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5 questions to ask about financing your postgraduate study

5 May 2017
Ways to finance and reduce the cost of your postgraduate study

From student loans to scholarships, subsidised fees to credit for previous study, we've put together a checklist of possible options to finance your postgraduate study. 

Everyone’s circumstances and paths to postgraduate study are different. Whether it’s continuing on from your undergraduate degree, having time away from university, or being well into your career and life path, there are a number of factors to consider when financing your postgraduate study. Equip yourself with the right information for your situation by asking the following five questions. 

If you are an international student, please visit the International Student Loan Schemes and Scholarships for International Postgraduate Students webpages for more relevant and detailed information. 

Are there Commonwealth Supported Places available?

Eight of our faculties and schools offer Commonwealth Supported Places (CSP) for certain postgraduate courses. A CSP means that the Australian Government subsidises your course fees and you pay the remaining amount – a student contribution. You must be a domestic student to be eligible, i.e. an Australian or New Zealand citizen, a permanent resident of Australia or an Australian permanent humanitarian visa holder.  While allocation of CSPs to applicants is competitive as they are limited in number, you don't need to make a separate application - you will automatically be considered based on merit. To check if your course of interest offers CSP places, visit Sydney Courses

Am I eligible for a HECS-HELP or FEE-HELP loan? 

HECS-HELP and FEE-HELP are two loan schemes for eligible domestic students that operate similarly – they both defer payment of your course fees through the taxation system until you are earning above a certain salary threshold. This means you don’t pay anything up front.

If you secure a CSP place and meet the citizenship and residency requirements, you may apply for a HECS-HELP loan to defer payment of your student contribution. If you secure a fee-paying place and meet the citizenship and residency requirements, you may apply for a FEE-HELP loan.

Both a HECS-HELP or FEE-HELP loan do not accrue interest but are indexed according to the Consumer Price Index each year by the government. For more information visit the Study Assist website.

If you are an international student, you may be eligible to apply for an education loan from your own country. Visit the student website for more information on international loan schemes. 

Can I apply for credit and/or recognition of prior learning (RPL)?

Applying for credit or to have prior learning recognised means you complete less units, and thus reduce the cost of your degree.

For example, if you are credited the equivalent of one unit of study worth 6 credit points towards a course that requires a total of 48 credit points, you would only need to complete, and pay for, 42 credit points.

There are three types of credit / RPL:

  • Specific credit: credit granted for previous studies that are recognised as exact equivalent to specific units of study in your course.  
  • Non-Specific credit: ‘block credit’ may be given for a certain number of credit points. This may be in a particular subject area but not linked to specific units of study.
  • Reduced volume learning (RVL): reduces the number of credit points required to complete your master’s course. This recognises the level and subject area of your previous qualifications or in some cases, equivalent professional experience. Please note, RVL is only available for some faculties/courses in specific circumstances.

If you’ve got any questions regarding applying for credit or recognition of previous study, including when to apply, supporting documents or faculty specific requirements, visit the student website

Can I claim some of my course on TAX?

If you are pursuing postgraduate study for professional development purposes and to enhance your skills as they apply to your current employment, then you may be able to claim some of your expenses on tax, including course fees and textbooks. This falls within ‘self-education’ expenses under taxable deductions.

The course you undertake must lead to a formal qualification – for example postgraduate degrees like graduate certificates, graduate diplomas, master’s degrees, etc. There also needs to be sufficient connection to your current employment.

Visit the Australian Taxation Office website for more information and speak to your accountant to discuss your options. 

Are there scholarships or bursaries available?

Scholarships take into account a variety of factors and availability varies based on course, faculty, and your own personal circumstances and background. They are funded through philanthropy, by individual faculties, the federal government or the University itself.

If you are an eligible domestic postgraduate research student, your fees are covered by the Research Training Program (RTP) Fee Offset as part of the Research Training Program (RTP). There are also a number of research scholarships and awards available for domestic and international students which can contribute towards your travel for study or research, living costs, and other expenses.

Scholarships for postgraduate courses can be quite specific but it’s worth checking if there are any available to you. Not sure if you’re eligible? Start with the Scholarships Office website for more information and check with your faculty for the full range of scholarships available.