australia can be an affordable option to gain globally recognized qualifications,” Klein says.

Cameroon national Eric Ngang, a University of South Australia grad, says his tuition costs were lower compared to the U.S. Ngang also received a scholarship to complete his year-and-a-half master’s program in environmental management and sustainability.

Experts say even with lower tuition, universities in the UK and Australia can offer international students a quality education. The UK has several internationally ranked universities that have ties with research and industry, experts say.

Work-integrated learning is increasingly a feature of programs at Australian universities as well, with global employability and return on investment a key factor in study decisions, Ryan says.

Few or No Required Standardized Tests

Many U.S. graduate programs require international students to take standardized tests like the GRE or GMAT. But in the UK and Australia, many universities require international students to take only English language proficiency exams.

“I only took the IELTS,” says Chinese national Cindy Zhao, referring to the International English Language Testing System exam.

Zhao graduated in 2018 with a master’s in global media communication from the University of Melbourne in Australia. For a U.S. school, she would likely have had to also take the GRE, which she preferred not to do, saying the exam can be challenging and require significant preparation.

[READ: What Graduate Schools Think About Where You Went to College.]

University of Nottingham grad Paul says he appreciated not having to take the GRE, which he felt allowed his application for admission to be evaluated on its own merit rather than on how well he performed on the standardized exam.

However, a few UK schools, like the London School of Economics and Political Science, may require the GRE or GMAT in some programs to demonstrate an applicant’s quantitative skills. The University of Melbourne requires the GMAT for all applicants to its master of business administration program.

Standardized admissions tests generally are not used at Australian universities, Ryan says. Instead, admission into graduate-level programs is based on “a quality bachelor’s degree with strong academic results, and institutions can take into consideration work experience or other forms of evidence to meet requirements.”

Ngang, who took the GRE years earlier for his master’s program and was unable to gain admission to a U.S. university, says not having to take the exam again was helpful and informed his choice to study in Australia for his master’s.

However, experts note that everything from requirements to cost can vary widely for grad programs. Independent educational consultant and author Jennifer Ann Aquino says no matter where a student considers pursuing a graduate degree, prospective international students must “do their homework,” including taking into account housing, travel and more.

“It’s so broad that students have to do their homework case by case: tuition, requirements, length of study, type of program, mentorship by professors etc.,” she says.

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