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Studying an LLM (Master of Laws) in Australia

LLM In Australia OverviewAustralia is an attractive, exciting and vibrant study destination for international students across the globe. As an English-speaking country it ranks as the third most popular study destination for international students after the USA and the UK, and is globally acknowledged for its high-quality education.

The attraction lies in the fact that it provides good value for money, as tuition fees and living expenses in Australia are in many cases lower than its European and American counterparts, while offering a high standard of living and a safe environment away from home.

There are also many options to relax, enjoy and absorb plenty of sunshine on some of the most beautiful beaches on Australia’s coastline, making it the perfect place to be an LLM student.

Where can you study your LLM in Australia?

There are plenty of great and highly ranked Australian universities, and they also offer a multicultural and diverse study environment due to the high number of international students. Migrants of all cultural backgrounds and ethnicities have also settled in Australia which provides an enriching experience. Students are likely to settle in with ease as Australians are considered to be friendly and warm people and as Australia is an English-speaking country most students are unlikely to face a language barrier.

Some of the Australian universities and Australian law schools offering a Master of Laws program are University of Sydney, Bond University, La Trobe University, Charles Darwin University, University of Melbourne, Monash University, University of New South Wales (UNSW), University of Queensland (UQ) and University of Wollongong.

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Studying an LLM in Australi

What LLM programs are on offer in Australia?

There are over 90 LLM programs on offer in Australia. While specialised LLMs are taught at many universities in the country, 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 the University of Melbourne alone, students completing an LLM by coursework can choose from around 150 different subjects. On the other hand, students undertaking a specialist masters degree must choose subjects from the list prescribed for that specialisation.

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, although the larger universities go out of their way to offer flexible study options for students.

Australian LLM programs 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.

Many international students pick an Australian university to study their LLM because of the access to a wide variety of LLM courses with an international element. If you wish to study Chinese Law, then Australia is an excellent choice, as it is if you wish to understand the legal issues surrounding trade in Asia. Those students from English-speaking countries will find this easy access to academics that specialise in Asian Law particularly appealing. Students who have studied English Law will find transferring to Australia quite straightforward, as the two legal systems are very similar.

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.

How to choose your Australian law school

So, how do you select the right Australian law school for your LLM studies? Here are a few things to look out for.

Law Schools in AustraliaSpecialisms on offer – Australia has a great selection of law schools, many of which are world-renowned. You might want to specialise in an area of the law that is studied in only a few law schools, which can restrict your choice. Australian law schools offer a few niche specialisms and are a particularly good choice if you are interest in the fields of Pan Asian Law and elements of International Business Law that focus on the Chinese and Asian markets, and some law schools focus solely on certain areas.

Rankings figures – law school rankings can be useful but it’s important to understand that a small institution focusing on more niche areas of the law may rank differently to a law school that has a larger student body and the funding associated with that. The QS World University Rankings by subject provide an easy way of comparing law schools internationally allowing you to see if a law school in Australia ranks similarity to an institution you are more familiar with. The Academic Ranking of World Universities and the Times Higher Education (THE) World University Rankings both offer similar international statistics. As a rough guide, any law school in Australia that is part of a university in the Group Of Eight is highly regarded in Australia and globally. The Australian Department of Education collects information about universities and publishes their statistics every two years and all of these resources give you plenty of statistics to review.

The universities making up the Australian Group of Eight are:

  • The University of Western Australia
  • The University of Melbourne
  • Monash University
  • University of New South Wales (UNSW Sydney)
  • Australian National University
  • The University of Queensland
  • The University of Adelaide,
  • The University of Sydney.

Academic staff – it’s important to do a bit of research into the academic staff at the law schools you are considering and their areas of specialism. Who were the visiting academics last year? Who are they expecting to guest lecture this year? Answers to these sorts of questions will give you an idea of what to expect. How well regarded are the academic staff in the speciality that you are planning to focus on? And is there more than one expert on the staff?

Cost of the LLM – the tuition fees of LLM programs vary between the different Australian law schools, and this may have some influence on your choice of course. In fact, international LLM students can pay anything from $20,000 Australian Dollars to over $44,000 Australian Dollars depending on their choice of law school. So, make sure you do your research and find out how much you need to pay for your Master of Laws, and make sure you have enough funding in place.

Popular LLM programs in Australia

Here are details of some of the most popular Masters of Law programs in Australia

University of Melbourne

The General LLM program at the University of Melbourne can be studied online, on campus or via dual delivery. It takes one year to complete when studying full time and two to four years when studied part time. The course has a huge range of subject areas and the University of Melbourne considers the selection of around 180 modules for the LLM course as one of the broadest subject area offerings anywhere in the world. Modules include Artificial Intelligence and the Law, Commercial Law in Asia, Money, Law & Politics, and Disability Human Rights Law.

University of Sydney

There are several focus areas in the General LLM program at the University of Sydney and they include Global Law, Environmental Law, Criminology and Taxation. However, all LLM degrees are awarded as a General LLM as the topic area is just the focus of a student's studies rather than an awarded specialisation. The LLM program at the University of Sydney takes one year studying full time or two to six years when studying part time to complete.

University of New South Wales

The LLM program at the University of New South Wales is open to both law graduates and those non-law graduates with significant experience of working in the law. There are several areas of specialisation including Media, Technology and Intellectual Property Law, Chinese and International Business and Economic Law and Dispute Resolution. Full-time students complete the LLM program in one year and part-time students take between two and four years to complete the course.

Australian National University

Students can take up to five years to complete this course with flexible part-time study or when they are studying full time it takes one year. The LLM program is open to law graduates or non-law graduates with at least two years of experience working within the law. There are three areas of specialisation – Public Law, Private & Commercial Law, and International Law.

Bond University

The LLM program at Bond University is designed for students who plan to have an international dimension to their course. The LLM speciality in International Commercial Law and Dispute Resolution is available to study online and offers lectures from legal professionals from all over the world. Both the online and on-campus modules are studied intensively full time and students take eight months to complete the course.

Entry requirements for a Master of Laws in Australia

To gain admission into an LLM program in Australia students are generally required to have a bachelors degree in law with good academic credentials (depending on the university you are applying to). Universities also require that international students satisfy certain English-language requirements – some universities will require higher standards than others.

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. Admissions to the top universities may be competitive, therefore students are encouraged to highlight participation in extra-curricular activities and work experience.

Tuition fees and living costs

In Australia, you can expect to pay anywhere from A$20,000 upwards (approx £11,500) in tuition fees. 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.

In terms of scholarships, check with the law school, as many have their own scholarships for international students. 

If you are considering part-time work to help you fund your studies your student visa will prescribe whether and how many hours you can work.

International students in Australia

There is a good proportion of international students studying at Australian universities, so if you decide to study an LLM as an international student you won’t be alone.

Australian University

Number of Students

% International Students

University of Melbourne



University of Sydney



University of New South Wales



Australian National University



Bond University




International LLM students in Australia

Visa requirements for international students in Australia

All international students are required to obtain a study visa to stay in Australia during their course. The Australian Department of Immigration provides extensive information on obtaining student visas, as well as applying for permanent residency should you wish to stay on. 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.

Applying for an Australian visa is a vital part of your application as an international LLM student – here is the lowdown of applying for a student visa in Australia.

How to apply

Unless you are a citizen of New Zealand or have permanent residency in Australia or a Humanitarian Visa, most international students will be applying for the student visa known as Subclass 500. Once you have your place confirmed on the LLM program and the necessary funding arranged then you must apply online through the Australian Government website.

The LLM program that you are applying for must be at an institution on the Commonwealth Register of Institutions and Courses for Overseas Students (CRICOS) in Australia as these are the only law schools that will qualify you for a student visa – don't waste your time applying for a course at a law school that is not on this list. Most Australian law schools are part of CRICOS and a quick double check will keep your mind at ease when you are applying for your visa.

When to apply

The academic year begins in February in Australia, and you want to make sure you give your visa application plenty of time to be assessed. The processing times do vary across the year and in the run-up to the start of the academic year there will be an influx of students who have left it rather late to apply for a visa. Don't get caught up if you can avoid it, and if you do avoid the busier times, you should expect your visa application to be assessed within about four weeks.

Necessary documentation

The documents you need to supply will differ depending on what country you are from, but most international students will need to provide:

  • Copy of passport
  • Certified copy of birth certificate
  • Evidence of place at the Australian law school
  • Health insurance provided by Overseas Student Health Cover
  • Proof that your stay will be temporary
  • Details of employment history
  • English language test scores
  • If you are undertaking a research law course, a copy of your research (thesis/project) topic and your curriculum vitae or résumé

You must also prove you are of good character to enter Australia, and this can involve a letter from your local police station, plus international students must also prove that they have necessary funds to support themselves while they are in Australia.

Postgraduate student lifestyle in Australia

International students, especially those from Northern Europe and the UK, can easily imagine that life as an LLM student in Australia will be a combination of study and surfing. The study involved in an LLM in Australia is just as intensive as in any other country, and the weather is not always blue sky and sunshine, although the outdoors lifestyle is very much embraced and much of your downtime is likely to be spent at the beach.

Student unions and associations

Only around half of the universities in Australia have affiliated with the Australian National Union of Students. Participation in the NUS has declined in recent years as membership is no longer mandatory and many campuses now have non-affiliated student associations or student entities often owned by the university itself. All campuses have support systems that most international students would recognise such as religious chaplaincies, student representation, or government and student academic committees.

All the law schools in Australia have associated student law societies, for example, the University of Melbourne has a number of societies including the Melbourne China Law Society. Other law schools have student law societies, such as Sydney University's Law Society, that are available for a range of services including support and academically enriching activities.

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