Australia and New Zealand offer a wide range of LLM programmes, which provide options and specialities that will broaden and internationalise a first law degree
There are some 30 LLM programmes on offer in Australia and five in New Zealand. Many of these are unique or international in outlook. While specialised LLMs are taught at many universities here, these institutions usually offer the following basic options: an LLM by coursework (assessed by exams or research papers); an LLM by research (comprising a thesis of 50,000–70,000 words); or an LLM by coursework and a minor thesis of around 20,000–30,000 words.
The choice of coursework options can be bewildering. For example, at Melbourne University alone, students completing an LLM by coursework can choose from around 150 different subjects. On the other hand, students undertaking a specialist master’s degree must choose subjects from the list prescribed for that specialisation. They also may have to complete a compulsory paper in legal research or, if they are graduates from civil-law countries, a compulsory paper in the New Zealand or Australian legal system. For non-law graduates, there may be further compulsory papers.
The majority of courses can be completed in 12–18 months of full-time study or 24–48 months part time. Most universities, however, stick to a one-year format. The larger universities go out of their way to offer flexible study options for students.
The universities work on a semester system, allowing students to commence their courses part-way through the year. In New Zealand, the university year is divided into two semesters, with starting dates in February or July. The same is true for most Australian universities, although some offer three or more commencement points throughout the year.
To allow ample time to process your application for admission and subsequently the student visa, you should make your application for admission at least six months prior to the commencement of the session in which you wish to enrol.
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Auckland is New Zealand’s largest city, and home to the largest law faculty in New Zealand. Some of the courses offered in the LLM by coursework can be studied on an intensive basis, which involves attending a week of lectures taught by resident and visiting academic staff, and then completing a short dissertation.
The Faculty of Law in Auckland is also home to the New Zealand Centre for Environmental Law, and has a Master of Environmental Legal Studies among the other specialised LLMs on offer. The University of Auckland also has an agreement with the University of Melbourne, whereby students can take up to two courses towards their degree at the partner university.
Victoria University, situated in New Zealand’s capital city of Wellington, offers a one-year full-time LLM by coursework, dissertation and coursework or by thesis. In the South Island, the University of Canterbury offers an LLM by research papers and by coursework, an LLM by thesis alone, and an LLM in International Law and Politics, jointly organised by the law school and the politics department. Otago University in Dunedin offers an LLM by thesis only.
By far the larger of the two markets, Australian law schools offer a wide choice of LLM programmes and topics for either general study or specialised research, drawing on the particular strengths of individual faculties. Australian LLM programmes cater for both law and non-law graduates, which adds to their appeal.
There is also the chance to combine your LLM with other postgraduate awards. At Bond, Monash and UNSW, for instance, an LLM can be combined with an MBA. A more unusual combination is Macquarie University’s Master of International Environmental Law and Master of International Trade and Commerce Law, which can be completed after 18 months of full-time study. Monash University in Melbourne is home to the Castan Centre for Human Rights Law, and offers the only coursework LLM in human rights law in Australia and New Zealand. Eight of Australia’s consistently top-ranking universities have formed the ‘Group of Eight’. The ‘Go8’ website contains plenty of useful information and links for international students.
Most universities charge higher fees for international students, although postgraduate students from New Zealand and Australia are treated as domestic students at each other’s universities. Postgraduate students from Germany and France pay only domestic fees when studying at a New Zealand university, and are eligible for domestic scholarships.
International fees for a New Zealand LLM sit at around the NZ$20,000 mark. In Australia, you can expect to pay anywhere from A$20,000 upwards. Note that there is usually an amenities fee or a student union fee added on top of tuition fees. Most university websites can give you a good idea of the cost of accommodation and general living costs.
Your student visa will prescribe whether and how many hours you can work. In terms of scholarships, check with the law school, as many have their own scholarships for international students. JASON (Joint Academic Scholarship Online Network) is an excellent starting point for sourcing scholarships to Australian universities.
Universities require that international students satisfy certain English-language requirements. Some universities will require higher standards. Applications are considered individually, and may take into account factors such as other degrees or qualifications, research and writing, special training and/or expertise in a particular area or appropriate work.
Usually, there is no requirement for an interview or written personal statement. However, you may be asked to submit an outline of your proposed course of study. If you want to undertake an LLM by thesis alone, you need to choose your law school carefully, as you may be restricted by the ability of the law school to provide adequate supervision for your topic of choice.
The New Zealand Immigration Service and the Australian Department of Immigration’s websites provide extensive information on obtaining student visas, as well as applying for permanent residency should you wish to stay on.
Completion of a New Zealand or Australian LLM does not give certification to practise law in these countries. You will need to have your qualifications assessed by the relevant immigration or legal authorities.